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African-Americans, Racism, Inequality and Prejudice in the United States

Table of Contents

Introduction .................................................................................................................................................. 4 Chapter 1 ...................................................................................................................................................... 6 Historical dimension of Race..................................................................................................................... 7 Chapter 2 .................................................................................................................................................... 30 What is Race? .......................................................................................................................................... 31 The Etymology of Race in the English Language ................................................................................. 38 Is Racism affecting white Americans too? .............................................................................................. 41 Racial oppression- a historical overview ................................................................................................. 42 Geographical displacement and genocide .......................................................................................... 43 Slavery ................................................................................................................................................. 44 Second class citizenship ...................................................................................................................... 47 Diffuse discrimination ......................................................................................................................... 52 Chapter 3 .................................................................................................................................................... 54 Racial Discrimination Today .................................................................................................................... 54 Stagnation in the erosion of racial inequality ..................................................................................... 59 Daily life interactions .............................................................................................................................. 61 Driving while black ........................................................................................................................... 62 Housing ............................................................................................................................................... 64 Lending ................................................................................................................................................ 66 Employment ........................................................................................................................................ 66 Education ............................................................................................................................................ 69 The Criminal Justice System ................................................................................................................ 70 Racial Equality: Future Prospects............................................................................................................ 74 Chapter 4 .................................................................................................................................................... 77 Barack Obama and a post racist United States ....................................................................................... 77 Conclusion .................................................................................................................................................. 89 I, Too, Sing America ......................................................................................................................... 92 Bibliography ............................................................................................................................................... 93 2


There is a well known fact that Americans like to think of the founding of the American colonies and later, the United States of America, as a quest for religious liberty, and later political and economic one. But the history books show us quite a different perspective on the matter. History shows us that the American society was equally founded on brutal forms of domination, inequality and oppression which involved the absolute denial of freedom for the different other. This is one of the great paradoxes of American history that makes us ask: How could the ideals of equality and freedom coexist with slavery? The thesis will focus primarily on the experience of racial inequality of African Americans, although in the more historical part I will briefly discuss specific forms of racial injustices of Native Americans, Mexican Americans and Chinese Americans. The main focus on African Americans does not imply that the forms of racism to which other racial minorities have been subjected, are not as relevant for the subject of this thesis and the nature of racial domination of these other groups has also shaped the character of contemporary American society. But my special focus on African Americans is due to a personal urge. The first African slaves were brought to the American colonies in 1619. Blacks have thus been in what was to become the United States for nearly 400 years. During 245 of these years they were slaves, subordinated in brutal and dehumanizing ways. This was followed by a century of legalized discrimination which ended less than 50 years ago. So, for 345 out of almost 400 years, over 80% of American history, African-Americans have been subjected to state enforced oppression justified through virulent racist ideologies. It is hardly surprising that racial discrimination continues to operate and economic inequalities associated with race have not yet disappeared. Public action is necessary, both against the economic marginalization associated with racialized poverty, and against the effects of ongoing racial discrimination.

The primary thesis of my work is that justice is met out less frequently to African Americans as compared to other races in the United States of America. While many people believe that the race problem in the United States has been solved, race and racism continue to exist. Stories such as the Cracker Barrel restaurants that permit waitresses to switch tables because they did not want to serve African Americans and referring to some sections in the restaurant where African Americans are seated as the ghetto. Also, an African American anesthesiologist was removed from the operating room at a white husbands objection because the husband did not want the anesthesiologist to possibly see his wife naked on the operating which occurred at the Cracked Barrel restaurants and the hospital are publicized. In the present paper I will explore the nature of racial inequality in the United States, both in terms of its historical variations and contemporary realities. I will start by clarifying precisely what I mean by race, racial inequality and racism. I will continue by examining the ways in which racism harms many people within racially dominant groups, not just racially oppressed ones. This part might seem odd to bring on at the beginning of a discussion of racial inequality, for it is surely the case that racial inequality is more damaging to the lives of people within the oppressed group. I inclined to discuss this aspect too because I feel it is one of the critical complexities of racial division and needs to be part of our understanding even as we focus on the more direct effects of racism. This will be followed by a more extended discussion of the historical variation of racial inequality in the United States. Many African Americans and whites differ regarding the extent to which they believe that race impinges upon American institutions. Typically, African Americans believe race is more of a factor in American society that whites do. Some whites believe that race is not much of a factor in contemporary American society and that charges of racism made by African Americans are deceitful, indicating an attempt to exploit a situation for personal promotion or playing the race card. Whatever racism that has existed in society has been long gone, according to many whites. Along with the election of the first African American president in 2008, there has been much discussion of whether this means the United States has become a post- racial society. Almost half a century from Martin Luther Kings I Have a Dream speech came the most significant shift in the racial landscape of American politics. Barack Obama was elected the 44th

President of the Unites States of America and the first African American to hold the office. Was the election of Barack Obama the turning point in Americas racial development? Is the United States now set on a path to realize all its hopes and dreams of the civil rights era and narrow to a closure the racial divisions? Does race still matters in the United States? In chapter 4 of the thesis I will try to make satisfactory amendments concerning this issue. I will conclude with the discussion of the empirical realities today and prospects for the future. This thesis acknowledges that, indeed, improvement in racial interaction has occurred, but significant issues still remain. The historical, cultural and human depth of racism still permeates all dimensions of life in American society.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Chapter 1

Historical dimension of Race

Racism has been a division line in the American society since the first American colonies were born. For about two and a half centuries the majority of African Americans were held in bondage, and even after emancipation racial discrimination affected every aspect of their lives. Today great progress has been made in eradicating the "color line" but the legacy of slavery and segregation remains alive in numerous aspects of American society. Both African Americans and white Americans have been shaped by the region in which they lived, their social status and, of course, their race. Nevertheless, African Americans have developed different social expectations and have had different life experiences than most white Americans, mostly because of the unique historical relationship with the institutions of the American life including politics, economy, educational and judicial systems. These outcomes are not the result of any inborn racial characteristics but the effects of the historical development of American society. This chapter will focus on how the meaning of race and the experience and status of African Americans have evolved during the course of American history. The history of race in the United States is not a narrative of linear progress toward a predetermined goal rather it is a story of continual struggles and debates, in which equality is sometimes achieved through rights that other times are taken away. In the United States, the idea of race has enclosed at various times groups like Italian, Irish, and Jewish immigrants, who are no longer considered as belonging to a separate race, but have been assimilated into the wide category of white Americans. Nowadays, with the rapid growth of Hispanics and Asian Americans, the bipolar understanding of race is no longer upgraded. Nonetheless, this thesis is an emphasis of race in

American history with a primal focus, although not exclusively, on the experience of African Americans. There are compelling historical reasons for this. Not only have African Americans suffered an exceptional degree of racial discrimination, beginning with two and a half centuries of racial slavery, but for the black condition that remains a pillar test for the professed creed of equality and opportunities for all citizens that the American society lives up to. Moreover, African Americans experience has profoundly affected how other racial minorities have been treated and the ways in which these groups viewed the American society by and large. Hence, in the 1960s African Americans civil rights movement stood as an example for parallel movements among Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans, all using the same political and legal tactics and forms of protest. In 1776, when Thomas Jefferson proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, slavery was already an old institution in the newly founded United States of America.Slavery as a system is as old as the world itself, but the slave system that emerged in the western hemisphere differed greatly from what had preceded it. Firstly, the large concentration of slaves were organized in a plantation system that produced goods like sugar, tobacco, rice and later cotton, intended for the world market. Secondly, the stigma of bondage was racially applied to every black person, slave or free in a system that became an indispensable major presence for the settlement and development of the New World. Approximately 12.5 million people crossed the Atlantic to live in the western hemisphere between 1500 and 1820 from which some 10 million were African slaves. In the American colonies, of approximately 800,000 people that arrived between 1607 and the eve of independence, more than 300,000 were African slaves. Slavery dominated the economic and social order of every colony from Maryland south to Georgia, and one American in five was a black slave by the time of the American war of Independence.1

Gerald David Jaynes and Robin M. William, A Common Destiny- Blacks and American Society, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C, 1989, pg. 223.

