History of Racism In The United States of America

History of racism in USA

In the days following George Floyd’s death, the US has witnessed a rise in a number of protests against racism against blacks amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic. Understanding how things went out of control in the city of Minneapolis requires knowing the major chapters of the history of a nation once known for being a land of immigrants. In terms of racial geography, are a citizen’s genetic endowment and cultural inheritance enough for them to be alienated? 

Crux of the Matter

Racism Towards Different Communities In The States

Attempts to pass removal laws for Native Americans
In a study conducted by Health Services Research, one in five Native Americans (23 percent) reported experiencing discrimination in clinical encounters.

Going back in time, the bias started in 1830, with the Indian Removal Bill being pushed hard by then-President Andrew Jackson in the Congress. More than three dozen eastern tribes from the indigenous groups of North America stood in the way of what he saw as the settlers’ divinely ordained rights to clear the wilderness, build homes and grow cotton and other crops. The irony is that he is still honored in the US for being the face of their twenty-dollar bill

Judenhass: “Jew Hatred” 
FBI data reports how Jews were one of the most prominent groups to be targeted for religiously-motivated hate crimes every year since 1991 due to holocaust denial and stereotypes that construe them as socially, religiously, and economically unacceptable to American life. Judenhass depicts the expressions of hatred against individual Jews and their communities by organizing anti-semitic attacks on them via mob, police violence, and even military attacks

Hostility towards Italians
Italians started migrating to the United States in large numbers in the 1880s from the impoverished city of Sicily. In 1891 one of the worst mass lynchings in US history occurred, in downtown New Orleans. Italian men were hung or shot to death by a mob seeking ‘justice’ for a murdered policeman. Incidentally, the word ‘Mafia’ became popular thereafter, with the migrants being thrown out of schools, theatres, and labor unions. Finally, a law was passed to restrict further immigration in 1921.

Anti-Asian sentiment
Prejudice against the Japanese and the Chinese has existed since the late 19th century, with the start of Yellow Peril that discriminated against them purely on the basis of their color. The hatred for Japan peaked after the deadly Pearl Harbor Attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service upon the US naval base, during the Second World War, resulting in the former’s incarceration in American concentration camps.

Meanwhile, sinophobia targeting Chinese minorities surfaced in the 1860s, when they helped build the First Transcontinental Railroad. Seeing China’s rise as a prospective world power with its budding economy resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, shutting down both immigration and naturalization of Chinese immigrants. 

Hatred for Mexicans
After the defeat of Mexico in the war between the two nations, the anti-Mexican attitude originated. This only alleviated after the Zimmermann Telegram incident between the Mexican government during the Mexican Revolution and the German Empire during World War I, which proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico. Then during the Great Depression, the US government-sponsored a Mexican Repatriation Program, in order to pressure the immigrants to return back to their native country. 

Moreover ‘Make America Great Again’ was proclaimed by Donald Trump in his presidential campaign along with opposition against acts like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) that protect eligible immigrant youth who came to the US when they were children from deportation. All efforts were made to attract the white citizens into having a vision of employment getting back to white Americans, without people of any other color competing for their jobs. 

Post 9/11 discrimination against Sikhs, Muslims and Middle Easterners 
Islamophobia increased rapidly after the US’s worst nightmare – September 11, 2001 World Trade Centre attack by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda. This ultimately resulted in the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from their regular social, political, and civic life. As a result Sikhs with turbans and middle easterners with long beards often fall prey to characteristics mistakenly identifying them as Muslims.

Reverse racism lies ahead?
There exists a major difference between stereotyping and discriminating. Say, being given a decent grade to a good student of color may seem as ‘discrimination’ to the parent of the white student who did not perform well because of an assumption that the teacher of color was ‘biased’ towards one of the students.

Racial prejudice refers to a derogatory attitude towards a section of the society based on preconceived notions about their race and/or skin colour. So even if racial prejudice can be directed at white people, it cannot be considered racism because the reins of power still lie in their hands in social, economic, and political spheres. Backed with this dominant authoritarian support, it results in acts of discrimination that can be harmful for the mental and physical survival of the ones being constantly oppressed, which in this case are people of color.

In the future, discrimination may start with the members of a dominant or majority group , in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group. This process would redress the social inequalities like preferential policies for college admissions and workplace bias in promotions faced by the latter.

  • Rosa Parks was an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott. The United States Congress has called her “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.
  • The Negro Motorist Green Book was an annual guidebook for African-American road-trippers. It was originated and published by an African-American, Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966 when open and often legally prescribed discrimination against African Americans especially and other non-whites was widespread. The 2018 drama film Green Book centers a professional tour of a black musician and his chauffeur, who use the book to find lodgings and eateries where they can do business.
  • H&M came under fire in 2018 for an ad that featured a black child donning a sweatshirt with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle” etched on the front. The scandal drew public accusations of racism all over social media, including from the Weeknd and G-Eazy, who both cut ties with the company.  The company later issued a public apology that was featured at the top of its website.