American Racism: Still Going Strong

Racism Origins in America

The first racism in America can be traced to the arrival of African slaves in the country in 1619 or earlier, which ultimately resulted in the societal institution of slavery. The Africans were brought to the Jamestown colony by the English privateer White Haven. These slaves were taken from a Portuguese slave ship off the coast of Mexico by crewmen of the privateers White Haven and Treasurer. This is what the textbooks teach, yet it is not likely the first instant of racism of slavery in the colonization of the New World.

However, according to a book written by two Boston University professors, Linda Heywood and John Thornton, Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585 – 1660, the first slaves appeared in Spanish Florida in the early 16th century (as told in the history.com article linked to in the prior paragraph). For early America, this is the beginning of the shame of racism by Whites in what becomes the United States of America, where “all men are created equal.”

Institutional Racism through Slavery Laws

The first slavery laws (or slavery codes as they were called at the time) in the New World were those enacted in the Caribbean, on the island of Barbados in 1661. These codes were copied by the Province of South Carolina in 1691. In parallel to the codes in Barbados, Virginia created their slavery codes in 1667. Virginia enacted a comprehensive code in 1705.

Slave laws had some common aspects among the slave colonies, later states, where slavery was lawful. The basis of most slave laws was in the property laws. Slaves were property, so they could not own property of their own. Assembly by slaves was allowed only if a white person was present. Any slave who did not live on the plantation was subject to a curfew. Slaves could not be taught to read or write, marriage between slaves was not recognized (which made it easier to break up slave families and sell them).

These codes or laws, enacted by Whites to control slaves and their ownership, made racism an institutionalized racism. This institutionalization remained in place, albeit with different laws when slavery was abolished, well into the 20th century in the United States of America.

While overt slavery laws were abolished with the end of slavery in the U.S., that doesn’t end racism. It just causes racism to pivot by enacting new laws, known as Jim Crow laws.

Institutional Racism: Jim Crow & Other Racist Laws

After the southern states lost the civil war, slavery was outlawed. The white southerners didn’t stop being racist by any definition. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, States, in and outside of the abolished Confederacy, enacted laws restricting the lives of the black population in their states, some lasting up to 1967.

Jim Crow laws were by no means the only racist laws enacted in America. There was institutional racism against other races as well, both before and after the Civil War. Take for example the laws against Native Americans, Chinese, and Japanese.

Of these racist laws, anti-miscegenation laws were common. These are laws restricting marriage, in some cases cohabitation too, between two different races. Only nine states never had any laws of this type (Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and Wisconsin).

Some other Jim Crow laws enacted in one or more states:

  • White and African American children shall not be taught in the same school.
  • African American and white families are prohibited from living in the same home.
  • Whites and African Americans were required to ride in segregated rail cars.
  • In restaurants, Whites and African Americans were prohibited from eating in the same establishment.
  • Railroad depots were required to have separate waiting areas for Whites and African Americans.

Other Racist Laws in America

African-Americans were not the only race to face institutional racism. Chinese immigrants suffered as well. Chinese immigrants were hired as migrant laborers. They worked as gold miners and helped build the Transcontinental Railroad. Chinese laborers were considered good employees since they would continue working even in the worst of conditions.

Chinese workers were also blamed for working for low wages by labor leaders and politicians. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? In 1859, the San Francisco school superintendent segregated White and Chinese children in the schools. This continued until 1870, at which time the requirement to educate Chinese children was dropped altogether. Ultimately the Chinese Exclusion Act was enacted in 1882, which prohibited immigration of Chinese laborers. The law was repealed by the Magnuson Act in 1943 (the law allowed 105 Chinese immigrants per year). It wasn’t until 1965 that these discriminatory laws against the Chinese were abolished.

The Equality Act of 2010

For Whites, or other races, Amnesty International states that “racism affects virtually every country in the world. It systematically denies people their full human rights just because of their color, race, ethnicity, descent (including caste) or national origin. Racism unchecked can fuel large-scale atrocities such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and more recently, apartheid and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.”

Historically in the United States ethnic racism has been a part of societal racism. As different groups migrated to America they became the scapegoats and generally lived in their own areas of cities. Consider the treatment of Italians, Irish, German, and Polish immigrant groups, and how they were treated.

Today it is Muslims who are the newest group to face racist behaviors by Whites, especially since the terror attacks of 11 September 2001. Hate displayed against Muslims takes many forms. There is societal racism where Muslims suffer hate speech from White America, and protests against Muslim mosques. More dangerous is the institutional racism perpetrated against Muslims and Hispanics by President Donald Trump.

President Trump, by Executive Order, has instituted bans against citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Chad, North Korea, Venezuela, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania at one time or another and for differing reasons. It is unfortunate that Trump’s followers fully support the bans, especially the alt-right white supremacist and nationalists. These racist groups are many and will be the subject of future posts.

Asian Racism Rears It’s Ugly Head – Again

America and the world are currently battling the COVID-19 coronavirus. In the United States the virus has infected almost 1.7 million Americans, with over 99,000 deaths. As we know, the virus began in the city of Wuhan, China. President Trump, as well as senior administration personnel, began referring to the virus as the “China virus”. When he was called out for his racist remark he tried to justify his comment. He was clearly expressing himself in a racist way.

Yet, this is nothing new for Donald Trump. He has a long history of racism, which you can read about in an article by the Huffington Post from 2019. He continues to make remarks that reinforce his racist beliefs against Asians to his followers. As I pointed out earlier in this article, racism against Asians reaches back to the racist laws and rules against Chinese immigrants in the mid to late 19th century.

Who else suffers?

We must not forget the plight of Japanese and Japanese Americans detained in camps surrounded by wire fences and guard towers. These “enemy aliens” were dispossessed of almost all of their property, homes, and businesses. They had very little that they were allowed to take as they were trucked off to camps located inland from the west coast. There they remained until the end of World War II. The most precious item they were stripped of were their rights under the U.S. Constitution. Certainly a very black eye for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his administration.

Donald Trump has his own special detainment camps. They are the INS detention facilities holding immigrants, legal or not, that Trump wants out of the U.S. During the 2016 election, one of Trump’s stances was that he would build the wall along the U.S – Mexico border to keep out illegal aliens. These centers are holding men, women, and children in separated centers.

In July of 2019, Time reported, “adults and children have been held for days, weeks, or even months in cramped cells, sometimes with no access to soap, toothpaste, or places to wash their hands or shower. Some reports have emerged of children sleeping on concrete floors; others of adults having to stand for days due to lack of space. A May report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found 900 people crammed into a space designed to accommodate 125 at most.”

There seems to be no one with a conscience or humanity in the Trump Administration. No human being should be treated in such an horrible and undignified manner just because they came to the U.S. I will go out on a limb and say that Donald Trump will do his best during this campaign season to whip his followers into a frothing frenzy again over illegal immigration on our southern border. He truly must hate. There is no better example of a racist xenophobe. He’ll tell you he’s not a racist or a xenophobe, but his actions will always speak louder than his words.

The divide racism causes is clearly going to continue. There will likely never be a unified world of peaceful loving people, a la Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets. Instead there will be a seething hatred of minorities by White America, especially Donald Trump’s extreme followers. The history books will not be kind to America and Donald Trump when our history is written. This nation doesn’t deserve any kindness, nor do we have a right to ask for it.

For those White Americans who strive to kill off the racism in America, please let’s keep trying. All people in America deserve to be created equal and to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!

Until next time

3 thoughts on “American Racism: Still Going Strong

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