Racism, one simple word that has the power to destroy societies and create wars that end millions of lives. However, what does the word really mean? What impact does such a topic have on our modern society? Is the United States on the verge of another Civil war or is the subject simply overemphasize by media outlets and businesses that thrive on such social unrest? To truly understand the implications racism dictates on our society one must first examine the core of the problem to answer these questions.
A history of Racism in the U.S
Native Americans: As the European conquerors started to expand their presence in the early stages of America it began to emerge that they defined themselves as the superior race. This fact is emphasized by their hostile and brutal treatment of the Native Americans who currently resided on the land. The Europeans did not see the Native Americans as fellow human beings, but as savages that needed to be liberated from their present beliefs and customs.
Politicians and newspapers played a large part in the desecration of Native American homes and way of life as well. By creating an image that the original Americans were dangerous and evil it made the unsuspecting citizen turn a blind eye to genocide. It also showed early on in American History that white men held themselves as the superior race and that any other race would not be held to the same standards or laws. This brutal treatment of the first minority in the United States still has extreme consequences in present America as the National Institute of Mental Health ranks Native Americans as the highest minority group most likely to commit suicide.
African-Americans: Following the racist tendencies of the earlier settlers 17th century, America saw the profound use of slaves. During that period in time, large farms were used and slaves were in high demand. Slaves were African men, women, and children who were brought over to America from West Africa. While many worked on farms, there were a plethora of uses for slaves. Menial tasks such as maid duties, cooking, and general upkeep of buildings were all completed by slaves. However, the life of slavery was not what the media depicts it as. Many slaves enjoyed the comforts of home and were treated fairly by their masters.
During the time of slavery, America’s participation was at a much lower rate than other countries during that time period. According to the Huffington Post, countries such as Nigeria, Russia, and China all practiced slavery at that time and still do to this day. This radical depiction of abuse by whips, chains, starving, and other human atrocities have been overly exacerbated in modern society by motion pictures, media, and biased accounts. While the horrifying truth is that these things did go on they were not as rampant as society is lead to believe; the reality is that slavery was a business, and it was a booming one.
Asian Americans: As history moves into the 1900’s another form of racism emerge after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the most sobering fact of this era was that the racism was focused on America’s very own Japanese-Americans. During World War II the racism and stereotyping ran rampant against this American minority, so much so that President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order (Executive Order 9066: The President Authorizes Japanese Relocation) which declared these naturalized citizen’s enemies of the state.
Over 120,000 of these naturalized citizens were sent to relocation camps located in states such as Arizona, Arkansas, California, and a multitude of other locations. A large population of those relocated were children (Roughly 60,000 according to the War Relocation Authority). These American citizens were treated as enemies of state even though the majority had never been to Japan. They were forced to live in “Tarpaper covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind, surrounded by barbed wire”. (WRA Report, 1943). President Roosevelt referred to these habitats as “Concentration Camps.”
Jewish Americans: While not as profoundly racially profiled as the other minorities, Jewish Americans still struggled greatly during the nation’s racial discord. This group was not allowed to vote or hold public office until the Bill of Rights was created allowing all citizens to acknowledge these rights. During World War II they saw large amounts of biased opinions from their fellow Americans and were not accepted at many colleges or careers. Jewish Americans also faced opposition from the Ku Klux Klan hate group, which was very prolific in targeting African and Jewish minorities.
Islamic Americans (Islamophobia): The newest and only openly acceptable form of racism in America, Islamophobia came to light after the attack in New York City on September 11th, 2001. As Americans went to war with the middle east, the home front found and still finds itself torn apart by the racial discrimination of this minority. Since the attacks on the world trade center, this group has been questioned by the FBI reportedly 700,000 times.
This minority group also suffered extreme torture that included: waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and an excessive amount of other brutal methods used to extract information. To be Muslim in America also brings the possibility of discrimination and fear from the ordinary citizen. It also means that hate groups and radicals target this group and they have continued to be subjected to biased and belligerent behavior from the naive public.
Each of these different minorities has or still is racially profiled, discriminated against, or harassed due to the complexion of their skin or the values that they adhered to. It also shows an interesting similarity, that racism becomes more predominant in times of war, when Americans already feel threatened. It can also be reasoned that certain members of society tend to either create qualm or structure in these dire times. The media play a large role in creating these feelings but before their presence is calculated into the equation, the reality that one person or group can be the face of an entire movement must first be examined.