Has Racism of Blacks Been Defeated in the United States of America?
Racism is a form of discrimination whereby people of a certain ethnicity receive unfair treatment when compared to other ethnic communities. Most of the time, this form of bias is targeted at the minority groups in the society (Reilly and Kaufman 379). It is such an inhumane practice that if not tackled with finality, it could cause a lot of havoc to the stability of the nation thus endangering national security. It started a long time ago but there are doubts whether it has been crushed. Some have likened it to a sin because it is a form of passing judgment on a fellow human being by deciding that certain ethnicities are inferior to others. In America, the predominantly black population has been the subject of this kind of treatment for many years. Surprisingly, it has been passed from one generation to the next and at some point, some of the victims had resigned to their fate. They felt that theirs was a condemned community and as such, they were born to suffer the brunt of racism. Meanwhile, some of the whites saw it as their duty to continue with racism in order to: clean up the society and get rid of the impure species of humans. However, there are those on both sides who did not accept that business-as-usual attitude and decided to agitate for change. Their efforts and results thereof form the topic of this research paper. The initial phase of this paper (background) will explore the immigrant experience and then the civil rights movement. Afterwards, it shall dwell on the post civil rights era before looking at an analysis of the current state of affairs. The contents of this paper have been retrieved from a number of reliable sources. Notably, the frequency of racism has been reduced but definitely, it has not been totally wiped out.
During the 1800s, people from different nationalities made several voyages and crossed the Atlantic into America. Some of them, like the Jews, were escaping religious persecution. They were not allowed to profess their faith for example through attending church services. They chose America because it guaranteed freedom. It also had respect for human rights. Meanwhile, others came in search of better living conditions due to the poverty in their home countries. However, others were forced into slavery and flocked the American shores to offer cheap labor at a time when the industrial revolution had exploded. Most of those in this category were African Americans. They were given the most physically demanding of jobs, which made them sweat and break their backs while other immigrants were handed light work. This was discriminatory because the least that was expected was for all the immigrants to be given an equal workload (Conteh 1). In fact, what angered them most was that despite this bias, they were all paid the same amount of wages.
These African Americans were also subjected to xenophobic tendencies. The whites at that time felt that the huge number of immigrants posed a threat to their livelihoods because they were now forced to compete for the same jobs. In other parts of the country, especially rural America, whites felt that the blacks were not entitled to owning large tracts of land, as these would make them stronger economically. They therefore embarked on a mission to displace them from their own lands and in effect denying them their only source of income. These actions were racially motivated. Effectively, they made the black community to be disenfranchised.
Some of them offered resistance and even formed the American Colonization Society whose responsibility was to “return black Americans to greater freedom and equality in Africa.”
They went as far as establishing the present day Liberia for precisely that purpose. They did so because they could no longer tolerate the conditions they were forced to live in because of their ethnicity. They received a boost when this issue became a national conversation whose rallying cry was the need to abolish slavery. Unfortunately, due to the civil war, some states did not support their cause hence the blacks who were under their jurisdiction were still under the yoke of slavery. This struggle continued for some time. When Abraham Lincoln became president, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which ordered the freeing of all slaves (Stanisci 1).Most of them thought that their suffering was over but they were shocked to learn that slavery was not completely over. Shockingly, the blacks were now the target of other forms of discrimination.
Civil Rights Movement
Apparently, upon the union of all the confederate states, there was bad blood between whites and blacks due to the abolishment of slavery by the emancipation proclamation of January 1, 1863. This made whites to device other methods of bending the law in order to continue with the harsh treatment of blacks. Their aim was to minimize any form of interaction between the two races anywhere in the society. This included at schools, bus stops, shops, recreational areas and even in hospitals. Naturally, the blacks could not just sit idly by and watch their hard-earned freedom be shortened. They began, quietly at first, to voice their displeasure.
Segregation was enforced by the Jim Crow laws, which promoted a doctrine of ‘’separate but equal’’ treatment of the blacks. Essentially, this meant the use of different public bathrooms, schools, accommodation facilities, trains and buses among others. It had been enforced through a Supreme Court case of Plessy versus, Ferguson of 1896 but was put under review in the Brown versus, Board of education of 1954. It was mainly to do with the use of different but equally equipped schools by different races. The court decided that it was an unconstitutional practice and ordered an integration of all public schools(David 92). Their victory in this case made the blacks shift their focus to other areas in which they were racially discriminated.
It reached a point that the black activism against segregation had picked momentum and more blacks in various regions across the country had joined in the struggle. One charismatic southern pastor called Martin Luther King emerged as a popular crusader for the blacks. His approach to finding a solution was by dialogue rather than using violence. This was a sharp departure from what the whites were doing. They had formed the Ku Klux Klan, which was a sort of military wing of their movement that went about damaging property belonging to blacks and unleashing terror that resulted in either injuries or death.
In response, blacks began holding a series of non-violent sit-ins in public places and even though they were attacked or arrested, they never gave up. The tide changed a little when a black woman named Rosa parks refused to give up her seat to a white in a bus. The spotlight given to this incident coupled with the long march to Washington in which Martin Luther King delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech changed the course of history. The demand for equality by blacks gained national and international attention and due to the pressure generated, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. In it, nobody was to be unfairly judged due to his or her skin color. At a glance, it seemed that the blacks had won. Nevertheless, careful scrutiny of available data shows that even with the end of the Jim Crow laws and the entry of the Civil rights Act, there were disparities in the housing sector, access to health care and job vacancies for the blacks among other issues. So yet again, discrimination had been reduced but not defeated because more forms of racism were yet to come.