Slavery and the racial systems that emerged from it were never static institutions. In this respect, the slave system of the early colonial period was more open and indefinite than it would later become. White indentured servants and slaves worked together, engaged in relationships and often ran away in interracial groups. Of course, in many ways African Americans were not equal with their white counterparts, but in a social organization of brutal labor exploitation that affected both blacks and whites, slavery was one form of inequality among many and skin color was not yet emphasized as a line of social division. The achievement of political dominance by the planter class in the southern colonies, through consolidation of plantation agriculture in the late 17th and early 18th centuries led to a new and far harsher era of slavery, in which steps toward freedom were cut off. Race achieved a far greater social significance, as plantation owners came up with laws that distinguished between white and black and also subjecting free black to more oppressive regulations. Even in the northern colonies were the economy was less focused on slavery, the situation of free African Americans deteriorated greatly in the 18th century. Throughout the American colonies freedom became a term associated only with white Americans. Slavery imposed to African Americans a totally different experience with the institutions of politics and the law. In the laws eyes, slaves were viewed as property that virtually had no legal rights. They could be sold, bought, rented to satisfy an owners debt, their familiar ties had no value so that children were separated from their mothers, wives from their husbands. They could not leave the plantation without the masters permission, they could not gather without the presence of a white person. The entire system of slavery was such organized that no aspect of the slaves lives, no matter how intimate, was beyond the master interference. The control over the masters human property was total and sustained by the entire southern system, from militia and justice courts to slave patrols. At the time of the American Revolution the future of slavery became a matter of widespread public debate. The American life with its affirmation of freedom and universal human rights could eliminate this institution from her core and become an asylum of liberty for the oppressed peoples of the world. When the British came with the offer of freedom for those who joined the loyal cause, more than 100,000 African Americans left their owners to join in. Also, thousands escaped by enlisting in the patriots revolutionary army. In New Englands

courts, freedom petitions 2brought arguments for the emancipation of slaves, a fact that pushed a considerable number of Southern slave owners, motivated by their revolutionary ideals, to voluntarily emancipate their slaves during the 1780s. At the end of the century, the northern states opened themselves for gradual emancipation that resulted into the first free large communities of African Americans. Some 60,000 free African Americans lived in the United States by the year 1790 and at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) the number of free African Americans had increased to nearly half a million, more than a half of them in the slave states 3. In cities like New Orleans, the free African American community included individuals that had the means for taking the lead in the struggle for freedom in the years of Reconstruction. However, most free blacks were poor rural and urban laborers who enjoyed nothing more than the right of not being considered a form of property. In an ironic twist, slavery not only survived the Revolution but also emerged from it more powerful than before. Froze in the idea that the two races could not live together on an equality basis, no Southern state took measures toward abolition. Southerners like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, slave owners themselves, hoped for the institution to be abolished and African Americans to be colonized outside the country.4 Their view of the United States was not an image of a biracial community. The institution, however, was deeply embedded in the new federal constitution. Although, not directly stated in the document slaves were named other persons, as a concession for delegates that might see the word slavery as a contamination of the glorious fabric of American liberty. The Constitution allowed for twenty more years the slave trade from Africa to continue, allowed the recovery of fugitive slaves to be brought back to their owners and provided three fifths of the slave population to be counted as in the allocation of electoral votes.


Gerald David Jaynes and Robin M. William, A Common Destiny- Blacks and American Society, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C, 1989, pg. 237.



These measures assured an increase in the slave population giving the enslaved South greater power in national life. The institution of slavery failed to wither and die as some of the founding fathers had hoped. The huge territorial and economic growth based on the demand for cotton made the institution to expand even more westward giving rise to the Cotton Kingdom of the Deep South. Hundreds of thousands of slaves were sold to plantations in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, or were uprooted by their masters to the fertile soil of the old Southwest. Because of the high rate of childbirth, the slave population grew rapidly even after the importation of enslaved Africans was banned in 1808. On the brink of the Civil War, there were approximately 4 million slaves in the United States and the South had become the most powerful slave society in the modern world. The committed creed of the new nation to liberty and equality for all rested to a considerable extent and a contradictory way, on the institution of slavery. Slavery helped to carve the identity, and the sense of self of all Americans. When Hector St. John Crevecoeur asked his famous question, What is the American, this new man? his answer was: a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Germans, Swedes. He is either a European or the descendant of a European.5 This answer came at a moment when fully one fifth of the population (the highest rate in the American history) consisted of Africans and their descendants. The power of slavery in shaping race ideas in connection to American identity was revealed in 1790 along with the Naturalization Act6, which offered the first legislative definition of American nationality. The Congress restricted the citizenship to free white persons. For about 80 years citizenship was accorded only to white immigrants, then in 1870 the citizenship was extended to African Americans. But not until the 1940s, Asian Americans become eligible. Through the Naturalization Act, the Revolution amplified the division between free Americans and slaves. By the 19th century, the idea of innate black racial inferiority had constituted a convenient justification for the institution of slavery that would grow as a central ideology to many definitions of American nationality. Even though white America debated more

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/CREV/letter03.html Text: Letters from an American farmer, by J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur, reprinted from the original ed., with a prefatory note by W. P. Trent and an introduction by Ludwig Lewisohn. New York, Fox, Duffield, 1904.

http://web.me.com/joelarkin/MontereyDemographicHistory/Naturalization_1790.html Naturalization Act.


on equality in Jacksonian democracy, the thinking of the Revolutionary era followed a fully developed racist ideology sustained by numerous scientific" evidence on black inferiority. Race also gained broad acceptance in explaining the nationality boundaries. At the time of the Revolution only Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia explicitly denied the right to vote to free African Americans the vote being confined only to whites. As late as 1800, no Northern state limited the franchise on racial grounds. But after that year, every state that entered the Union, with the exception of Maine, limited the suffrage to white males. In states such as New York and Pennsylvania, the right to vote for free African Americans was either limited or eliminated entirely. At the time of the Civil War, African Americans could vote on the same basis as whites only in five New England states. Even the Supreme Court took over the rhetoric of racial exclusion that flooded the political discourse, by the eve of the Civil War. In 1857, Chief justice Roger A. Taney in the Dred Scott decision highlighted the fact that African Americans could not be citizens, they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect. The American people, the judge argued, was a white political family in which blacks, free or slave could not be a part.7 If African Americans were excluded from democracy on racial base, they were also excluded from benefitting from the expanding economic opportunities opened by the 19th century revolution. While social development was celebrated by the rest of the society free African Americans experience was downward mobility. Because of 18th century artisans ownership of slaves, a large number of Northern blacks were skilled craftsmen at the time of the abolition. Restricted only to unskilled jobs and domestic servants their possibilities were limited. Also, they could not benefit from the opening of the West to improve their economic status as so many whites were able to. Westward expansion was even totally banned for African Americans in states like Iowa, Oregon, Indiana, and Illinois, where they were prohibited to enter their territory altogether. The economic independence represented a goal for black as well as white Americans. Moreover, the economic growth and territorial expansion meant the acquisition of a non white

