The Roots and Deceived Perception of Racism in the History of America America is a nation “from many, one” as stated in our countrys original motto. We pride ourselves on the granted equal opportunity and freedom afforded to each citizen. But are these premises held true and adequately carried out? My answer is a resounding no! Our countrys intricate history provides us with the foundation that explains why and how discrimination has infiltrated and given the upper hand to the white race that has dominated the American society, while suppressing races of color.
Dating back to the discovery of the new world we know as the contemporary United States, the African American race has been segregated and mistreated as exemplified through slavery, falsely relayed “scientifically findings,” and the detrimental habit of forming stereotypical Judgements. This has affected African American’s ability to flourish and homogenize into in the diverse culture of the United States. Throughout this writing, I will focus on the late nineteenth century racial discrimination issues, and how they were created, through the eyes of many nfluential sociologists that had a firsthand look at this period of ethic divide.
Citizens of the colonial era encompassed an attitude of automatic entitlement and superiority due to their perceived advanced societies. Their abundant use and cruelty to African American slaves is the stem of the sectarian activity that swept across America for hundreds of years to follow. Slavery created a direct path for abuse and lack of opportunity for African Americans as soon as they stepped onto American soil. As a result, blacks were forced into manual labor with death as the ultimate consequence if they tried to resist.
Slavery gave the entire black race the stigma of inferiority and unworthiness of freedom. This social norm of the time, was widely accepted, and only supported the superior attitude of White America. In years to follow, several active American religious fgures realized that the inhumane treatment of Blacks was a sin in the eyes of the Lord. This resulted in the lawful abolishment of slavery, yet did not deteriorate the already concrete social perceptions of African Americans in society. The newly received freedom for African Americans after the annexation of slavery should have hardly been called freedom at all.
How was an entire race who’s previous role in society had been forced, manual labor with no financial or educational gain supposed to flourish; especially when the overwhelming majority of their fellow citizens strongly believed that they were “unfit for freedom” (Lipsitz 25)? A mass amount of outrage was very common among white citizens after Blacks were granted liberty. The government had no choice but to react to the majority of its displeased citizens, which resulted in the creation of the Jim Crow laws.
These separated the public into business, schools, and many other sectors of everyday life o be specifically for White citizens or specifically Black. The obvious fact being that the White facilities were far nicer than those for the Negros. This lawful segregation allowed and deepened the belief that African Americans did not have a place in society. Instead of welcoming, accepting, and integrating newly freed members, African Americans from attaining success. Media played a large role in creating the racially inferior attitudes towards Negroes in the late nineteenth century.
Numerous articles containing false information and bias statistical analysis were published and received huge amounts f attention from the public. The 1890 census statistics gained much attention based on the findings that the black population had declined since the previous census was released. Francis Walker, who was the superintendent of the census that year, analyzed and produced conclusions based on this data. Walker had found that the overall African American population had declined six percent in the previous ten years, and an overall eight percent in the previous twenty years.
From this he established that the black population was going extinct in America through the process of social Darwinism (Muhammed 32). This was the idea that those who were the strongest would thrive and prosper, while those who were weak would not amount to any level of esteem and should be allowed to die. Explained verbatim from those who participated in the creation of these conclusions, this was the “natural fate of a primitive race, struggling to survive on its own in an advanced civilized society. (Muhammad 32) These publishers furthered their support by claiming that the use of statistics in evaluating racial worth was producing more accurate conclusions that were based on a sturdy ground. (Muhammad 33) Other sociological authorities, such as Frederick L. Hoffman Jumped into this discussion. His publishing of “Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro’ focused primarily on crime statistics involving those of the African American race. He concluded through his findings that “the criminality of the negro exceeds that of any other race of any numerical importance in this country. (Muhammed 51) Hoffman actively postulated and portrayed his statistics regarding the African Americans in society as a result of the genetic inferiorities evident in their entire race. This was also supported by the incorrectly conducted biological findings such as those carried out by Samuel Morton. He posed that the Negroes were biologically inferior based on his study of eight hundred human skulls. Morton filled each skull with seeds or shot pellets to deem their mental capacity.
Morton published his findings although he did not distinguish the age or body size of each skull, or to which gender it belonged. (Muhammed 22) Morton was one of many scrutinizers of racial worth who produced biased or false conclusions for the public to trust and base their own Judgments from. The strong scutiny and perceptions held by White Americans were result of the falsely tested or manipulated conclusions that publishers conveyed to the public. Hoffman, as mentioned previously, portrayed himself as a reliable and unbiased source of this information by virtue of his foreign-born background.
