The History of Racism


Have you ever wondered why the world must be this way? Why does racism have to exist? Why something so little as skin color can dictate how you feel about somebody? It’s mind-boggling that racism has been a problem dating back to the 17th century and is still one the most controversial topics in today’s society. Some people may think that racism ended once slavery was abolished, but that was not the case. Hate crimes against ethnic minorities are on the rise again and citizens of the U.S. are willing to speak their truth against discrimination based on race. Caucasians will never understand the victimization of racism because they are privileged and will always be. Racism can be defined as judging an individual by their skin color in belief that their race is superior. Many people are not aware of this and their language and behavior can mimic that. This is something we have either all witnessed or participated in. While this may not seem to be an issue for some, this is an act of dehumanizing and can have lasting effects on an individual’s life. Comment by Tamara Lebron: Okay, so your paper is about how racism dehumanizes POC and this behavior has serious consequences. Now, the argument is….? Consider your target audience (obviously people who practice racist behavior consciously or unconsciously). What do you want them to understand about this issue when they are done reading your easy? The answer to that question is basis of your argument.

Racism is something that people are forced to deal with not only in America, but around the world as well. There is not a definite cause for why it exists, but you can look at human history and the people who have contributed to make the world a more peaceful and safer place. One would think that with such a harsh background and how far we have come from what society used to be, that racism wouldn’t still be as big of an issue as it is. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Regardless of someone’s race or ethnicity, everyone is human and should be treated with the same respect. We don’t get to choose our skin color, and to make others feel terrible about something they have no possible control over is just wicked and absurd. While this is a huge issue, I truly believe that if everyone comes together to make this change, it can make the world a more positive and acceptable place. It is also easier said than done. While it would be great for everyone to come together, there are many factors at stake for resolving this issue such as close-minded individuals, ignorant individuals who lack education on superiority, and those who are all talk, no action. This seems to be an on-going issue and has been problematic since the mid-17th century and will erupt into bigger outcomes if nothing is done. Comment by Tamara Lebron: Well, yes – if would be great if people would be open to discussing this issue with the intent on resolving it. However, there are many factors at play here. No? Many people, due to ignorance and/or lack of education believe that white people are superior. Some people do not want to let go of their privilege for various reasons. Some so-called liberal-mind folks like to do a lot of talking and discussing about diversity, but when put to the task of actually doing something about it, they backout. They often become obstacles against any push for change (as I have witnessed myself). All talk and no action. Talking about diversity makes them feel good about themselves.

This history of America has been shaped powerfully over the years by racial inequality. The root of racism started with slavery. Slavery was introduced to America in the early 17th century when the Dutch brought 20 African slaves to the British colony known as Jamestown, Virginia. They were brought to America as a mean for cheap labor to work on tobacco, rice, and indigo plantations. With the declining population and the constant demand for labor, colonists believed that African slaves were the cheapest and most efficient way to get the job done. After the American Revolution, Northern colonists began to compare the oppression of black slaves to their own mistreatment by the British. Since America was now independent from Great Britain, famous leaders known as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson took steps to limit slavery in the new independent nation. Although they tried to limit slavery as much as possible, the US Constitution was created and signed in 1787 that guaranteed the right to repossess “any person held to service or labor.” By the end of the 18th century, many Northern states had abolished slavery. Since the South primarily relied on slaves to produce tobacco and other crops, slavery was vital to them and had a huge impact on the population and economy.

After the Revolutionary War, slaves were dominate in the rural South. Years later, the South faced an economic crisis. Tobacco was the leading cash crop in the South but with the soil being exhausted, problems seemed to arise. Profit was declining and while they still tried to sell rice and indigo, it made nowhere near the needed amount to keep the economy afloat which caused even more problems. The price for slaves started to decrease and the growth of slavery was now in jeopardy. The South needed to invent something that would be profitable and increase the growth of slavery. At this time, England specialized in spinning and weaving cotton and soon, the demand for cotton was very substantial. While the demand was high, production was not efficient and remained limited because the process of removing seeds by hand was a long process. Eli Whitney was the solution to the problem. He created a device that efficiently removed the seedlings from the raw cotton fibers which is known as the cotton gin. The cotton gin was then copied, and the South soon transformed from being mainly dependent on tobacco to now relying on cotton. This is exactly what the South needed to get the economy back booming. As the cotton industry made slavery even more vital to the economy, a new brand of abolitionism emerged as a result of Congress passing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 which banned northerners from helping fugitives slaves escape from southern plantations. In the early 19th century, many slaves tried to create rebellions, but Nat Turner lead the only effective slave rebellion. He was very passionate about his hatred for slavery and on the night of August 21, 1831, he and his followers decided to murder their owners which struck fear in the hearts of white Southerners. Up to 100 whites were murdered and bystanders also lost their life. He was captured and then he escaped. He was on the run for approximately 6 weeks when he was captured, tried, and lynched. This event sparked a wave of anxiety across the South and was only the start of tensions building towards the civil war.

