Essay on Racism, Slavery and Equal Rights in the United States


There is no doubt that the world we live in is not always a very nice place and worldwide, hundreds of thousands of people are subjected to racial discrimination, injustice, cruelty and ethnic bias on a daily basis. This is a global phenomenon that affects the realities of the victims of injustices with untold grief and sorrow. The United States of America in particular is vast country of contradictions, where one can experience the effects of freedom and imprisonment, open-mindedness and stereotype, as well as friendliness and enmity at the same time. This is found between the different ethnicities, cultures, religious backgrounds and traditions within a single country. It is therefore especially crucial to understand the prerequisites as well as the causes of the racial discrimination perpetrated on African-Americans as well as the concept of white superiority or supremacy in this so-called country of liberty and freedom. It is, therefore, necessary to establish the root causes and effects of these racial inequities that millions of people experience on a daily basis. 

As the saying goes, “As many people, as many opinions.” The implications of this statement are that some communities will fight for equity and human rights, whereas other groups will support racist movements and behave accordingly. Further to this, solidarity, tolerance, ethics, courtesy, and high moral principles play a significant role in determining behavior among whites and blacks. Notwithstanding, it is wrong to deny that phenomena such as “white superiority” and “racial inequality” are uncommon in the United States of America. To this end, this rigorous research will take into account questions such as the historical context of white supremacy and racial discrimination, the realities of existing issues within American society towards African-American citizens regarding the reactions of people of color towards stereotyping, labeling, social media, and the prevailing bias. To complete the picture and provide a balanced perspective, anti-racist movements, and action by human rights advocacy groups will also be taken into account. 

The Historical Background

White supremacy is a concept based on the convictions, beliefs, and research done by some racial theorists who subsequently concluded that white people are superior to people from other races regarding their racial characteristics. White superiority within the construct of racism as a whole, focuses on dangerous ethnocentric sentiments in the pursuit of political and economic supremacy. Most human beings are aware of the period of gruesome slavery, during which the white colonialists used the Africans as slaves to serve and work for them in during the colonization of the Americas. 

There are many stories of violence, exploitation and the power wielded over African-Americans that inspire compassion regarding the historical events leading to the enslavement of Africans in America. Scholars argue that slavery is a construct of white supremacy that has been in existence historically for centuries and that many dominant nations have regarded other races and nations as an ideal trading opportunity for cheap labor to drive their supremacist ideologies in the global arena, subsequently perpetrating excessive levels of racial discrimination. As such, Martin and Waldo (2017) suggest that white privilege has continued to prevail in the United States of America in all spheres of life and that it originated in the 17th century during the age of slavery.  

Curtis and O’Connell corroborate (2017) that racial segregation has existed unofficially since the adoption of the 13th Amendment of the American Constitution in 1865 that ostensibly prohibited the practice of slavery. Its first signs of racial segregation were the separate education systems that were established for whites and blacks, segregation in the public transport system, which existed until the 1970s, bans on co-habitation in hotels and motels, segregation in cafes and restaurants that were only for whites and not for people of color, division in the field of services, so-called black military units, to name a few examples. Even after the United States emerged from the Second World War, the country retained a wide range of issues pertaining to segregation and discrimination that basically amounted to perpetrating racial inequalities and white superiority. The existence of segregation was furthermore sustained by the decision of the US Supreme Court in 1896, which approved the principle of “Separate, but equal” with respect to the coexistence of the black and white populations in the country. 

At the end of the American War of Independence, African-Americans continued to remain second-class citizens and their rights were persistently infringed upon, whether political, social or economic. African-Americans suffered the worst education, lived in ghettos, received lower wages than their white counterparts, and were disenfranchised and unable to participate in elections, to name a few examples of the gruesome, widespread racial discrimination. These inhumane occurrences furthermore persisted in the US armed forces during the war years when segregation was eliminated during training and while blacks were admitted to join combat units, the overwhelming majority nevertheless served in separate units, were housed in different barracks and in the case of blood transfusions, received blood from individual stocks.