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2933.html Dred Scott Decision.


groups land (Native Americans), the exploitation of another (slave) and the annexation of another non white group (Mexico). This resulted in a nation with a powerful racial dimension. The 1840s with the ideology of manifest destiny reaching its peak, territorial expansion came to be viewed as a clear proof of the innate superiority of the Anglo- Saxon race8. The concept of race as seen in the mid 19th century was an amorphous notion that involved origin, color, culture and religion. As stated in the Democratic Review, race was the key to the history of The highlighted importance of race helped the solidification of a sense of national identity among the different groups of European origin that made up the free white population. Between 1830 and 1860 almost five million people (more than 1790s entire population) entered the United States. While most of the immigrants that were from England blended easily, those of Ireland faced a considerable amount of hostility because they were seen as unfamiliar with the American concepts of liberty and were subservient to the Roman Catholic Church. Stereotypes similar to those directed at African Americans were applied to Irish as well. Despite the severe reality of discrimination in jobs, housing, education, under the Naturalization Act of 1790, they were eligible to become citizens of the United States. A country where political democracy was posed as the definition of the nation itself, it is difficult to pass over the importance of the fact that white immigrants could vote almost from the first step they put on American soil, while African Americans, whose ancestors were brought in the country centuries back (and Native Americans, who had been there even longer) could not. Like the racist based definition of American nationality created by the institution of slavery, the abolition struggle gave rise to its opposite, a purely civic understanding of American identity. The origins of the idea of a nation unchained by racial division and the rise and fall of empires was intensely advertised in campaign speeches, in historians writings and political treaties lies not with the founding fathers, who by and large accepted slavery, but with the abolitionists.

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=311 Manifest destiny.


The true crusade against slavery focused on the Americanness of free and bound African Americans, and sustained that birthplace, not race should determine who was an American. Later retained in the Fourteenth Amendment,9 this idea of birthright citizenship was a radical getting off the rail from the traditional American way of life which stated: we do not admit that America is as much the country of the blacks, bound and free, as it is ours. Abolitionists insisted that it was. White abolitionists insisted that freedom meant civic equality. In the North, political and legal battles were launched by white abolitionists, occasionally resulting in victories like the end of school segregation in Massachusetts in 1855. Black abolitionists underlined the ideals of constitutional egalitarianism. The real battleground between liberty and slaver is prejudice against color. Along with the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law of 185010, the abolitionists achieved even less successes. The law for the first time empowered the federal government to catch fugitive slaves, and offered little protection against enslavement for Northern African Americans born free. The situation of black men and women, born in the Unites States that sought asylum in other country to escape bondage struck a discordant note in the American saga of freedom. The Unions victory in the Civil War established, at least in constitutional law, equal citizenship as the birthright of all Americans regardless of the skin color. Begun to preserve the old Union, the Civil War redrew the boundaries of citizenship emancipating a federal government for white men into one for mankind. Receiving their freedom throw an unprecedented exercise of national power, African Americans adapted the war time rhetoric of equality and emancipation into their own distinctive definitions. Freedom meant different things for those who long enjoyed its opportunities than to those to whom it has always been denied. For white Americans, freedom was a given birthright to be defended. For African Americans, freedom was something to be fought for, not a right to be taken for granted. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This
9 10

http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/14thamendment.html The 14th Amendment. http://www.nationalcenter.org/FugitiveSlaveAct.html Fugitive Slave Act.


struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.(Frederick Douglass) Abraham Lincoln, in his speech invocating the Declaration of Independence at Gettysburg gave the inner logic of the Emancipation Proclamation. During the Reconstruction period, in a temporary reversal of political traditions, the federal government sought to protect the alienable rights of all Americans, regardless of race. In 1866, the definition of the civil rights act stated that all persons born in the United States, with the exception of Native Americans, were national citizens that would enjoy equal rights. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, approved in 1866 and ratified in 1868, for the first time enshrined the idea of equal rights and citizenship for all Americans. In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified banning the states to impose race conditions for voting. Civil rights expansion during Reconstruction cannot be viewed as the fulfillment of the founding fathers vision. The Reconstruction period represented less a fulfillment of the American Revolutions principles but a rejection of the actual national practice of the previous seven decades. In this respect the Reconstructions laws and constitutional amendments arose bitter opposition because the principles according to which the federal government had the power to define and protect citizens rights, and African Americans became equal members of the political body, were seen as a departure from the American law. After opposing bill after bill just to see them reenacted by Congress, President Andrew Johnson, claimed that the federal protection of African Americans civil rights violated all our experience as people. The vision of racial equality turned out to be unfulfilled because of the Reconstructions radicalness. The Southern interracial democracy lasted only little more than a decade after which the federal government ceased to fulfill its responsibility of protecting the rights of African Americans. By the early years of the 20th century, the South returned to white supremacy and imposed once again a system of Segregation, Discrimination, Exploitation, Disfranchisement, Lynching and Contempt for African Americans. Socially, economically, politically, African Americans continued to be excluded from the promised American dream. Excluded from jobs in the textile factories that monopolized the


South, denied employment in the industrialized North, trapped at the bottom of a stagnant regional economy, most African Americans had few chances to improve their situation in life. \ Employed only as manual laborers or personal servants in white homes, the rigidly job market excluded African Americans from nearly all skilled employment. Both in North and in the South labor unions banned African Americans from membership. The few exceptions that flourished during the 1880s, such as the Knights of labor11, gathered in their midst African Americans eager to achieve economic power and respect in the work place. The economic development of the upper South (mines, iron furnaces, tobacco factories) employed black laborers and a good number of black farmers managed to acquire land. However, in the deep South, African Americans owned a small percentage of the land in 1900 than they had in the Reconstruction era. Gradual disenfranchisement for African Americans begun along with Mississippi in 1890 when every southern state amended its constitution or law, reversing the long trend toward expanding political rights in the United States. White southern Americans, however, did not create their new system of white supremacy alone. Entirely accepted by the North, the nullification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments with the ideals of universal citizenship had been repudiated. The Supreme Court ruled in 1898, in the case of Williams v. Mississippi12 that the suffrage provisions of the states 1890 constitution did not violate the Fifteenth Amendment because the new literacy tests and poll taxes did not on their face discriminate between the races. The result of the decision was the intended one, that of explicitly banning every black resident of the state from voting. Racial segregation was brought along with African American disenfranchisement in the South. Actual racial segregation in schools and other institution existed in the Reconstruction era too. But it was not until 1896 that the United States Supreme Court, in the landmark decision of Plessy v. Ferguson, gave a green light to state laws that separated facilities for blacks and whites under the doctrine separate but equal13. This case was quickly followed by laws mandating segregation in every aspect of life, from schools to hospitals, waiting rooms, rest rooms, drinking
11 12

http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h933.html http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_williams.html 13 http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0163_0537_ZS.html Plessy vs. Ferguson.


