Essay about Black Life in America


Throughout history, there have been many defining moments that have shaped America into the nation it is today. One of the greatest examples of this is the abolishment of slavery. Life for African Americans has been far from easy since centuries ago; many were forcefully taken to America to become slaves for the colonists. Even after slavery was abolished, black people faced unfair treatment and were not considered as equals to whites. To this day segregation and racism remains a prevalent issue in society, causing division and great political unrest. The world that we live in today is the result of generations of white domination, white narratives, and a power structure that fundamentally favors white individuals. The systematic inequality that African Americans face deprives them of the privileges that their white peers inherently hold which gives them unfair advantages in all aspects of life.

The 1500s marked the beginning of slavery of African Americans and the start of tensions between blacks and whites in the United States. They were brought to be forced laborers in the place of white colonists, serving the every need of their white owners. From that point on, the precedent was set that white people were superior to black people; the root of the fundamental issue of segregation which is still prevalent in modern society. James Baldwin, in his letter to his nephew “My Dungeon Shook”, explains how the history between black people and white people plays into the lives of African Americans today: “You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity.”(“My Dungeon Shook”). As a result of the origin of African Americans brought for the sole purpose of serving as slaves, a stereotype was created that black people were created to be laborers. Many white supremacists believe that they are superior because they are intellectually more advanced compared to black people who are only useful to be used for manual labor. However, if slavery had not happened, this stereotype would not be ingrained into society as it is now. The existence of this racist stereotype affects the lives of African Americans to this day as they are forced to fit into this widespread societal view of them. Rather than being recognized as influential entrepreneurs and leaders of academia, they are seen as people who take on dirty jobs and unskilled labor, trapping them in an endless cycle of segregation. 

Along with white-dominated history, white narratives also negatively affect African American communities and experiences. Because of their history, African American voices are not heard as much as white Americans; there is a prejudice causing people to desire to hear a white individual’s voice rather than a black individual. As an example, when an administration deems a neighborhood bad, people become hesitant to live there. For example, Coates says “the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) had adopted a system of maps that rated neighborhoods according to their perceived stability. On the maps, green areas rated “A” indicated “in demand” neighborhoods that, as one appraiser put it, lacked “a single foreigner or Negro”. These neighborhoods were considered excellent prospects for insurance. Neighborhoods, where black people lived, were rated “D” and were usually considered ineligible for FHA backing” (“The Case for Reparations”). Naturally, people will not want to live in a neighborhood that was rated “D”, yet there were no problems with the neighborhood, other than the fact that it was a highly populated black neighborhood. Because of the ratings from the FHA, people no longer wanted to move into those neighborhoods, causing it to decrease in prestige, and a desire to move there. Soon those neighborhoods became low-income housing areas, forcing other African American families to move there, leaving them in an endless cycle of living in low-income areas. Even if they are not a low-income family, many are forced to live there because 

The white power structure was built around a superiority complex. Slavery began because there was a shortage of laborers, but white people soon realized that it was cheaper to bring people to America and force them to work. They believed that African Americans and Indians were more suited for hard labor than them, creating a superiority complex. Because of this belief, the white power structure became deeply rooted in society. According to Coates, if a black person were to try and escape the power structure, it would be as if the world collapsed: “Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar, and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations”(The Dungeon Shook). Coates is saying there has been a structure for centuries, built around this idea that black people are inferior to white people. If a black man were to do anything outside of the set foundation, it would be as if the world was ending. 

A dissertation done by Nikolaos S. Maggos explains how societal norms diminish African Americans’ opportunities to pursue good lives outside of the stereotypes created for them. Maggos states, “These systems have unjustly curtailed Black Americans’ freedoms in different kinds of ways—by restricting Black Americans’ access to resources; by devaluing Black Americans’ arguments and intellectual achievements, thus restricting their freedoms as knowers and communicators of knowledge; and by limiting Black Americans’ relationship opportunities, among other things. ”(Pg.3 Black Oppression, White Domination). The systems that Maggos is mentioning are Slavery, Jim Crow laws, wealth and employment disparities, mass incarceration, and the stories Black Americans offer of Whites treating them as unworthy of dignity. Oppressive systems influence how many view the interactions between White and Black Americans. They negatively affect African American communities and their experiences by shackling them to their history as laborers, hindering them from ever being able to experience the same privileges given to their white peers. 

African Americans have never been able to live a life of ease in America. Their white-dominated history starts with them being forced to become laborers for the colonists, which shaped how society views them. Although slavery was abolished centuries ago, there are still many stereotypes associated with African Americans that hinder them from experiencing the same privileged lives as many white Americans. This also shaped the white power structure, which enforces many of these stereotypes, one being that black people are only good as laborers rather than intellectuals or scholars. Both the white-dominated history and the white power structure support white narratives, which hinder African Americans from escaping from the standards that society creates for them, one being their living situation. Segregation and racism is still a prevalent issue in today’s society, with stereotypes still being placed on black individuals, hindering centuries of people to never amount to anything more than the norms society creates for them.

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