Racism is a belief that some members of the society have certain attributes and qualities that others do not have. These qualities and attributes are used to determine the superiority or inferiority of a certain group of people in the society. Racism brings many adverse effects for people.
The Origins of Racism
There is a common belief that racism is as old as humanity. However, various scholars have had different views about the origin of racism. Some leaders, such as Senator James, were of the opinion that racism was a result of human nature. He felt that racism was and would always be a part of our society because of various bad ideas that people have about other individuals. He also expressed the view that human nature was the factor that led to the White people believing that they were superior to people of darker skins by nature. This opinion was further supported by the writers Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein who produced an 800-page report with statistics aimed at showing how intelligence differs from one race to the other (Fredrickson, 2010). Even nowadays, some racists still employ this work to justify their racists’ ideologies and beliefs.
The belief that racism is a part of human nature has been greatly contested by scholars. They suppose that racism is a result of the modern invention such as the slave trade that led to the rise of capitalism in the 16th and 17th centuries (Eliav-Feldon, Isaac, Ziegler, & Howard Gilman International Conference, 2009). This fact is supported by history that reveals that in Ancient Rome and Greece slavery was not based on race. As a matter of fact, most slaves owned by Greeks and Romans were White, and they were obtained from other White communities considered barbaric and uncivilized. Therefore, this means that racism was not a form of oppression before capitalism. There has also been a historical evidence of Black people in the occupational hierarchies along the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, one Roman emperor, Septimius Severus, was, an African. Mediterranean art was also found to contain interracial and Black gods.
Karl Marx was the scholar who provided some of the incidences around the world that led to the rise of racism. Marx believed that racism was a fruit of three modern processes: the African slave trade, the extermination of indigenous people in Europe and their evacuation to Americas, and lastly, colonialism. In his book about wage labor written twelve years prior to the American civil war, Marx explained the role of the slave trade in the rising capitalism to the social ideas and interactions that led to the discrimination against Africans. Marx’s view was supported by the Trinidadian slavery historian Eric Williams who asserted that racism was a consequence of slavery and not vice versa.
The modern slave-owning class justified their prejudices and slavery with the help of race. In fact, some early Christians openly justified racism and discrimination against people of a darker color by quoting the Bible. According to them, the “curse of Ham” in Noah’s story in the Bible was the clear evidence that people of a darker skin color or non-Whites were cursed and their only rightful place was in slavery. They identified the white color with angels and light, while the dark color was associated with darkness and evil. During the Enlightenment, the aspect of religion in the theory of racism was eliminated by scientists who offered different theories to justify racism. Some scholars even stated that race enabled the existence of different species. This meant that those with a darker complexion were not of the human species. The rise of Western imperialism in the 19th century contributed to the idea that Europeans and all other people of white skin color had the power and authority to rule Africans and Asians (Yoo, Le, & Oda, 2013).
Racism in America
At the beginning of colonialism, the United States population was comprised of White un-free laborers and slaves. The term “un-free” meant that they were not free to choose who and what to work for, but they were also not slaves. Such was the norm of capitalism which made distinctions between the terms of slavery, servitude, and free wage labor.
Colonies in North America started predominantly with private business engaging in agriculture. Settlers in the colonies of Rhode Island, Maryland, and Virginia made money by cultivating the land and growing cash crops such as tobacco, cotton, and sugar among others.. The settlers were in high demand for agricultural labor which they got from the White indentured and untrained servants. However, this source of labor was no longer enough, and they needed more in order to produce more. At first, the colonists tried to force the indigenous communities like Indians. However, Indians resisted and refused to become servants to the English, and thus they were banished from the lands. The next option was the indentured young White male servants of Irish or English descent. The terms of work included a particular period of about five to seven years and the condition that the master would not pay them any money. However, they were given a place to live, and they were allowed to undertake subsistence farming for their food and survival. Moreover, they were forbidden from leaving their master and work for other people until they had fully served their term.
The 17th century started with the revolution of individual freedom (Duncan, 2008). The White servants were no longer loyal, and they started fighting for their rights for better food and clothing as Englishmen. It frustrated the colonists, and they began to search for labor somewhere else. This gave rise to the importation of African and Asian slaves. Once in America, the slaves acquired different statuses: some were free; some were servants, while others were just pure slaves. Until 1661, there were no laws classifying Blacks as being different from Whites as they could also own property and sit on juries. There were even incidences where some free Black slaves owned White servants. In colonies like North Carolina, free dark-colored slaves had voting rights.
