It's my belief that voters rarely vote for someone simply based on race. Historically speaking, voters' options were primarily limited to wealthy white males. And minorities were not even allowed to vote for many years. Fortunately, black males earned the right to vote in 1870 by means of the 15th Amendment. However, unconstitutional Jim Crow laws prevented many black males from voting. And all females regardless of race earned the right to vote in 1920 thanks to the 19th Amendment. Finally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 established equal rights for all minorities.
For the record, the United States was not the first country to grant universal voting rights to all citizens. That achievement belongs to the Corsican Republic whose constitution included universal suffrage in 1755.
A simple definition of prejudice is pre-judgment. A more detailed definition is a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience (Oxford).
Simply put, prejudice = beliefs (attitudes).
Discrimination is defined as the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex (Oxford).
Simply put, discrimination = actions.
Racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races (Oxford).
Simply put, racism = actions based on beliefs.
And minority is defined as a relatively small group of people, esp. one commonly discriminated against in a community, society, or nation, differing from others in race, religion, language, or political persuasion (Oxford). Another definition is a group that has less power than the dominant group.
Clearly, someone can be prejudiced without discriminating, but discrimination implies a preconceived opinion (prejudice). Simply put, a prejudiced person can hold preconceived opinions of someone without ever acting on those prejudices. However, someone who discriminates is clearly demonstrating his or her prejudices in the form of actions.
So can minorities be prejudiced, discriminatory, and racist? Obviously, members of a minority group can hold prejudices against others. And it's also clear that members of a minority group can also discriminate, but his or her discrimination may have little or no impact due to an imbalance of power. Remember, a minority is a group with less power commonly discriminated against. In fact, definitions of majority do not imply that they are discriminated against. In reality, members of the majority are more effective at discriminating because they hold a majority, if not all, of the power. This is where racism comes in. Racism needs to be thought of as a system of prejudice and discrimination imposed by those in power, the majority.
So another, more accurate, definition of racism is:
racism = prejudice and discrimination + power
A more detailed definition of racism is:
Racial prejudice and discrimination that are supported by institutional power and authority. The critical element that differentiates racism from prejudice and discrimination is the use of institutional power and authority to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviors in systematic ways with far-reaching outcomes and effects. In the United States, racism is based on the ideology of White (European) supremacy and is used to the advantage of White people and the disadvantage of people of color. (Enid Lee, Deborah Menkart, and Margo Okazawa-Rey; Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development)
Failure to view racism as part of a historical context only serves to perpetuate the system of racism which dominated and still disgraces American society. Very few would deny that we still have racism in the
Are people racist when they vote for or against a particular candidate simply based on race? I wouldn't go that far, but people who vote simply based on race are certainly discriminating. Obviously, voters cannot discriminate based on race when there is only one race to choose from. Historically, minority voters rarely had the opportunity to vote for someone other than a white male. From 1776 when the Declaration of Independence stated that "all humans are created equal" until 1865, black males couldn't vote or run for office at all. And from 1865 until 1964, blacks had to contend with Jim Crow laws which made it more difficult for some blacks to vote. And it wasn't until 1920 that black women had the right to vote.
Do blacks who discriminate simply based on race when voting do so because they think their race is superior? Or is the discrimination based on gaining more power within society? Obviously, blacks could discriminate based on a belief of racial superiority, but it's more likely to be based on gaining more power. And remember that blacks often don't have any minority candidates to chose from. So voting for a white candidate often represents a vote for the candidate most likely to have the black community's interests at heart.
Do whites who discriminate simply based on race when voting do so because they think their race is superior? Or do whites discriminate when voting to gain or maintain more power within society? Again, I think the vote has more to do with power, but in this case, the vote to gain or maintain power is more significant because it serves to exclude minorities from positions from which they can create or maintain a level playing field. If minorities are routinely excluded from such positions, then they become dependent on others for social change. For example, blacks were dependent on President Lincoln and the Union Army during the Civil War, and they were also dependent on President Johnson and the US Congress for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Certainly, blacks such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks made significant contributions to the process, but the final legislation was ultimately in the hands of white males. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, 30% of the elected white males voted against it.
If blacks had been granted their freedom in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was written, the issue of race and politics would be an afterthought. But blacks and other minorities did not gain equality (on paper) until 1964, and even then 30% of the elected officials didn't want it. As a result, we are still talking about race when we should be beyond race. By the way, there were plenty of people in 1776 who thought we should have abandoned the institution of slavery. Unfortunately, our founding fathers listened more to money interests than moral interests. There was a huge conflict of interests because many of the founding fathers owned slaves.
Anyway, blacks could certainly discriminate when voting in order to gain enough power to establish a system of racism, but anyone who believes we are even close to such a system is clearly in error. Some point to affirmative action as a system of racism. Affirmative action was rightfully "implemented in the 1950s to redress the negative effects of past discrimination and to encourage public institutions such as universities, hospitals, and police forces to be more representative of the population." Nonetheless, some believe affirmative action has gone too far in securing positions for minorities; that blacks and other minorities unfairly gain positions at the expense of whites. Some whites claim they are being unfairly treated simply because of their race and the unfortunate timing of their existence on earth.
But anyone who suggests that the unfair treatment of whites as a result of affirmative action is anywhere close to the injustices that blacks suffered for hundreds of years is clearly wrong. I often hear the phrase "life ain't fair." Well, that's true, sometimes it isn't. Life wasn't fair for all the slaves brought to
Is life fairer in the
By the way, the US Supreme Court has, rightly or wrongly, started to reverse the course of affirmative action. For many, affirmative action was only meant to be a temporary means of correcting past mistakes. But I doubt that some minorities like Native Americans will ever let affirmative action disappear. Why should they?
As I mentioned earlier, I believe voters rarely vote for someone simply based on race, but we would be naive to think it doesn't happen. In the end, however, I think a person's vote has more to do with who will serve his or her interests. Unfortunately, when people start thinking and acting according to the interests of MY "BIOLOGICAL" RACE instead of the interests of THE HUMAN RACE, their way of thinking and actions inevitably become racist.