Other examples of racism include blatant realities such as segregation in public transport, health, and education. According to the laws of the city of Montgomery in Alabama, the first rows of seats on the buses were intended for white passengers, and even if all of them were occupied, black people were expected to give up their seats for white privilege. Such policy resulted in the boycott "Walking for Freedom", which lasted 381 days. During this time, the African-Americans (70% of all the passengers) refused to use public transport, and hence, the bus companies suffered significant losses. The same situation ensued regarding racial segregation in schools, universities and other social places, where African-Americans were often blackmailed, abused and judged by the white population according to their skin color. History was harsh on the African-American population and subsequently played a critical role in shaping American society in contemporary times.

African-Americans in Different Social Aspects and Contemporary White Privilege

In the 19th century, the media and Western societies have continued to present black men in particular in horrific and unpleasant images, while deceptive photography and news articles are continuously spread all over the internet with people subsequently avoiding communication and relations with African-Americans. This furthermore resulted in the persistent victimization and killing of African-American men by law enforcement agencies. White supremacy, like nearly everything else, has also been fundamentally altered by globalization and although the laws and stereotypes have evolved with each generation, there still an overabundance of prejudice and stereotyping perpetrated on minorities within the United States. This has resulted in cases of law enforcement officials killing black men, branding them as “criminal” wherein similar instances involving white men, only verbal warnings or arrests without any undue violence occurs. 

Law Enforcement. Over the past centuries, America has been a hotbed of brutality, unfairness, and racism toward African-Americans, especially in the law enforcement sector. Christie-Mizell et al., (2017) studied the issues of discrimination affecting African-American people and noted that during police raids in the USA, the law enforcement officers use weapons against African-Americans twice as often in comparison to white people. The study furthermore established that law enforcement officials intentionally suspect blacks rather than whites, due to the ongoing racial disparities and their own ignorance regarding the concepts of justice and equity. Patton et al., (2017) suggest that black men are three times more likely to die from police violence and brutality in comparison to their white counterparts. One of the most internationally renowned cases is the murder of Freddie Gray from Baltimore, Maryland, where a 25-year-old young man died from a spinal injury he sustained during his arrest on suspicion of carrying a pocket knife. Subsequently, seven policemen were charged with the murder; however, more than a year after the commencement of the proceedings, four of the seven officers were acquitted by the court, and the remaining three were acquitted, proving that many white people, especially law enforcement officials, are committed racists. As such, ending police homicide and mistreatment of African-Americans in the US is not an easy task, even while the cruel treatment and irrational killing of African-American males have been in the public eye for some decades.

Education. Even though racial segregation has been abolished by law a long time ago, some of its manifestations still remain to this day, especially in the education system. Racial confrontations in schools have shifted to a completely different level and surveys conducted as recently as 2017, show that more than 70% of high-school students prefer to spend their free time exclusively with members of their race. Likewise, the researchers asked their questions in a politically correct manner with most of the respondents admitting that their friends and relatives did not necessarily approve of their friendship with representatives of other races, with particular reference to their parents.

However, racist stereotypes and segregation are not exclusively promoted among students, but also between professors and undergraduates. It is no secret that teachers and deans and everybody related to education have at times illustrated hatred towards an African-American man or woman due to racial bias, prejudice and unfortunately also ignorance. According to Cooper et al., (2013), black students are twice more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white counterparts. An additional problem exacerbates the problem, is that white educators tend to ignore topics related to race, culture, and racism and continue to promote the privilege to maintain their “white identity” among the black population. In addition, the differences in education spending, teacher professionalism, and related factors also promote discrimination. Ultimately, discrimination – whether due to some “unexplained” factor or the more structural racial bias that exists in the educational system and elsewhere, has steadily increased the inequalities suffered by black Americans.

Workplace. The wage gap between black and white workers in the United States is not anything new. However, 53 years after the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination; Lee et al., (2019) suggest that the wage gap between people of different races has in fact increased in recent times. They furthermore underline the fact that the increase in the wage gap between black and white populations is becoming increasingly harder to explain. This means that the disparities in income that are unrelated to a particular place, education level, hours, type of work, or age, is increasing. In 1979, the average US black earned about 80% of the average white worker's hourly wage and by 2016 this figure had decreased to about 70% of the average white’s wage level. Among women in 1979, the average black worker earned 95% of the white woman’s salary and by last year, the figure had dropped to 82%. If according to economic theory, salary is a reflection of productivity, this gap should be explained by “observable” factors, such as age, education, and type of work. However, Lee et al., (2019) established that racial discrimination had taken place instead. The studies imply factors that are much harder to measure, such as discrimination and differences in the quality of education or career growth, which are likely to play a significant role in maintaining and widening the already existing disparities over time.

