Racism has been a terrible problem in American society for hundreds of years. Racism issues are not limited to one specific race, but include all races. It is the responsibility of the people of this nation to address racism and learn to accept and embrace each other for our differences, and allow this great nation to become even more united for our sake and the sake of future generations. To eliminate racism it is imperative to know first, where racism started and how it has developed, why it continues to be present in our nation today, and what we must do as a people to overcome this major problem. History
The Middle Passage was the system set up as a form of triangular trade that forced millions of innocent humans from their homes in Africa, and forced them to become slaves as part of the Atlantic slave trade. These people were essentially traded as slaves for materials, food, supplies etc. Many of the enslaved Africans were shipped to the Caribbean and the Americas. The Middle Passage route began in Europe where they left with the manufactured goods and headed to Africa. The goods were then traded for the slaves, and then the ships set off for the Americas and Caribbean islands (Stoddard). After the trading was done there the ships would return back to Europe. According to Elizabeth Mancke, and Carole Shammas authors of, “The Creation of the British Atlantic World,” they write, “An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting indigenous peoples to the ships.
The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage voyage is estimated at up to two million; a broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to four million African deaths.” Historian Lisa Vox expounds on the origin of slavery in North America in her article “The Start of Slavery in North America.” Vox states that, “Historians normally date the start of slavery in the North American colonies to 1619. That year, a Dutch ship carrying African slaves docked at Point Comfort, which served as Jamestown’s checkpoint for ships wanting to trade with the colonists. The crew of the Dutch ship was starving, and as John Rolfe noted in a letter to the Virginia Company’s treasurer Edwin Sandys, the Dutch traded 20 African slaves for food and supplies.” It was not until the early nineteenth century that this practice was banned with a hefty penalty for those individuals that were found participating in it.
Other groups of people were affected by racism as well. When Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, he discovered the Native American Indians which he referred to as “savages.” The Europeans deemed the Native Americans as uneducated, uncivilized creatures, and treated them as such. Native Americans were manipulated and taken advantage of by the European people, and treated more like animals than human beings. This was another historical beginning of racism in America.
As America began to flourish in the mid nineteenth century, many immigrants (Irish, Chinese, Norwegians, and the Italians to name a few) flocked to the New World to seek fortune and freedom. The accumulation of many different cultures, beliefs, and ethnicities resulted in nicknaming the United States as the “melting pot.” While they were all united in their resolve to be free and determined to live the “American dream,” prejudices began to form as one race considered itself superior to the others. Americans were not happy that there were others so willing to take low pay for the jobs that they were scarcely available. There was low tolerance for different cultures and beliefs. Immigrants sought refuge and segregated themselves from one another by forming their own communities, thus resulting in “Little Italy” and “Chinatown” etc. Prejudices dissolved somewhat with the initiation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, along with the Bill of Rights. The Emancipation Proclamation was released in 1863 at the conclusion of the Civil War; however, slavery was not made illegal everywhere in the U.S. until the Thirteenth Amendment took effect in December 1865. Even though slavery was outlawed, there continued to be a strong segregation between the whites and African Americans.
Although the Constitution states that “all men are created equal,” Latinos, Native Americans, African Americans, and other ethnicities were not receiving this kind of treatment. During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, many groups were formed to combat this problem of inequality. Groups such as the Black Panthers, and the Japanese American Citizens League sought to protest to gain equal rights. Such Civil Rights leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. participated in nonviolent protesting to fight for these rights. In Alabama Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person and was arrested for it, this lead to the Montgomery Bus Boycott where African Americans refused to use the buses for almost a year, and then the state ruled that it was unconstitutional to have segregated buses. It was through leaders and acts like the one just mentioned that have ended segregations and given equal rights to all Americans. Post- Racial
In 2008 after Barack Obama was elected president, during the time leading up to his inauguration, it was said that many people heard for the first time, the term post-racial. The term post-racism represented a new era initiated by putting the first African-American president in office. Several people expected, believed, hoped or wanted that this new presidency would change how racism was viewed and experienced in this land of the free and home of the brave. Many individuals wanted to be able to come to this country and be a part of the great opportunity that is presented in America. They wanted to embrace a country with freedom and with a democratic government. These are a few of the things that people from other countries can only hope for and dream that someday they might make the money for the documentation and be able pay for the trip over to this land of opportunity. There are many who make the trip with expectations in their heads of how wonderful it will be upon arrival to the United States. Unfortunately not all of these individuals receive a warm welcome upon entry to this country. Racism happens to every race.
