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Rasism in the USA: Personal Experience


Americans are busy languishing in their comfort zone assuming the realities of our way of life that make us unique all over the world. It is not something that we wish in our society it is just how it is. This is a country that was founded on slavery the cruel act of owning humans like items. As much as slavery is considered to be a dark patch in the history of the American people that occurred countless decades ago, it is important to remember the history of the country, and the underlying fact being that America was the last western nation to abolish slavery. The American civil war theoretically freed the slaves and what followed was eliminating Native Americans. This was another display of racism used to encourage a faction against other human beings.

Many of us think we progressed from there. It did not take long to exhibit this ugly face of America once again. During World War 1, the French were susceptible and were losing out in the war. The French sought help from America the only strong nation which was not engaging in combat and Uncle Sam (the U.S. government) promised to help only if the French executed racial separation in their forces. France being vulnerable had to comply. That is why some French people still dislike the Americans up to now. However, it is not stereotyping by all French people after all it all depends on individuals and how you interact. This is just a brief background on the roots of racism in America aimed at creating the bigger picture.

Personal experience

I have encountered racism at various points in life, and the experiences were not only terrifying but they made me realize America still has a long way to go. Having a diverse racial background of Jamaican Chinese and African American, I have fallen prey a lot of times. I was born in Jamaica but later migrated to the United States. On a warm summer afternoon in 1987, I went out shopping with Mary a white American girl one of my first friends in America in Lord & Taylor’s store.

We started at the general section where there is both men’s and women’s clothing. As I and Mary were looking at the jewelry and clothing, the supervisor kept his eyes on me as if I was about to do something. He did this for a while then he later came and asked me if there was anything I wanted to buy. Mary innocently told him that we were just checking. The supervisor went away only to return a few minutes later when I was in the men’s section and Mary was in the women’s section and ordered me to leave.

As this happened, Mary was busy trying on a shoe and she never had any intentions of buying, since we both did not have any money and she had already informed the supervisor that we were just checking. Other shoppers who happened to be white started staring at me as if I had done something wrong. Consumed with embarrassment, I left the store and waited for Mary outside. On realizing that something was wrong, she quickly followed me out. We decided to go to another shop Diamond district where Mary’s father was a diamond dealer. I never uttered a word of what had transpired to Mary, but I saw the guilt in her eyes as if she was to blame.

When we reached Diamond district, Mary went in and I immediately followed her but I was shut out of the establishment by the security guard. The Lord & Taylor incident was still fresh in my mind, I was overpowered with anger and I demanded to know why I was being denied entry. The security guard bluntly told me to look at the small print at the top left corner of the glass door. Mary tried to call his father to let him in but his father with a firm voice told her “You should know better it is not wise to bring a Negro to the store, it is bad for business”. It finally sank in my head that the stories I had read of the likes of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were not just myths, segregation was a reality. What was more shocking is it was in the late 80’s an era where such backward stereotyping should have been eliminated. I had encountered racism twice in one day just because the color of my skin was black.

Many years later in 2006 when I was older, we moved to York Pennsylvania. I was stopped one evening by a traffic police officer and charged and fined not for speeding but for driving without wearing my safety belt. The funny thing about this situation is that my car had tinted windows, even the windscreen was tinted and I had raised my window in the driver’s side up to a point where he could only see my face. There was absolutely no way the officer could have seen whether I was wearing the safety belt or not. The incident was a typical case of police racial profiling. I was being prejudiced just because am black. The officer had no reason to stop me and the only instinct that made him stop me was based on my face, and more precisely my skin color.

This incident led me to a fact-finding mission on related cases of racial profiling. I stumbled upon an article in The Toronto star an area where there are a lot of incidents on police racial profiling. The article was based on a series of investigations of racial profiling in Toronto. The information was drawn together from a database owned by the Toronto police and various crime statistics from independent bodies. It included various documents of arrest warrants and charge sheets. The database contained information on more than 500,000 incidents that occurred and led to an arrest or fined by the police department from the period of 1998 to 2005.

The information was accessed mainly because of the freedom of information act since the police had initially refused to give access to that information. A renowned statistician from Harvard University was used to scrutinize the methodology used and found it to be accurate. The analysis gave out shocking revelations indicating how different ways were used when dealing with blacks, Hispanics, and white people in law enforcement. The data showed that a very contradictory number of African American motorists were given tickets for violations that only came about after being stopped which related to my incident. Also, African Americans who were accused of petty drug possession were regularly taken to police stations than white people facing a similar charge. The other abnormality was that African Americans were normally apprehended overnight for a bail hearing at two times the rate normally paid by white people. Such cultures by bodies that are supposed to be impartial like the police are fueling racism in America.

I remember another incident that occurred in Africa. I once went to Nigeria in Africa on a volunteering mission and I found a similar situation but more complex. Ninety-five percent of the population there is of black people and I never expected to witness any form of segregation that can arise because I am a black person. In Nigeria, what is more, common is the issue of tribalism and differences in religion at times causing war. Since they have more than 50 different tribes and the country is separated with the Muslims on the north and the Christians on the south differences occur from time to time. (Da Costa, 2010) Our volunteer work was on a rural northern part of Nigeria dominated by the Hausa tribe who are devout Muslims and I was supposed to help out in a home for the elderly.

Part of my work was to educate the elderly living in the home on matters of diet and living a healthy life. As I tried to do my work, I was met with resistance because first of all I was not a member of the Hausa and the advice I tried to give them was disregarded. One of the locals informed me that according to their culture advice is never taken from people of other tribes more so by foreigners. To make matters worse I was a Christian. Such cultural differences prevented me from helping those old people.

A severe case of ethnicity was in Rwanda where more than one million people died in a genocide fueled by ethnicity. This happened in 1994 between two tribes the Hutus and Tutsis. The Hutus killed the Tutsis in large numbers in a mission to completely eradicate those (United Human Rights Organization, 2010). Such acts are the outcomes of letting differences in culture come between two communities. Also not forgetting the holocaust where there was genocide, and six million Jews comprising a third of their nine million populations were killed by the Hitler administration (Roth, 1989).


As an individual, I find it unfortunate to judge someone based on the color of their skin or just because they have a different culture. The fight against ethnicity and racism still has a long way to go and not unless everyone develops a new mentality, the world will remain a venue filled with racism and people with different cultures who cannot co-exist.


Da Costa, G. (2010). Religious Violence in Nigeria. Voice of America Journal , 4-10.

Roth, J. (1989). Holocaust. Michigan: Paragon House.

United Human Rights Organization. (2010). Genocide in Rwanda. Web.


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