fountains, cemeteries. Segregation represented, besides the racial separation of facilities, a complex system of white domination through each component: disfranchisement, unequal economic status, inferior education reinforced in the other. Along with overwhelming political and legal power came the violent threat of reprisal for those African Americans who sought to challenge and refuse to accept the everyday insults and demands. Almost 3,600 persons were lynched in the United States between 1880 and 1968, the majority of them being African Americans. Some of these mob murders took place secretly at night, others were advertised in advance in broad daylight and attracted numerous audience.14 The resurrection of racism and the abandonment of the Reconstructions ideals of equal citizenship for all, leaded Africans Americans to an economically and politically disempowered position fitted with the general racial pattern of the 19th century. This departure from egalitarian ideals brought forward a mixture of Anglo-Saxonism combined with xenophobia, patriotism and a renewed rhetoric of racial exclusion. The new system of political, economic and social inequality was popularized through derogatory iconography that depicted African Americans as little more than criminals and savages, a black skin means membership in a race of men which has never of itself succeeded in subjecting passion to reason, and has never, therefore, created any civilization of any kind. The era of segregation would be looked back by Americans as an era of extreme prejudice, a system that was justified with political, religious, scientific means as the single solution to the African American problem seen as a danger to white America and its democratic institutions. On the eve of the 20th century, the language of race had assumed a central place in the American public discourse. The second class inborn capacity of African Americans was commonly invoked to explain racial discrimination in their living standards, their ability or inability to participate in the American democracy, their second rate citizenship. This discourse was not applied only to African Americans, racial second rate status was attributed to immigrants too. Immigrants, beaten men from beaten races, representing the worst failures in the struggle




for existence it was claimed, weakened the fiber of American society by allowing inferior races to outnumber the Anglo-Saxons best fitted for national and worldwide hegemony. As the economist Simon Patten said in 1896, American society was splitting along interpreting lines of race and class as the universal definitions of citizenship were replaced by an obsession that demarcated the borders of the American nationality. The South has its negro, ignorant immigrants are feared by the supporters of the American institutions, the workingman dislike the Chinese. Thus, every section of the American nationhood became more aware of the opposition between their standard of living and the activities and tendencies of the other less developed sections. With the African American exclusion as well as other minorities from the mainstream economic resources, the racial and ethnic lines of division, the economy and polity were more racial based in the eve of the 20th century than at any other point in American history. Racial prejudice also narrowed the reach of Progressivism, the reform that sought to improve democracy by bringing the power of the government to regulate the economic power and uplift the conditions of working Americans at the early of the 20 th century. The South disenfranchisement of African Americans was, in some ways a typical progressive reform that, according to its advocates, upgraded the electorate and allowed for a broader democracy among the remaining voters. Another progressive reform was womens suffrage that achieved, through a constitutional amendment, the right of the states to limit voting on other grounds than race, thus accomplishing nothing for African American women. The black condition was avoided in the progressive agenda and the white democracy showed once again a contradiction in terms with no concrete proposals toward a more egalitarian standard. Some reformers tried to address the condition of the poor African Americans that lived in urban areas, but few understood the innumerable disabilities under which blacks labored. Most accepted segregation as natural and equitable, assuming there should be white settlements for white neighborhoods and black settlements for black. The belief in the Anglo Saxon racial superiority was also shared by the promoter of the progressive era, Theodore Roosevelt (who called Native Americans savages and African Americans wholly unfit for the suffrage). In 1912, the Progressive party convention rejected a

civil rights platform and banned black delegates from the South thus doing nothing to lessen the Progressive intellectuals' enthusiasm for his New Nationalism. However, African Americans status was not the only area in what Progressives called the eras race problem. In the Dictionary of Races of Peoples, published in 1911 by the United States immigration commission, immigrants were listed under a hierarchy of races ranging from Anglo Saxons at the top, down to Hebrews, northern Italians and southern Italians at the bottom, described as undisciplined, violent, incapable of integration. The flux of immigrants and the low birthrate of native white women were seen as a threat to the foundations of the American civilization. Most Progressives believed that if democracy could not flourish in the face of vast inequalities of economic power, neither could survive in a nation divided along racial and ethnic lines. Interestingly enough, the very nationalization of politics and economic life served to rise awareness of the ethnic and racial difference and urged demands for "Americanization" -- the conscious creation of a more homogenous national culture. Americanization programs assumed that the new immigrants could easily adjust to the American way of life, embrace it and become full citizens and enjoy the American dream of freedom and pursue of happiness. The question: Who is an American? inspired a fundamental change in the immigration policy. Repudiating the tradition of open entry for whites, Congress imposed the first sharp blockades on European immigration. The nationality quota system enacted in 1924 sought to ensure that descendants of the old immigrants would forever outnumber children of the new ones. In calculating the new immigration quotas, based, supposedly, on the origins of the American population in 1890, non-whites were excluded altogether. The law also mandated the complete exclusion of Asians from the United States. Facing the repudiation of the universalist definition of nationhood, the prominent African Americans leaders turned toward economic self improvement and individual advancement as an alternative to political stirring. Booker T. Washingtons praised speech at the Atlanta cotton exposition in which he urged African Americans to adjust to segregation and push for civil rights and suffrage juxtaposed in 1895 with the death of another great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass.


Washington asserted that the path to racial advancement lay in the acquisition of skills and property. In 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples, a militant group of black leaders and white reformers was born. Under the supervision of W.E.B. DuBois, the group dedicated its agenda on regaining the rights supposedly guaranteed in the Reconstruction constitutional amendments. American participation in World War I was seen as an opportunity to make real the promise of equality, insisting that the service of African American soldiers would fulfill that promise. But the result was far from that ideal producing an alienation that drove many African Americans even further from the American mainstream. Big social changes were unleashed by World War I altering the contours of American race relations. The wartime production and the restrictions in immigration from Europe opened thousands of industrial jobs to African Americans laborers that gave the start of a massive migration from South to the North. Nearly half a million African Americans had left the South by the second decade of the 20th century. But the constant violent confrontations in cities throughout the country also revealed the vast disappointments that African Americans faced. The exclusion from unions led to severely restricted employment opportunities, to housing segregation and machine control of urban politics limited the impact of the right to vote. In the mean time, the Paris peace conference of 1919 sacrificed the principle of self determination on the altar of imperialism, so far as the non white people were concerned. In Eastern Europe, nation states were created but not for the backward countries of Africa and Asia as stated by president Woodrow Wilson. For African Americans, the result of the conference was that of a big betrayal. W.E.B. DuBois, who travelled to Paris to plead the cause of colonial independence, concluded that president Wilson had never at any single moment meant to include in his democracy African Americans or the nonwhites of the world. The disappointed hopes World War I arose in the new black ghettos of the North, wide support for Marcus Garveys separatist movement which demanded for African Americans the same internationally recognized identity now enjoyed by the Irish, Poles and Czechs. In the early 1920s, the massive following of Garveys movement


offered the best testimony to the sense of betrayal the war and the aftermath events started in African American communities. Along with a series of economic programs implemented between 1933 and 1936, a changed relationship of the American citizens to the national government opened. The New