What he did not disclose was his heavy southern roots, which greatly influenced his writings. (Muhammed 53) Hoffman also put forth his publications without taking into account the social hardships placed on the Negro population. African Americans, who in attempting to take on active roles in society by trying to acquire Jobs and or an education, frequently fell victim to mob violence. Not only were Negroes beat and harassed, but the local newspapers and majority of the public commended the ember of a society experiencing their race being mistreated firsthand.
This alone should explain why many of the Negroes within America took part in violent activities; they were simply responding to the social neglect and misdeeds imposed on them every day. Another reason for their overwhelmingly violent perception was the substandard living conditions they resided in. Hoffman discussed the “Africa’s” created within large American cities which was a product of the blacks “crowding into a very few wards. ” These areas were seen as “the most undesirable sections of the cities. Muhammed 53) However, did they really think a human would voluntarily put themselves and their family in an environment that was violent, overcrowded, and unsanitary? No, these “Africa’s” were a result of force. Homeownership and land acquisition is often passed down from generation to generation. This gave the White population the automatic upper hand, due to their historical presence and long standing freedom in America. Negroes had Just been recently legally allowed to attempt to acquire land, which was then all but impossible in any neighborhood where Whites resided.
Real estate brokers of the time were legally granted the right o deny any African American the ability to rent or own a home in a White neighborhood by reason of “possible annoyance. ” (Lipsitz 28) The irony was that White Americans were the ones creating the very neighborhoods they themselves feared. This shows that the rationale behind the African American inferiority that Hoffman and many other publishers asserted, was highly due to the discriminatory actions from White members of society, and not considered or portrayed in their writings.
Hoffman also shows us his overwhelmingly obscured sectarian roots when he analyzes statistics of White American issues in society. When discussing the ncreased rate in White American suicide, he fully reasoned their actions to be one of a social issue. He said that it was the government’s responsibility to identify the social ills causing the rise in suicide, and to fix them. (Muhammed 48) Hoffman claimed White issues to be social, while continuing to infer that Black civil woes were of racial inferiority.
If anything, the African American race was more sinned against than they themselves sinned, as asserted by Ida B. Wells, a responder to the racial inferiority claims. (Muhammed 59) Lynching, the live hanging and burning of a human, was a punishment faced by many Negroes. This action was not only immoral, but showed that White Americans were partaking in and carrying out activities far worse than the “crimes” committed by Negroes. To foster this point, in many cases, blacks were given harsher punishments or longer Jail sentences for crimes that were far less severe than those of White American counterparts.
For example, as Ida B. Wells discussed, a black man in Cleveland was put in Jail for six months because a mother and grandmother accused him of “outraging” their four year old child, further proving how the court system exhibited racism. This accusation was made up in order to void paying the black man for a season’s worth of work he had done for the family. In contrast to this crime, a white mob gang raped a colored woman in Baltimore while other men held down her date. All charges were dropped against these men. Muhammed 61) As discussed and supported by the multiple examples aforementioned, Negroes Crow laws to mob violence, many actions from White Americans have imposed hardships on Blacks; which greatly impacted their abilities to integrate effectively into society. Even after the abolition of slavery, racial sentiments shaped and affected the perception of the Negro population. Whites not only inflicted an attitude of disgust towards Blacks, but were the ultimate catalysts for their social and perceived “racial” inferiority.
Due to the overwhelmingly prejudiced publications of the nineteenth century, Whites were almost required to hold Judgments of Negroes that negatively labeled the entire black race. The Negros distemper and inability to thrive in nineteenth century America, was a result of the scrutiny and obstruction to find an active identity within the society that they lived. Works Cited The Color of Courage. Dir. Lee Rose. Perf. Linda Hamilton, Lynn Whitfield and Bruce Greenwood. 1999. TV Film. Harris, Cheryl L. “Whiteness as Property. Harvard Law Review 8th ser. 106. June 1993 (1993): n. pag. Print. Lipsitz, George. How Racism Takes Place. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2011. Print. Muhammad, Khalil Gibran. The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2011. Print. Takaki, Ronald T. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. Boston: Little, Brown &, 1993. Print. Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives. Dir. Ed Bell. Perf. Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Basset and Michael Boatman. 2003. DVD.