Racism is an institution in America. It has existed since our Nations beginning, and it is now woven into many facets of society. Historically, white males have held all of the power positions in society. White males were the doctors, lawyers, and policy makers. Although minorities hold some positions of power today, white males still hold the majority of them.
Despite legislation that has attempted to alleviate inequality in America, The Department of Housing and Urban Development maintains that, “disparity in home ownership is still great”(Washington Post, p.E10). Housing secretary Andrew M. Cuomo cites home ownership rates of, “72.5% for whites, 45% for African-Americans, and 44% for Hispanic-Americans (Washington Post, p.E10). Home mortgage denial rates are, “26% for whites and 53% for African-Americans” (Washington Post, p.E10). Given the fore-mentioned statistics that obviously indicate racism, federal housing officials launched a year long 7.5 million dollar study to investigate the racist practices of mortgage lenders, landlords, and other housing officials. Discrimination has become more sophisticated since the Fair Housing Act became law 30 years ago, according to complaints from the department. Cuomo commented, “Then it was more in your face. Now it is not as loud, not as flagrant, but just as devastating” (Washington Post, p.E10).
The article, “U.S. Study to Target Racism in Housing,”
explains the link between attitudes and behavior related to issues of power, inequality, and discrimination. The racist attitudes of people in power, carry over to their behavior, which result in the unfair treatment of minorities. One explanation for this cycle is the Reasoned Action Model (text, p.240).
The Reasoned Action Model is a theory of social psychology that examines the relationship between our attitudes and our behaviors. The theory suggests that our behaviors are best predicted by our behavioral intentions. If a person intends to do something, he/she is more likely to do it. According to the Reasoned Action Model, our behavioral intentions are shaped by a person’s attitude toward the behavior and their subjective norms. A person’s attitude toward a behavior is based upon his/her beliefs and evaluations of the possible outcomes of a behavior. A person's subjective norms are comprised of his/her beliefs about what significant others will say about the behavior and its outcome. Subjective norms are also affected by the person’s motivation to comply with the wishes of significant others.
The behavior of housing officials who discriminate against minorities can be explained using the Reasoned Action Model. Although the majority of housing officials probably do not say, “Today I intend to be a racist,” their attitudes toward minorities cause them to behave in a racist manner. A housing official who discriminates against minorities is doing so because of his/her beliefs about possible outcomes of the behavior. What would happen if minorities were awarded home mortgages?
Racist housing officials are not concerned about limiting where minorities will live. They are concerned about what will happen to their communities if minorities are awarded home mortgages. Housing officials are taking the issue personally. They are wondering, “What if they move into my neighborhood? What if they move into my mother’s neighborhood? What if they attend school with my children?” These housing officials also believe that they are protecting their families and carrying out their wishes.
Racism is simply fear that comes from ignorance. No one will ever know every single person in a particular race, yet people tend to judge people according to their personal beliefs about a particular race. Why do some people feel like it is okay to judge an entire race based on stereotypes?
A stereotype is, “a schema of beliefs that attributes a set of characteristics to most or all members of a social identity” (text p. 454). Stereotypes are typically inaccurate. Most stereotypes about minorities are negative. Racist people use stereotypes as justification for having negative attitudes toward minorities. Housing officials do not want minorities in their neighborhoods because they believe that minorities will not keep up their property. They believe that drugs and violence will enter their neighborhoods, and that the house they paid so much for will lose its value. Some people actually believe that African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans ruin safe, peaceful neighborhoods.
Stereotypes are perpetuated by American society. The media typically portrays African-American and Hispanic-Americans as lazy, poor, and uneducated. Some African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are lazy, poor, and uneducated. The problem begins when the whole race is characterized negatively, and good people have to suffer. Every American should have the right to be judged as an individual.
Another factor that contributes to the racist attitudes and behavior of housing officials is stigmatization. Stigmatization is, “the process by which negatively evaluated attributes cause a person’s identity to be discredited or spoiled” (text p.484). This means that racist housing officials not only believe stereotypes about minorities, they believe that African-American and Hispanic-Americans perpetuate negative images and deserve to be treated unfairly. Stigmatization is used as a justification for stereotypes. Stereotypes are used as a justification for racist attitudes, and racist attitudes eventually become racist behavior.
Federal housing officials across the United States recognize that housing discrimination is a problem. I wonder what they will specifically do to eradicate the problem. Unfortunately, people are going to do what they belief is right even if it is not. Racist people believe that having “certain people” living in their neighborhoods is a threat to their families. Racist attitudes are passed down from generation to generation and they are further encouraged by American society. An investigation into the racist practices of housing officials will probably help some, but according to the Reasoned Action Model, attitudes have to change before behaviors can change.
Complied from wire services and staff reports. “U.S.
Study to Target Racism in Housing.” The Washington
Post. November 21, 1998. P.E10
Wiggins, Wiggins, and Vander Zanden. Social Psychology.
New York: McGraw Hill Inc., 1994.
Paper Assignment #2
SOCY 230, McLaughlin
November 24, 1998
Word Count: 982