By the end of the 17th century, the colonists made some economic calculations that made Blacks a full-scale slave labor (Yoo et al., 2013). A Black slave could be bought for life at a cheaper price than a White slave for ten years. Africa was also nearer to America than India and China, which had very high populations. This led to slavery being a subject of racial differences. Any other group of people who were not Whites was considered inferior to the Whites.
Racism against Asians
Although much of literature available dwells on racism against Africans, people from the Asian countries, such as the Chinese and the Japanese, have been victims of racial discrimination in America. Discrimination against people of the Asian descent, especially the Chinese, culminated after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The act prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers into the United States. This act was the only one of such a kind that prevented the entry of a specific ethnic group on American soil. The law also included a clause which stated that the Chinese people who had entered America prior to the signing of the bill and left America had to obtain certification to re-enter.
The early 1900s were characterized by numerous incidences of injustice against the Chinese and the Japanese people (Yoo et al., 2013). The Asians had no right to own land, testify in court, or even acquire American citizenship. The most infamous act of injustice against the Asians was the World War II imprisonment of Japanese soldiers solely on the grounds of their ethnicity which made them suspects spying on the Americans. Another example of anti-Asian discrimination was the murder of Vincent Chin by two White Americans who only received a sentence of two years on probation and a fine of 3,700 dollars. This sentence angered the Asians, prompting the formation of a multiracial coalition to fight for Vincent Chin’s justice.
Cases of anti-Asian threats have been and continue to be a major problem, especially on campuses. Acts of vandalism by White Americans against Asians are the most common with very nasty and inciting comments being left at the Asian students residences. What worsens such incidences is the slow response by the respective authorities. In some incidences, no follow-up is done, and the anti-Asian prejudices continue. Some campuses have also prohibited the Asian-Americans from forming their study programs.
Effects of Racism in America
Over the years, the definition of White Americans has expanded to include the Jews, the Irish, and the Italians. However, other ethnicities, such as Africans, Latinos, Asians, American Indians, and Pacific Islanders, have been attempting very hard to achieve acceptance in America. These ethnic groups are still faced with inequality in economic, educational, and political opportunities.
Social Effects of Racism
The first effects of racism have been illustrated in the Civil War in 1864 (Yoo et al., 2013). The Civil War occurred between the Southern states which were advocating for White supremacy and segregation and the Northern states led by Abraham Lincoln and fighting for the abolishment of slavery and racial segregation.
Extreme cases of racism in America have had disastrous results for the American society. Some were so unfortunate that caused murder and genocide, as in the case of death of Vincent Chin and Martin Luther King Jr., who was an exceptional advocate against racism. Racism has resulted in severe mental problems among adolescents, especially through cyber bullying and bullying at school, with extreme cases leading to incidences of suicide. Multiracial demonstrations against racism sometimes resulted in deaths of many protesters induced by racist extremists who believed in White supremacy.
Political Effects of Racism
In some Southern confederate states, such as Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, racial prejudices are intense, especially in politics. In fact, there is still some presence of the KKK, who are racial extremists, especially against African Americans. Election of Hussein Barrack Obama into the president’s office provoked some hate crimes and hate emails being sent to the White House. Such incidences show that racial intolerance still exists in America, especially in politics.
Economic Effects of Racism
During the recession, racial discrimination was witnessed by African-Americans and Latinos being the first to be made redundant. Moreover, when job opportunities arise, other races, such as Asians, African-Americans, and Latinos, are usually the last to be hired. Racism in workplace lowers the victim’s morale and motivation to work. This reduces the productivity of a person and the organization that the victim is working for, which, in turn, slows the economic growth. Some people have even left jobs due to racial prejudice. The lack of income for some of these people has led to a lot of people becoming homeless.
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Racism is an ideology that was created by people and claims that the Whites are a superior race. Nowadays, ethnic groups in America are faced with daily struggle as they try to achieve equality. More should be done especially in schools to help students learn and understand more about racism. It is unfortunate that most classes about racism only tend to dwell on racism against African Americans when in fact other races considered not white such as the Asians and Latinos are also subjected to racial prejudices. Teaching students about racism in its entirety will help them understand what they need to do in order to eradicate it. Doing away with misguided stereotypes about other races will be a crucial step in the fight against racism. Hopefully starting at the basic levels which are the school will help eliminate racism all the way to the upper levels such as the workplaces and in politics too. In order to successfully fight racism, the belief that it is a part of human nature needs to be eradicated, and more incentives should be involved to promote equality in all spheres of everyday life.
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