Search

Unpacking Systemic Racism: Using Racial Wedging as a Tool

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

July 8, 2020


By Eryn L. Pollard


“Do you have a design in mind for your blog? Whether you prefer a trendy postcard look or you’re going for a more editorial style blog - there’s a stunning layout for everyone.”


When unpacking systemic racism and oppression, you will not only realize that it is embedded in American institutions on a global scale, in microaggressions and prejudice on an individual scale, but it is also a tool that is used to pit different races and ethnicities against each other to once again prioritize the majority, in America’s case “Whiteness” over others. In efforts to downplay systemic racism and prejudice, Black people are often compared to their Asian or Asian-American counterparts through the use of the mythical tope of the “Model Minority” and are told that the American Dream is possible for all people if you assimilate and pick yourself up by your “bootstraps”.[1] Firstly, Asians and Asian Americans are people of color.


Secondly, when told to “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” not only is this concept ignoring how systemic racism works but also when Black Americans did try to generate wealth for themselves (i.e. Black Wallstreet in the 1920s) it was burned to the ground.[2] Black Wallstreet was one of the first times Black Americans created a Black economy that could have prospered into generational wealth for their families.[3] But rather than celebrating Black people’s pursuit of the “American Dream”, their labor and the fruits of it were burned to the ground and Black citizens were run out of town by white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan.[4]


“In efforts to downplay systemic racism and prejudice, Black people are often compared to their Asian or Asian0American counterparts through the use of the mythical tope of the 'Model Minority'...”

Lastly, by comparing two ethnicities and highlighting one specific ethnicity as a “model” or “ideal”, not only serves as an erasure of each distinct ethnic experience but also ignores the racially charged experience Asian Americans have had confronted in America as well.

For example, the Transcontinental Railroad was officially completed on May 10, 1869, but many forget that the railroad was built due to the exploitation of Chinese immigrant labor.[5] From the influx of Chinese immigrants, then began a rising false, but the persuasive sentiment that Chinese immigrants were taking “American” employment opportunities which then led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the fear of the “Yellow Peril”.[6] Harsh depictions of Chinese immigrants were released during this time as propaganda to ensure the justification of the Chinese Exclusion Act.[7] (It seems that fear has historically been a great motivator to undermine people’s humanity and to divide people into “us” versus “the other”).