Deal programs were responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call the "3 Rs": relief, recovery, and reform. That is, Relief for the unemployed and poor, Recovery of the economy to normal levels and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression. Suffering more severely from the Depression than any other group, African Americans benefitted enormously of the New Deals economic relief programs, even though these were often implemented in a discriminatory way. Northern African Americans that retained the right to vote, after the long support of Lincolns Republican party shifted their allegiance towards the Democratic party, where they have remained ever since. The New Deal was conceived by Franklin D. Roosevelt as an economic assistance to broad groups of distressed Americans, as a universal right to citizenship, not charity or special privilege. His goal included a lifelong system of social provision that guaranteed economic security to every American. However, the New Deal programs were far from universal when put into practice. The political realities with the urban political machine of the North and African American disenfranchisement in the South affected the legislation. When enacted, the system offered generous, nationally benefits for some Americans, especially white and male, while leaving others with inferior entitlements or none at all. The Social Security Act (1935) set up the first national old age pensions scheme. Workers and employers had to pay into a federal pension fund. Each state was also expected to work out a plan for unemployment insurance. By benefits to taxes paid by eligible wage workers, these programs identified social assistance as a right rather than charity. However, the exclusion of domestic, agricultural and casual labors left uncovered the large majority of employed African Americans. Social Security programs were open to all Americans, regardless of race, who met a means test. The benefits were set at very low levels, authorizing the states to determine the eligibility standards. Because those who benefitted from the programs did not pay Social

Security taxes, they were soon perceived in a humiliating position of government dependency. In the end, non-white workers were confined to the weakest, least generous, and most vulnerable wing of the new welfare state. In 1942, the National Resources Planning Board noted that because of their exclusion from programs "which give aid under relatively favorable conditions," blacks were becoming disproportionately dependent on "general relief," a program widely viewed with popular "disfavor." The situation, the report concluded, seemed certain to stigmatize blacks as recipients of "welfare," and welfare as a program for minorities, thus dooming it forever to inadequate "standards of aid," and further reinforcing a powerful line of division in how black and white Americans experienced the New Deal welfare state. Although Roosevelt seems to have had little personal interest in civil rights or race relations, his wife Eleanor and Harold Ickes, secretary of the interior, had drawn the national attention on subjects such as disenfranchisement, segregation and lynching. Regarding lynching, a massive lobbying campaign was organized but a Southern filibuster prevented the passage of a federal anti lynching law. The New Deal began the process of modernizing Southern agriculture, but tenants, black and white, rejected much of the bill. Tens of thousands of sharecroppers were driven off the land as a direct result of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration's policy of supporting crop prices by paying landowners to reduce cotton acreage. Landlords were supposed to share federal payments with their tenants, but many failed to do so. Thus, on an overall basis, the Great Depression and The New Deal programs had a contradictory impact on African Americans. The limitations of the New Deal programs that reinforced segregation were also in the area of federal housing policies. Private banks with help from Federal Housing Administration and Owners Loan Corporation insured millions of life time mortgages. At the same time, the federal government itself constructed thousands of low rent unit houses. Thanks to the Federal Housing Administration home ownership was brought within the economic reach of tens of millions of families. Like Social Security, the housing policies were put into practice by local officials who guided themselves on a system of racial boundaries. For example in Texas, three sets of housing

projects were financed for white Americans, African Americans and Mexicans. Thus, the Federal Housing Administration, insisted upon racially arranged mortgages, and resolutely refusing to channel money into any but segregated neighborhoods. Entire areas, mostly in central cities were declared ineligible for loans. The presence of a single African American family on a single block led the agency to declare the entire block off limits for federal mortgage insurance. Federal policies along with private banks and real estate companies were a major factor in institutionalizing house segregation in the United States. Today, white Americans recall the New Deal as a time when the government took energetic steps to combat the economic ills of unemployment and homelessness. To African Americans, it is also a time that reveals the persistent hold of racial inequality on public policy. The second World War challenged once again the racial thinking present in the American national life. The fight against Nazi racism arose in the American official rhetoric as an emphasis to ethnic and racial equality. Racism was seen as the enemys philosophy whereas America offered toleration of diversity and equality for all. The new immigrants had been accepted as ethnic Americans rather than belonging to a separate inferior races as it was previously done. The incredible contradiction between the egalitarian American Creed and the actual status of African Americans had come in the spotlight of American national life. During World War II, equality and toleration was avidly promoted as an American landmark. Officials rewrote history to establish racial and ethnic tolerance as the American way to be an American had always been a matter of mind and heart and never . . . a matter of race or ancestry. The ironic statement was effective in the support of the war campaign than an accurately description of the nation's past. Terrified by Holocaust in which the Nazis put the idea of inborn racial difference, physical and social scientists retreated wholesale from the idea of race, only recently central to their disciplines. Although these discourses were not entirely true since segregation, disenfranchisement and lynching continued, the wartime ideology and the actual condition of African Americans helped to spread a renewal in the movement for equality. Almost the complete exclusion of African-Americans from employment in the rapidly-expanding war production industries (of

100,000 aircraft workers in 1940, fewer than 300 were black), labor leader A. Philip Randolph in July 1941 called for a March on Washington to demand not only defense jobs but an end to segregation in government departments and the armed forces stating that racial discrimination was undemocratic, un-American, and pro-Hitler. As a reaction to Randolphs threat, Roosevelt issued an executive order banning discrimination in defense employment and establishing a Fair Employment Practices Commission. The very existence of this commission marked a significant shift in public policy exposing patterns of racial exclusion so ingrained that firms at first freely admitted that their want-ads asked for colored applicants for porters and janitors, and white ones for skilled manufacturing jobs, or that they allowed African American women to work only as laundresses and cooks. The commission played an important role in finding and obtaining jobs for African Americans workers from the rural South so that by the year 1944, over one million African Americans held manufacturing jobs, 300,000 of them being women. During the war strong campaigns that aimed to denounce racial intolerance were organized. NAACP and other organizations fought to advocate laws that would outlaw African Americans racial discrimination in education, housing, employment and other aspects of social life. Although with great resistance from the ranks of white workers, unions made significant efforts to organize access for African Americans in skilled jobs. Nevertheless, the migratory wave of African Americans coming from the South also encountered great hostility, even violence from white residents of the North and West. In 1943 in Detroit, a hate strike left 34 dead casualties when 20,000 auto workers protested the upgrading of African American workers in a plant that manufactured air craft engines. In 1942, the double V was coined by the Pittsburg courier. This phrase came to epitomize African Americans aspirations during the war, victory over Germany and Japan and victory over segregation at home. While most of the American white press supported the war as an expression of the American ideals, African American newspapers pointed to the gap between these ideals and reality, Our fight for freedom, said a black veteran returning from Pacific combat, begins when we get to San Francisco.


