Institutional Racism And Inequality

Topics: African American, Racism Pages: 14 (4643 words) Published: March 18, 2016
Institutional racism has shaped inequality with the help of cultural factors. People have become colorblind because of the success of some African-Americans. Oprah is the richest African-American in America but she ranks at number 221 of Forbes 2014 400 richest Americans with three billion dollars. (Forbes, 2014, 1) We also have an African-American in the highest office in the world, The White House. For some reason this has led to the belief that African- Americans are no longer struggling. For some reason when one succeeds that means we all have but that is so far from the truth. As Michelle Alexander puts it, “The fact that some African Americans have experienced great success in recent years does not mean that something akin to a racial caste system no longer exists. No caste system in the United States has ever governed all black people; there have always been ‘free blacks’ and black success stories, even during slavery and Jim Crow.” (Alexander, 2010, 21) There have been and always will be those African-Americans or people of any race who will reach the top but that doesn’t mean they take the whole race with them. There are also those African-Americans who conform to the ways of society. Everybody isn’t meant to go against the status quo. Everybody won’t see something wrong with playing by the rules though they will understand they’re being oppressed. “That reality helps to explain why African American leaders such as Booker T. Washington urged blacks to focus on improving themselves rather than on challenging racial discrimination. It is also why the Civil Rights Movement initially met significant resistance among some African Americans in the South.” (Alexander, 2010, 210-211) There has always been a divide between the African-American community but one thing we all can agree on is that there is something wrong and it needs to change. History

For as long as African-Americans have been trying to gain equality there has been some type of racist institution and cultural factors put up to block any progress. “When it became clear that the old caste system was crumbling…a new one would have to take its place.” (Alexander, 2010, 22) History has shown that the majority feels threatened when any minority gets any type of power. When African-Americans refused to abide by slavery they decided to adopt black codes. The black codes were set up to put limits on free “persons of color” or anyone with at least one-eighth Negro Blood. The Civil rights version of the Black Codes allowed persons of color “to acquire, own and dispose of property; to make contracts; to enjoy the fruits of their labor; to sue and be sued; and to receive protection under the law in their persons and property.” (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 1865-1866, 1p) However it put limits on who they can marry, “Marriage between a white person and a person of color shall be illegal and void.” (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 1865-1866, 1p) They put forth vagrancy laws to pressure freedmen to sign contracts that provided that they could be arrested and imprisoned to do hard labor, but whites had the option to take an oath of poverty instead. Apprentice laws made it so that the children of vagrants and black children could be punished and recaptured if they ran away but also fed, clothed, taught a trade and sent to school. Then there were laws put for by the courts for crimes. All civil and criminal cases involving a black plaintiff or defendant were allowed black witnesses only if the case affected the person or their property. Crimes that they felt were committed by freedmen carried the death penalty like rebellions, arson, burglary, and assaulting a white woman. Minor offenses could result in a whipping or a hiring out. (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 1865-1866, 1p)  Then the Reconstruction Era brought the black codes to an end and African-Americans began to advance again. Slavery was abolished by law; African-Americans were considered...
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