Depending on what race someone might be, or what town or city that person may go it is very possible that they will feel that they are not wanted there. In the following example Kevin Merida, a writer for the Washington Post, writes about an incident in his article, “Racist Incidents Give Some Obama Campaigners Pause.” While campaigning for Barack Obama in Indiana, Danielle Ross and her group experienced a horrible response that none of them expected. Ross recalled on that day that, “The first person I encountered was like, ‘I’ll never vote for a black person.” This does not sound like racism is out of our mists. On a National Public Radio broadcast, Rebecca Roberts interviews Ralph Eubanks author of “The House at the End of the Road.” Roberts asks Eubanks to define post-racial and his response is as follows, “I think there are two popular definitions of post-racial. I think the first definition is that we are – it’s where race is no longer an issue or an impediment to progress in American society. I think that’s one way that it is often defined. Another way that it is defined is that moving – that post-racial means a color-blind society where race is not an issue. We are all Americans, and we’re just completely color blind. So, there are issues with both of those definitions, and where we’re actually moving is somewhere in between those.”
For a majority of Americans, this is the goal that is in the back of their minds. Every man is created equal; everyone has the same rights, and is not judged by the color of skin they were born with. This great nation has taken steps in that direction. America is not the same place as it was in the 1950’s. Members of minority groups are not invisible like they were back then. Eubanks talks more about how he does not think that there will ever be a post-racial society because of our demographics. He believes that a post-racial society is something to always hope for, and strive towards, but pictures a multi-racial society with many different components to it. And a lot of that depends on, over the next 20 years, where our demographics take us (Roberts). Striving towards the ideal of having a color blind society will not come to past by evading the issue. Stopping racism
When the topic of racism comes up many may think, “Oh no, here we go again, someone else complaining about racism. Or, why do we have to talk about this? Isn’t it time we moved on?” This may be a very uncomfortable the topic for countless American, but this is a conversation that needs to happen and continue to happen until this problem ceases to exists. It won’t disappear just because we choose not to mention it. Tim Wise, writer for timwise.org, talks about the problem of racism here in America in his article “Denial, Evasion Won’t Solve Racism.” Wise says that, “Indeed, the problem is not talking about racism but racism itself: Contrary to popular belief, race is not merely a card played by those who wish to stir up resentment. Instead it is a real and persistent determiner of who has what and why in this country.” Nobody can help what family they are born into, or what color their skin might be. Looking at the issue of race from a spiritual stand point, we are all sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. Why would one human being think less of the other? The golden rule says that we do
unto others like you would want them to do unto you. These are simple solutions to a giant problem. Like mentioned earlier, many are tired of hearing about these things, but however tired many are of hearing about this, people of color are more sick and tired of living it. Conclusion
To eliminate racism it is imperative to know first, where racism started and how it has progressed so that mistakes from the past can be avoided. By understanding why it continues to be present in our nation today, one can understand that there are significant changes that need to take place in order for this problem to be overcome. In concurrence with Wise, “until whites join with our black and brown brothers and sisters to put an end to the kind of racial inequity described above, we’ll continue to be confronted with the uneasy conversations, as well we should be.” It will take courage, consistency, and time just as it has already, but we are making progress and in due time this nation will become all that our founding fathers dreamed it would be.
Mancke, Elizabeth and Shammas, Carole. The Creation of the British Atlantic World. 2005, page 30-1. Merida, Kevin. “Racist Incidents Give Some Obama Campaigners Pause.” Washingtonpost.com. Web. 13 May 2008. Roberts, Rebecca. The ‘Post-Racial’ Conversation, One Year In. Interview with Ralph Eubanks. National Public Radio: 2010. Print. Stoddard, B., Murphy, D. Ph.D. “The Issue of Slavery”. Netplaces.com. Web. 25 April 2012 Wise, Tim. “Denial, Evasion Won’t Solve Racism.” Lexington Herald-Leader. 10 Nov. 2003.