How do you know if you are racist? The easy answer to that question is that everyone is influenced by race. This idea of racism is so engrained within the structures of global society, whether it be through institutions or social structures, that it is unimaginable to remain completely unbiased individually when dealing with the effects of racism. Yet how did we as humanity get to this point? Some might argue that historical events such as the American Civil war have continued notoriety of racism, ultimately broadening the segregated scope. Others would argue that the perception of power and influence has always been based on one’s appearance, even on a primal level. However, according to Edward Said, the writer of “Orientalism,” racism is a hegemonic device, first originating roughly in the early 18th century. As Said writes, Orientalism can be understood as a “corporate institution,“ created by established Western states, in order to dominate authority over the “Orient.” To clarify, the Orient can be categorized as global territories or states that are underdeveloped, subjecting themselves to colonization and supremacy by the West. Orientalism has been used to assert power over others politically and ideologically, viewing the targeted as weak, inferior, ignorant, and almost nefarious. The West would even stifle growth in Orient states, in order to ensure the prominence of Orientalism.
To analyze racism in current times, it is easy to claim that Orientalism has led to systematic racism that cannot be avoided by any individual. The integration and progress regarding the relationship between the West and the Orient on a domestic level, has created conflict that can be seen in daily occurrences. How does one think, when approached with racist occurrences or ideas? Does one choose to act upon these thoughts? Is there a choice? Yes, there is a choice. The contemplation of race or the view of another skin color will always be present, due to a history so rooted in prejudice. However, it is not out of the realm of possibility to accept this form of thinking, and move on to create a better relationship within the community, regardless of the location or demographic.
It seems that a group within society (whom is not without conflict or presence in the United States) has found themselves in the middle of race relations, with no solutions in the near future. This group is the Law Enforcement of the United States. So rooted in systematic and institutional racism, police officers in urban areas are influenced with an idea of bias, prejudice, and disrespect towards the minority community. While a sense of bias or racism may not be conscious for some individual officers, once again Orientalism serves its role in creating a divide. In a recent report on race and ethnicity patterns within the Boston Police Department, it was concluded that the level of Field Interrogations and Observations (or FIO), was significantly higher among black people. Essentially, there was a heavier presence of law enforcement in Boston communities that consisted more of a minority demographic. While this may be due to the fact that crime in Boston is more present in communities that have a high minority population, it is important to remember FBI Director James Comey’s comments. As he says “Police officers on patrol in our nation’s cities often work in environments where a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by young men of color. Something happens to people of good will working in that environment…officers often can’t help but be influenced by the cynicism they feel.”
Harrison Adams is a first-year student majoring in International Relations at Boston University. Originally from Northampton, Massachusetts, Harrison enjoys writing music whether it be for violin or the singer-songwriter genre. While he has written many lyrics, poems, and other forms of creative writing, his work has never been published.