The war inspired a renewal in the post war civil rights fight. Making the civil rights a major plank in the Democratic platform of 1948, President Truman made several southern states to leave the gathering. As the Cold War deepened, leaving aside the 1948 presidential order for desegregation in the armed forces, little came of the Trumans civil rights roar. Just as the employment and housing boom opened new opportunities for white Americans, it left African Americans blocked in the rural South or in the urban ghettos of the North. Indeed, the suburban boom after the war led the federal agencies to continue allotting racially restrictive mortgages and thus financing housing segregation. Even after the Supreme Court decision in 1948 that declared that segregation practices were unenforceable, banks and private developers continued to ban non white access in the suburbs and federal lending agencies refused to fund mortgages for African Americans, except in segregated neighborhoods. The suburban revolution in many areas refused to allow African Americans or any other non whites to rent or purchase homes. Therefore, among the 60,000 inhabitants of Levittown, Pennsylvania not even a single African American family resided there in 1957. In the meantime, under the slogan urban renewal started the removal of the poor from urban areas that were listed for redevelopment and replaced them with white middle income complexes such as Stuyvesant Town, New York which after years of protests and lawsuits accepted to admit in few African American families. Three million African Americans left the rural South for the North between 1940 to1960, followed by another1.4 million in 1970s. Thus, the racial exclusion for African Americans became self reinforced and self justified as industrial jobs shifted their focus from central cities areas to the suburbs. This shifting process was soon to be known as deindustrialization and left behind more and more poor African Americans trapped in urban ghettoes, associated in the white mind with crime and welfare. Because the suburbs represented an emblem of freedom and a familys major accumulation of capital, white fears stood in the fact that a non white influx would lower the life quality and destroy property values. Although suburban home ownership was foreground to whites, non whites had the ability to purchase or rent a home where they wished desired overridden by the potent mixture of private property, the right to privacy, and "freedom of

association." Thus, even the old white ethnic divisions started to fade in the suburban melting pot giving birth to an African American movement in the South with the purpose of ending institutionalized segregation, racial barriers in housing, education and job discrimination. On the first day of December, 1955, Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist was arrested in Montgomery Alabama for refusing to give her seat on a city bus to a white male, as it was required by the law, according to separate but equal segregation practices. She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation, known as Jim Crow laws. Mrs. Parks appealed her conviction and thus formally challenged the legality of segregation. At the same time, local civil rights activists initiated a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. In cities across the South, segregated bus companies were daily reminders of the inequities of American society. Since African Americans made up about 75 percent of the riders in Montgomery, the boycott posed a serious economic threat to the company and a social threat to white rule in the city. A group named the Montgomery Improvement Association, composed of local activists and ministers organized the boycott. As their leader, they chose a young Baptist minister who was new to Montgomery: Martin Luther King, Jr. Sparked by Mrs. Parks action, the boycott lasted 381 days, into December 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional and the Montgomery buses were integrated. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of a revolutionary era of non-violent mass protests in support of civil rights in the United States. It was not just an accident that the civil rights movement began on a city bus. In a famous 1896 case involving a black man on a train, Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court enunciated the separate but equal rationale for Jim Crow. Of course, facilities and treatment were never equal. Under Jim Crow customs and laws, it was relatively easy to separate the races in every area of life except transportation. Bus and train companies couldnt afford separate cars and so blacks and whites had to occupy the same space. Thus, transportation was one the most volatile arenas for race relations in the South. Mrs. Parks remembers going to elementary school in Pine Level, Alabama, where buses took white kids to the new school but black kids had to walk to their school. I'd see the bus pass every day, she said. But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was

the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world. Unleashing a year long bus boycott, the greatest mass movement in American history found in the black church the organizing power for a militant, nonviolent attack on segregation. Starting with 1960, college students, black and white propelled the struggle to a new level of activism and civil disobedience. The civil rights revolution has overturned the edifice of legalized segregation and won the ballot for African Americans in the South. The personality of Martin Luther King Jr., who came to lead and symbolize the movement, appealed to American white consciousness without appearing to be dangerous or threatening demanding that the American nation should put into practice its professed creed and values stated in the Fourteenth Amendment, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Declaration of Independence. Martin Luther King Jr. presented the African American cause for rights in a vocabulary that bridged the great gap between races and blended the black experience with that of the American nation. The Christian theme of the Exodus was the center of Martin Luther Kings theology in which African American experience was seen as a divinely guided progress toward Canaan, the promised land of freedom "we as a people will get to the promised land." In the 1960s, the militant attitude of the movement created a even more violent resistance and a national crisis that pushed the reluctant federal government into considering African American freedom. A moral Crisis (JFK) emerged in 1963 when some 15,000 Americans were arrested in 186 cities in demonstrations that swept the country in one week. After the incidents in Birmingham, Alabama where scenes of the confrontations between black youth and white civic authorities caused an international outcry, led to the federal intervention by the Kennedy administration. The Birmingham campaign was a model of direct action protest, as it effectively shut down the city. By attracting media attention to the adverse treatment of black Americans, it brought national force to bear on the issue of segregation. Although desegregation occurred slowly in Birmingham, the campaign was a major factor in the national push towards the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in hiring practices and public services in the United States. Two years later the Selma to Montgomery marches took place. These three marches marked the political and emotional peak of the American civil rights movement. They grew out of the voting rights

movement in Selma, Alabama, launched by local African-Americans who formed the Dallas County Voters. The first march took place on March 7, 1965 "Bloody Sunday" when 600 civil rights marchers were attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas. The second march took place on March 9. Only the third march, which began on March 21 and lasted five days, made it to the state capital, Montgomery, 82 km away. The events led Lyndon B. Johnson to demand enforcing legislation to secure the right to vote and closed his speech with the demonstrators favorite song We shall overcome. The new federal laws that prohibited legal segregation in public accommodations, employment and voting inspired by the civil rights events and the conviction that racism was no longer part of the national policy, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abandoned the national quota system that had been in place in the United States since the Immigration Act of 1924.Taken together, the civil rights revolution and immigration reform marked the triumph of a pluralist, civic definition of Americanism. By 1976, a public opinion survey reported that eightyfive percent of respondents agreed with the statement: the United States was meant to be ... a country made up of many races, religions, and nationalities. But the economic gap that separated African Americans from other Americans arose another challenge for the civil rights movement. In the mid 1960s, African American unemployment rate exceeded that of white Americans two and a half times and average African American family income little more than half the white norm. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 suggested a Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged directed against poverty in general to mobilize the nations resources in closing the economic deprivation. Two years later, at the Chicago Freedom Movement, King went forward by asking the end of discrimination by employers and unions, equal treatment in granting mortgages, and the construction of lowincome housing scattered throughout the region. His aim was nothing less than to make Chicago an "open city." But the opposition encountered with white homeowners made the movement to fail. The less overt but no less pervasive racial discrimination in the North remained inert to southern practices such as marches, sit-ins, mass arrests and the violent reactions of the Chicago ethnic white groups stunned King.