How Do African-Americans Feel and React Towards Racial Discrimination?

Throughout the cycle of historical events, African-Americans and other racial minorities have fought for their rights, identities, and roles in American society, as no human being can feel happy about being judged and hated on a daily basis. Consequently, many people have organized riots, boycotts, advocacy campaigns, and other human rights activities to prove that “all lives matter”. Reskin (2012) corroborates that the majority of African-Americans feel the pressure and injustice every time they leave their homes, or just want to do something normal like every other individual. Since racism is here to say, according to 64 percent of the 2013 vote, blacks continue to experience racial bias, inequality, and general despair. People brand African-Americans, as if they are all “drug dealers” or “gang members”, while the vast majority of the black American population try to remain as non-threatening as possible.

After multiple unreasonable and horrific murders of African-American men throughout the United States, a large number of the black population, as well as white people, established a movement called Black Lives Matter in solidarity with one another. This has subsequently grown into an international movement of activists that oppose violence against blacks. It organizes protests and demonstrations in connection with killings committed by police officers, police violence and against general racial discrimination in the US legal system. As such, the movement has become more than just riots or battling with the overall justice system in the US, it has become an opportunity to prove the value of the lives of African-Americans and the roles they play in contemporary American society.  

What are the Actions to Promote Racial Equality?

The Civil Rights movement has been essential to activism amid rampant racial inequality in American society. After a long history of abjection, forced submission, and apathy, blacks now feel more empowered to alter the deep-rooted bias in the country. Although racism is still considered as a significant problem in the United States, African-Americans along with other tolerant and like-minded groups and nations have united to raise awareness on human rights issues, including the inequitable and anti-racist policies in the country. Subsequently, the anti-racist movement opposes racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, apartheid and ethnic discrimination, while the activists promote freedom and equality for all people, regardless of their race or ethnic origin.

Patton et al., (2017) concede that the more people stand up for their rights and identities, the more successful the outcomes they achieve will be. Living in a state-of-the-art world saturated by globalization, people from different countries have united to protest against racial discrimination and to promote equity, solidarity, and tolerance for all. As such, both African-Americans, as well as other nations,  have united to support one another to transform all current systems driven by injustice and privilege to promote more equitable outcomes. The reality is that racism exists everywhere; it has become a global phenomenon, largely because of the enslavement of people of African descent, the history of colonialism and also the current wave of neo-colonialism, which amounts to economic enslavement. Cooper et al., (2013) state that there are a number of reports, data and other instances that indicate that black people have unequal experiences in every sector of the society, such as the workplace, the criminal justice system, education and the health system to name a few examples. Accordingly, it is not the problem of a single country, but a global phenomenon. Throughout history, there were several human rights heroes, such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, who appealed to the international community and global institutions like the UN to prevent injustices against black communities.

The national mechanisms and means of protecting civil rights in the United States, however, are more often a cause for frustration, because they are too limited in terms of their enforcement and influence. International remedies for the protection of human rights are universal standards and, therefore, can be applied on a global scale. Inherent human dignity is confirmed in the field of human rights, while with civil rights, people are often too focused on the notion of citizenship, which is easy to remove. 

Conclusion

Taking into account the bulk of information, critique and historical factors, one can see the effects of racism in the United States. Regretfully, racial discrimination and racist movements are still necessary in contemporary times, but it is nevertheless possible to drive change. People throughout the world can advocate for human rights by fighting systemic racism in different locations. If they fight for justice in their own countries with partners and immigrants in their communities as well as internationally, it is possible to achieve human rights for all as globalization should include treating all humans equally. The era of enslavement and discrimination is over, while current times necessitate coherence in expression, unity, caring for each other and respect for every race, nation and society. An ideal community should spread kindness and strong moral principles, no matter what. Unfortunately, the contemporary world is still marked by selfishness and ignorance and individuals should not advocate for justice, if they, do not practice it themselves.

 

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