Racism: African American and Civil Rights

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Research Paper

Macionis defines racism as “the belief that one racial category is innately superior or inferior to another” (2008). Racism can also be defined as bias, prejudice, discrimination or bigotry. How some people react to and treat others is partly because of fear of the unknown and lack of knowledge. Macionis defines prejudice as “rigid and unfair generalization about an entire category of people”(2008). And if you break down the word prejudice it is pre and judge. How is it logically possible to judge something without having all the facts about it? Prejudice generally takes form in a stereotype or misunderstanding of the lifestyles of the groups of people that are being discriminated against. Some common examples of stereotypes would be that all African Americans listen to hip hop music, particularly like certain foods such as watermelon and fried chicken and are all uneducated and are on some form of public assistance. These stereotypes are based on little or no knowledge of the people being unjustly categorized. These discriminations can manifest in the forms of slurs, negative attitudes directed towards the groups of people, members being denied jobs or promotion opportunities for which they are indeed qualified and can lead to violence, even death. For the purposes of this paper, I am going to explore how discrimination has changed over the years and in what forms racism exists in this country in the present day.

Racism in the United States has been a major issue and concern for hundreds of years. Historically this country has been pre-dominantly Caucasian after the first settlers started immigrating. I used the word Caucasian as this country is a land of various immigrants, so using the term “white” would not be entirely correct. Judging just by a person’s outer appearance does not give the whole story, which is part of what this essay is meant to explain. Several groups throughout the history of the United States have been targeted adversely by racism. These groups include Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Irish Americans, among other immigrant groups. The focus for this paper will primarily be on Native Americans and African Americans. Prior to the first settlers arriving in this country, Native Americans were the first known inhabitants of this country. Hence the earliest group of people who were affected by racism was the Native Americans. Part of the reason behind the way that they were approached and treated was fear of the unknown. This fear and misunderstanding developed into a pre-conceived notion of what type of people the Native Americans were and what kind of living habits they had. They came to be thought of as savages. A large part of the struggle was the new settler’s constant need for more land, and as the expansion grew larger and larger to cover more territory, the settler’s needs were deemed more important than the Native Americans. Mann states that Native Americans “had an enormously complex impact on American history and racial relations.” (2006), the result of which was wars, massacres, forced displacement, and the imposition of treaties (later broken in large part), land was taken and numerous hardships imposed. The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 granted all Native Americans US citizenship, although approximately two thirds of Native Americans were already citizens. Even though formal equality has been legally granted, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders remain among the most economically disadvantaged groups in the country, and according to dosomething.org, American Indians as a group are among the most economically disadvantaged in this country and tend to suffer from high levels of alcoholism, depression and suicide.

Since the members of a society place importance on race, and African Americans first entered this country as slaves their importance in society was very much...