In his last book, Where do we go from here? Kings optimism had faded away in which open housing and equal employment opportunities for African Americans was a distant dream and only radical economic reforms could bring African Americans fully into the mainstream. Before these disappointments, the fiery orator Malcolm X highlighted the fact that African Americans must control the political and economic resources of their communities, rely on their own efforts without any alliance with white or federal assistance in order to achieve full emancipation. Lyndon B. Johnson figure presided not only on the civil rights era accomplishments such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 but also he launched the most far reaching domestic agenda since Roosevelts New Deal. The Great Society programs established health services to the poor and elderly under aegis of Medicaid and Medicare programs and poured federal funds into education and housing. Thus creating an equal opportunity state welfare it brought to the front those excluded from New Deal such as African Americans and working women. The Great Society represented an incredible reaffirmation of the nations ideals of social and political equality addressing to the needs of the least advantaged Americans. The programs implemented succeeded in reducing the poverty index but were far from ending poverty altogether. Together with the civil rights movement itself, government action opened doors of opportunity for African Americans, spurring an enormous expansion of the black middle class. But millions of African-Americans remained trapped in poverty. The historic gap between white and black in education, employment, income had narrowed considerably. But the economic outcome of African Americans remained far below compared with the median wealth of white households although the unemployment decreased. Moreover, the 1968 elections marked the beginning of a long conservative period in which civil rights issues faded away from the national agenda. The explicit racist language disappeared from the political discourse but the conservative ideology was deeply embedded in the local autonomy, "freedom of association," the evils of welfare, and the sanctity of property so that strong racial overtones erupted.


In the 1964 Democratic primaries, George Wallace, who as governor of Alabama had won national notoriety with his cry, "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" showed that politicians could gain votes by appealing to white uneasiness with civil rights gains, an uneasiness by no means confined to the South. As the end of the 20th century was approaching the racial situation in the United States had changed radically. But there are voices that still claim that the racial color line would never be closed. Still, thanks in large to a generation of affirmative action policies not only has the traditional color line been dismantled, but in every realm of American life from sports and entertainment to universities, corporate boardrooms, and the military, an unprecedented racial diversity has been achieved and nonwhites play roles inconceivable only a few decades ago.

Chapter 2


What is Race?

The position taken by many scholars in a variety of disciplines is that race is a cultural construct. It should be clear that this is not a definition of what race represents, but an assertion that fits me well to explain the phenomenon of race. Race should be analyzed as a cultural/social reality that exists independently of the genetic or biologic variations because no amount of research into the biophysical or genetic features of individuals or groups will explain the social phenomenon of race. Many people think of race as a mirror for the biological differences that exists between groups of people. As racial classification are interconnected to observable physical differences between people leads to a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of racial classifications. Racial classifications use as their base, inherited biological traits as criteria for classification but the way those traits are treated and translated into the categories we call races is defined by social conventions, not by biology. The racial boundary has been drawn in very different ways. In the United States a person is considered Black if they have any African ancestry. This type of classification is called the one drop rule that became the standard system of racial classification in the United States after the Civil War. For example, in the United States, all East Asians are considered to form a single racial group though in East Asia, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese are considered separate races. Moreover, in 1911, the Immigration Act in the United States considered people of Irish, Polish, Italians and English descent of distinct races. The 1924 Immigration Act restricted immigration of what were called inferior races from Southern and Eastern Europe. The Jews were considered by the Nazis as an inferior race, not merely a religious group or an ethnic group, and the examples can go on. Consequently, racial classifications are not simply given by biological descent even if they always invoke biology they are always constructed through complex historical and cultural phenomena.

However, racial injustice is not naturally implied by social classifications. Ethnic experience, for lets say Italian or Polish descent is to share a certain cultural identity without implying any forms of oppression. Ethnic difference can be just that: differences. Also, racial classifications could, in principle, refer just to the physical differences of various sorts that are linked to biological descent. However, in practice it seems that almost all the time, racial classifications are linked to social and economic inequality, domination and exclusion, as well as to belief systems that assign superior and inferior statuses and attributes according to race. We could say that social classifications are deeply ingrained in peoples lives primarily to the extent that they are linked to forms of socioeconomic inequality. 15 Racism is the term that designates the intersection of racial classification with oppression.16 And the question we put ourselves is: How did we get so far? At the middle of the 20th century, historians took a shift in looking at the beginnings of the American experience. The decades spent in exploring all the original documents relating to the establishment of colonies in America were to transform the writing of American history forever. The 19th and 20th century ideas about races did not in fact exist in the 17th century, at the beginning of the new world. Rather, race originated as a folk idea and ideology about human differences, thus being a social invention, not a product of science. This is the story that I will tell briefly in this chapter. Jamestown establishment, Virginia occurred some 400 years ago, in 1607. Inhabited by a community of mostly young Englishmen who came to seek their fortunes and then return home, they planned to enslave the native peoples and force them to produce gold and silver just like the Spanish did in South America. As soon as they realized that Native Americans do not satisfy their urge for wealth due to the lack of gold and silver available, settlers soon discovered a crop, tobacco, whose trade would bring them fortune.


Once a racial category becomes ingrained in the daily lives of people it can also become an ethnicity. That is a category of people with shared historical identities, cultural practices that add to the complexity of race as a form of social division. 16 The term racism is used to refer simply to beliefs and ideologies that have a racist content. However, I will use this term to include both the social relations and the systems of belief that link socioeconomic injustice to racial classifications.


Growing and processing tobacco required sustained hard work and the colonists encounter their greatest obstacle the lack of workers that could sustain such intensive work. Within a decade, the colony began to import indentured servants from the old continent, mostly from England, and it was this pattern of servitude that provided a model for the slavery that was to come later. Indentured servants were bought and sold, ill clothed, ill fed, poorly housed and punished for insignificant crimes just like slaves would be. But, the poor emigrating from England in the early 17th century had an ace down their sleeve - if they survive the New World for a period of servitude, usually 4 to 7 years, they could be set free, allowed to have land and make their own fortunes. However, there were many degrees of servitude and most did not survive. The first Africans set foot on American shores in 1619. There has been some debate about who they were, but is known that they had Spanish and Portuguese names and were already familiar with European culture. Although it might seem that slavery existed in the colonies since their foundation, it is not the case. Slavery did not exist in the early decades of the English North American colonies. Englishmen were unfamiliar with the institution but they were familiar with many forms of bond servitude. Masters were often brutal but the settlers were also cruel toward one another. Often servants were called slaves, and a distinction between servitude and slavery was not at all clear. Therefore, the first Africans who arrived in Jamestown were assimilated into the colony as laborers and were not initially perceived as slaves. Africans, just like European indentured servants, worked off their debt and became freedmen, bought land and established themselves as well-to-do planters, others engaged themselves in trading and other commercial activities and opened their own businesses on an equal footing with the white settlers. The Anthony Johnson family could be a speaking example for the opportunities that African Americans had at the beginning of the colonial period. They owned more than 400 acres of land and even owned three Africans, three Europeans and two Indians as servants. They participated in the assembly, the governing body of the colony, served in juries, voted and socialized with white planters.

The situations in which like their white counterparts, free black property owners were often contemptuous of government, arrogant and insulting toward those considered their social inferiors, assertive of their rights, are also true historically sustained facts. Numerous court

records provide evidence that these 17th century Africans did not act differently from whites of the same social class. There is more than little evidence that Virginians during these years were ready to think of Negroes as members or potential members of the community on the same terms as other men and to demand of them the same standards of behavior. Black men and white men serving the same master worked, ate, and slept together, and together shared escapades, escapes and punishments.

