Sunday, October 1, 2023

America’s History in Racism

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Racial oppression is unfortunately prominent in the United States of America. Primarily targeted at minorities by the majority oppressors, there are historical and modern perceptions of inequality in our supposedly “united” country.

The earliest example of racial oppression was on the native people of America, the Native Americans. With the arrival of Columbus in 1492, Native American tribes and lands were invaded, taken over, and erased. The Native Americans were described as hostile and ferocious, leading to a massacre by the Union army. In the year 1838, Indians were driven from their lands because of the settlers’ greed for resources. In the winter of 1908, the Indians were denied water for farming and drinking because of dams built by settlers without permission. Ultimately, the Indian Citizenship Act was an attempt to grant citizenship to Native Americans, but some states did not fully allow it.

Slavery is the most obvious form of racial oppression. People were sold as objects or possessions. About 6 to 7 million African Americans were deprived of an abundant life and forced to submit to American oppressors. Beginning in 1619, African Americans were used as a cheap source of labor for growing tobacco, rice, and indigo. The social hierarchy on the plantation among the slaves also set them against each other. Just being in the house was enough to create a divide between African Americans. Despite the end of slavery in 1862, there was still no freedom due to the new title of indentured servants.


In the “Letter to Birmingham” by Martin Luther King Jr. he refers to the Holocaust and how it relates to his incarceration and the oppression of African American people in the United States. King explains that people have a moral obligation to go against unjust laws. While referring specifically to Jim Crow laws, he made a connection between the oppression of African Americans in America and the oppression of Jewish people in Nazi Germany. “We must never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal’. It was ‘illegal’ to help a Jew in Hitler’s Germany and to comfort.

“Yet I am sure that if I had lived in Germany at the time, I would have helped and comforted my Jewish brothers. If I had lived today in a communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would I openly advocated disobedience to that country’s anti-religious laws.” King expressed frustration that some of his colleagues criticized his methods and civil disobedience.

He argues that the people who helped save Jewish lives in Germany during Hitler’s reign should be considered brave and heroic, even though they directly violated Hitler’s rules. They risked their lives to uphold their moral values. Civil rights activists in America who helped African American people get equal rights from the US government were charged with crimes, and King was one of them. King tried to justify his actions and encourage others to do the right thing by comparing his fellow clerics to Hitler. He said that those who do not work against oppression are the same as the oppressors. It may seem harsh that he compared them to Hitler, but perhaps it was what needed to be said to make them understand and take action themselves.

Both the Jews and African Americans who lived before the civil rights movement were oppressed, and King’s connection of the experience between them helped motivate people to rally behind him.


And here we are in the present day. Even after the Twenty-fourth Amendment, even after the Civil Rights Act, minorities in this country still suffer, especially black Americans.

Prejudice and discrimination are still in the hands of the US government today. Our prison system is very unfair to minorities. In 2008, African Americans made up about 40 percent of the prison population, but only 13.2 percent of the U.S. population. About 20 percent of the prison population were Hispanics and 17.1 percent made up the U.S. population. African Americans were more likely to be imprisoned before trial, receive the death penalty, and be arrested and charged with drug crimes. These stereotypes have a negative effect on minorities and are made to oppress.

This is why people are protesting, this is why we are experiencing the second civil rights movement. We’re fed up. Although Martin Luther King has been used against the protests, he is most helpful and best placed to defend the movement. As he said in the letter, we are morally obligated to act against unjust laws.

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