In 1861, the conflicts between the North and South intensified which eventually erupted into civil war. With Lincoln being President, this pushed southern states to secede from the union. He wanted to preserve the Union and he knew that he could not avoid slavery being an issue. On January 1st, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation which made it official that slaves “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” After the Union’s victory against the Confederates in the Civil War which helped free almost 4 million slaves, challenges awaited which seems to be the start of the turning point in history. The 13th amendment, adopted in 1865, officially abolished slavery. This didn’t sit well with white Southerners, so they came up with a series of laws known as black codes. These black codes restricted the daily activities of blacks and ensured their use as a labor force. Three years later, the 14th amendment was adopted which granted “equal protection” to former slaves. It was then ratified by the southern states which achieved male suffrage before rejoining the Union. Then, the 15th amendment was adopted in 1870 which gave citizens the right to vote and that they would not be denied voting on account on race, color, or previous servitude. These years were the most progressive in the region’s history.

The Jim Crow Era was a turning point in black history. Violence was on the rise which meant that if you were black, your life was typically in danger. Citizens of African descent were commonly attacked by violent whites, schools were being vandalized and destroyed, and families were forced off their land in the South. During this time, one of the most ruthless organizations ever created was known as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). They were known for terrorizing black communities and committing murders. This led to blacks moving to the cities and eventually, Jim Crow laws invaded the South more vigorously than before which started to affect daily life. Common places such as theaters, restrooms, restaurants, and elevators were segregated. Even schools, hospitals, and jails were segregated. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know and understand that this is foul, and something needs to be done.

As the 20th century became more advanced, Jim Crow laws marked the society with violence. Lynching became very common and race riots increased, which led blacks to migrate out of the South. After World War II, the Civil Rights Movement began to take charge which officially resulted in the removal of Jim Crow laws. This movement helped black citizens be able to gain their life back and live normally. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed all discrimination and segregation that has been committed by Jim Crow laws. With the help of female and male Civil Rights activists such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and many more, social injustices have drastically improved and have had a lasting impact on the lives of black citizens.

Despite the progress America has made when it comes to racial acts and attacks, the increase in police brutality has left the non-white communities in fear. Just recently, social profiling and stereotyping individuals has come on the rise again by a system of people who are supposed to protect the citizens; police officers. The history of racial acts against minorities has left the public to wonder have times changed. Due to the increasingly rate of African-Americans being killed by the police, this is an issue that must be called to light. The reality is that many African Americans still face mistreatment and abuse from the hands of corrupt police officers as so from decades ago.

This controversial issue has ties with racism, which is determined from evidence suggesting that officers are harassing, arresting, and even killing civilians who are mainly Black or Hispanic. This issue has gone so far that it has sparked a social revolution known as the infamous ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. The event that sparked this social revolution was the murder of an African American teenager known as Trayvon Martin who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman. Zimmerman claims he saw a young black man wearing a “hoodie” that “looks to be up to no good”. This is a tragic example of racial profiling which sadly costs this teen his life. The jury’s verdict was not guilty which led to be the most controversial case of recent time. Many people were upset and felt that justice was not achieved for the victim. This is an example of racial profiling and having bias against one’s race which is unacceptable.

Sadly, the harassment and mistreatment of innocent civilians and criminals didn’t stop there. According to statistics and evidence provided by the Chicago Tribune, 80 percent of killings by the police were of a young black male. The Washington Post have also presented evidence which confirms that most cases involving the killing of African-Americans were not posed as a lethal threat to officers on the scene. This is a major indication of two problems. Either there is a common bias among corrupt officers that non-whites are more likely to commit crimes and pose as threats, or officers are abusing their authority to carry out unconstitutional acts to avoid facing prosecution. Either way, the fact that we have a system of corrupt officers who took an oath to uphold the Unites States Constitution that don’t abide by that is an enormous problem on its’ own. Having officers in power that commit unlawful acts to their benefit with a civilian’s life in jeopardy is a huge problem within itself and could lead to a repressive society. Regardless if you are a criminal or an innocent civilian, this can cause problems for many people. This means that Americans must live in fear of being victims of an unjustly police shooting. This problem results in Americans having anxiety and anti-social behavior towards officers who were assigned to protect and serve all citizens equally. Comment by Tamara Lebron: Okay, this is a very informative paper, but I do not see any arguments being made just yet. This is an easy fix. Insert argumentative language. You will need to go back to the thesis and my comments to generate an argument.

Fortunately, while police brutality is one of the most controversial topics today, measurements have been taken to reduce the number of accidental shooting which result in civilians losing their lives. Such measurements and developments have been put in place which include the greater oversight and accountability of officers during their daily routines and duties. The shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, an unarmed 25-year old male, led Congress to introduce a new bill that would require federal police officers to wear body cameras and have dashboard cameras in their vehicles. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said, “Federal police are late in requiring body cameras and dashboard cameras, which help ensure transparency, protect the public and officers alike, and hold bad actors accountable. The still-unexplained killing of Bijan Ghaisar shows how important it is to make these reforms, which will benefit victims, officers, and the communities they serve.” Now with the new developments and necessary measurements to protect the lives of civilians and officers, many unjust acts are more difficult to conceal.

In conclusion, racism is a terrible problem that has troubled America for decades and is very destructive to the society. Throughout history, people have constantly ridiculed and taunted one another for having a different skin tone as another. Racism should end because it could become very problematic and possibly lead to violence within our country and with other countries. Our country is very diverse and contains all different types of people. All people regardless of their skin tone, religion, customs, and language are the same and everyone should be treated with respect. We need to teach our youth to embrace the differences between humanity and recognize that everyone is equal. While this is something that doesn’t happen overnight, if everyone works together to achieve this common goal, we can conquer the world and bridge the gap.

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