Post Civil rights Era
A lot had changed about the treatment of blacks by whites but they faced another harsh reality. Granted, they were not slaves anymore and they had their equality protected in law. However, that they could not vote meant they had no say or real powers in matters that concerned governance. Their lack of voting denied them the right to hold elected officials to account whenever they felt that something was wrong (Grofman 10).To them, this was unacceptable. Chillingly, they realized that the same whites could easily elect people who could overturn in a flash all the gains they had fought for and in effect take away all the freedom they enjoyed. They had to do something to correct that.
So once again, they started championing for recognition of their right to vote (Powell 1). They started with the officials in their own home states. They would meet at a predetermined spot and head to their offices as a group. Once there, they would demand to be registered to vote. Definitely, the white officials would deny them the chance to be registered and as a precaution, they would call police officers. Obviously, the blacks were ready for this kind of confrontation. Therefore, they shouted even louder the phrase that was their motto: One Man, One Vote. They were ready to be jailed because that would attract attention thus furthering their cause. It would also pile enormous pressure on the government on which side to support especially since it was soon after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
The most violent of such protests was in Alabama and in the presence of Governor George Wallace, state paratroopers released teargas and even trod on protestors. It was caught on camera and it became known as “Bloody Sunday”. Those images became national news and the American public was confronted with a dilemma: were they to just accept and continue with racism or were they to embrace change, stop the cruelty against blacks and allow them their right to vote? They were reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson which stated that “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words had been so inspiring that they make up the text in the constitution. Among them are From then, the pressure for voting rights increased and this led to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act. This was a monumental achievement towards ending racism. It was not sufficient though for bringing this discrimination to a halt.
Discrimination against race in America is therefore a historical, cultural and political struggle, which has always led to unnecessary sacrifices along the way (Kimmel 1). In addition, it is a topic that elicits various emotions because nearly everyone at some point in life has experienced some form of discrimination. It could be in the family due to favoritism, in the workplace from jealous colleagues or like me, through bullying at school. It is not a pleasant experience at all. It makes someone feel worthless and could lead to depression. In extreme circumstances, it makes a person to be suicidal. Clearly, racism succeeded in eroding a bit of the black American culture. This is because they never had the enabling environment to fully participate in their cultural activities. No wonder, presently most of them are eager to trace their ancestry. They would like to take trips to Africa to find out everything they can about their ancestors. Historically, it serves as a reminder of the journey traveled towards attaining a perfect union of all American states as envisaged by the founding fathers. It therefore acts as a reference point of a dark chapter of American society and one in which no one would like to go back to. By so doing, people have learned the value of cherishing their freedom and acknowledging the different diversities that are present in the society (Wadell 94).
While it can be said that substantial progress has been made in the fight against racism, there still exists instances in which racist sentiments have reared their ugly heads. The recent shooting to death of Treyvor Martin, a black by Zimmerman, a white was a clear indication that it is a view that is still held to date. Even though Zimmerman was on neighborhood watch and accidentally shot Martin (who was wearing a hood), the resulting backlash during the trial was enough evidence. Most of the African Americans viewed it as a case of racism. In fact, the majority of the black community had already formed an opinion long before the judge had given a verdict. Similarly, the whites were on the defensive claiming that it was a case of mistaken identity and not intentional. Zimmerman was finally acquitted but whether he is guilty or not, the jury is still out.
Politically, racism is part of the system. Various candidates for different elective seats try to fashion their campaigns in order to appeal to specific minority groups who own significant voting numbers (126).Sometimes, they are the ones who hold the swing votes. Millions of dollars are spent to woo these voters to vote in a certain pattern and both Republicans and Democrats are always aggressive in showcasing themselves as the ones who fight for the minorities. Furthermore, the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States was a milestone in the struggle to end racism. Actually, some people strongly say that with a black man being the CEO of a largely white and racially abusive country that should signal the end of racism. However, as demonstrated in this paper, racial discrimination against blacks is not without its fair share of surprises.
Conteh, Jacob. The rift between African-Americans and recent African immigrants to the United States. The Globalist. 16 November, 2013. Web. 22 November 2013.
Davis, Thomas J. Plessy V. Ferguson. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood, 2012. 92. Print.
Grofman, Bernard, and Chandler Davidson. Controversies in Minority Voting: The Voting Rights Act in Perspective. Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution, 1992.10. Print.
Kimmel, Michael. America’s Angriest White Men: Up Close with Racism, Rage and Southern Supremacy. American renaissance, 17 November, 2013. Web. 22 November 2013.
Powell, Wiha.Voting Rights-The Fight Continues .ASPA National Web log. n.d.Web. 22 November 2013.
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Stanisci, Mathew. Abraham Lincoln: A Time for Emancipation. Fable. n.d. Web. 22 November 2013.
Wadell, Paul J. Happiness and the Christian Moral Life: An Introduction to Christian Ethics. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. 94. Print.