Also, it was common for servants and slaves to run away together, steal

hogs together, get drunk together. It was not uncommon for them to make love together.18 Evidence show that intermarriages those days had no stigma attached, black men servants often married white women servants. Historian Anthony Parent goes by saying that five out of ten black men on the Eastern shore were married to white women.19 One servant girl declared to her master that she would rather marry a Negro slave on a neighboring plantation than him with all of his property, and she did. Given the demographics servants girls had their choice of men. One white widow of a black farmer had no problem with remarrying, this time to a white man. She later sued this second husband, accusing him of squandering the property she had accumulated with her first husband. In another case, a black woman servant sued successfully for her freedom and then married the white lawyer who represented her in court.20 This favorable situation started to change. Few men from among the earliest settlers had taken over most of the fertile land, this situation making difficult for poor servants who achieved freedom to start their own plantations. The poor freed servants which now included Europeans, Africans, mulattoes and a few Native Americans started to be unhappy about how the wealthy men ruled the colony and expressed their disapproval through rebellions throughout the settlement. In 1676, Nathaniel Bacons rebellion took place when the rising of thousands of poor workers became the first major threat to social stability. After Bacons death, the British royal commissioners sent out to suppress the rebellion, realized that the population at large had supported the rebellion and were sullen and obstinate. On one occasion they faced a


Smedley, Audrey. Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview . Third Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 2007 18 Idem 17. 19 Parent, Anthony S. Jr. Foul Means: The Formation of Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2003 20 Morgan, Edmund. American Slavery, American Freedom. New York: W. W. Norton. 1975


dissatisfied rabble of 400 African and 600 or 700 European bond laborers, chiefly Irish. 21 They soon recognized the urgent need for a stratagem to prevent such occurrences in the future and ensure that a sufficient number of controlled laborers were made available to plantation owners. The stratagem that the rulers of the colony took in the last decades of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century resulted in the establishment of racial slavery. The passing of a series of laws that started to restrict their rights and mobility imposed the condition of permanent slavery on them. Because plantation owners needed more and more laborers, Africans were now being brought directly from Africa. They were different from earlier Africans in that they were heathens, and unacquainted with European languages, customs and traditions. Some colony leaders started to argue that Africans had no rights under British laws and therefore could be subject to forced labor with impunity. After 1672, British ships entered the slave trade and the numbers of Africans shipped across the Atlantic increased. As early as the 1630s, planters had expressed the preference for Africans. Records of plantation owners in the Caribbean and in the colonies of Maryland and Virginia reveal the fact that Africans were considered initially docile people who had knowledge and experience with tropical cultivation. They were disciplined and cooperative they knew how to grow tobacco, corn, sugar cane, cotton in their native lands, crops unknown to Europeans. Many of them had knowledge of carpentry, metal work, cattle-keeping, weaving, leather tanning and many other skills. Colonists soon realized that without Africans their enterprises would fail. We cannot survive without Africans! 22 The history of the colony of Georgia provides, in the mid 18th century a good example of the extensive need of African slaves. Founded by John Wesley (founder of Methodism) with the objective of settling here poor people from Europe, the colony had an anti-slavery policy becoming the first non-slaveholding colony. But the experiment failed and the settlers endured hunger, disease, poverty and many deaths. Reasons that made the founders change their mind altering the policy so that slaves could be allowed. Nearly twenty years after the founding, the act prohibiting slavery was repealed and Georgia began to prosper.


Smedley, Audrey. Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview . Third Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 2007

Idem 21.


Because they knew nothing about tropical agriculture and were regarded as savages the Irish slaves in the Caribbean Isles often ran away and were considered a rebellious lot. Historian Leonard Liggio, quoted from a letter sent to traders by a planter, Dont send us any more Irish, send us some Africans, for the Africans are civilized and the Irish are not.23 Also, in parallel to Native Americans, Africans had natural immunities to European diseases. There was recognized that Africans had a mortality rate lower than Europeans so that they were able to produce more. Moreover, Africans were in a strange land with no powerful allies and unlike the Indians could not escape to familiar territories. They were the most vulnerable of all the peoples of the Americas. In the latter part of the 17th century, the number of English servants decreased, as jobs became available at home. This fact led to an increase of the slave trade from Africa. Leaders of the colonies, all large planters, had two objectives: to impose effective social controls over the population and provide themselves with cheap and easily controlled workers. Soon, they perceived that they could use the differing physical characteristics of the population to demarcate them for permanent slavery. Historian Anthony Parent argues that racial slavery was brought to Virginia deliberately over the period of 1690-1723 by the powerful planter class that sought to further their own economic interests. The hundreds of restrictive laws passed in this period were the beginning of a system that needed decades to diminish the effects imposed on Africans and their descendents. By 1723, even free Negroes were prohibited from voting.24 At the same time, with this shift in thinking of the colonial society, colonial leaders were also laying the foundation for the invention of race and racial identities. They began to homogenize all Europeans, regardless of ethnicity, status, or social class into a new category. The first time the term White, rather than Christian or their ethnic names (English, Irish, Scots, Portuguese, German, Spanish) appeared in the public record, was in a law passed in 1691 that prohibited the marriage of Europeans with Negroes, Native Americans and mulattoes.25
23 24

Liggio, Leonard P. English Origins of Early American Racism. Radical History Review 3,no. 1:1-36. 1976 Parent, Anthony S. Jr. Foul Means: The Formation of Slave Society in Virginia , 1660-1740. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2003

Smedley, Audrey. Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview . Third Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 2007


A clearly separated category of Negroes as slaves allowed newly freed European servants opportunities to realize their ambitions and to identify common interests with the wealthy and powerful. Laws were passed offering material advantage and social privileges to poor whites. In this way, colony leaders consciously contrived a social control mechanism to prevent the unification of the working poor. Physical features became markers of racial (social) status, as Virginias governor William Gooch asserted, the assembly sought to fix a perpetual Brand upon Free Negroes and Mulattos.26 At first, however, physical features had not been used as the main reason for racial slavery, but the identification of Africans as uncivilized heathens. The first savages that English had created were the wild Irish. In the late 16th century, after centuries of conflict and warfare with the Irish, Queen Elisabeth declared that the Irish were natural savages incapable of civilization. Such attitudes generated extreme hatred of the Irish that has continued into the 21st century. Another example of racial discrimination was that against Native Americans that became savages when they resisted English appropriation of their lands. After reducing Africans to permanent slavery the English invented the new savage and from the early 18th century on, negative characterization of Africans formed part of a new rationalization for enslavement. These became the stereotype of races and race differences that have been inherited through 19th and 20th century. The tactic applied by the White leading colonists was that of establishing unequal groups and impose different meanings on them. As they were creating the institutional and behavioral aspects of slavery, the colonists were simultaneously structuring the ideological components of race. The Revolutionary era brought a great debate over the nature of the Negro. Anti slavery forces, especially in Europe, criticized the leaders of the American Revolution for advocating freedom, yet keeping more than two million people in bondage. As a response to this accusation, pro-slavery advocates developed an ideology about human group differences that dehumanized the Negro and demoted him to a status closer to the apes. Even Thomas Jefferson claimed that the question of the Negros status in nature to science, which was just beginning to emerge as a separate and distinct institution in Western culture. At the end of the 18 th century the writings of learned men appeared to proclaim the natural inferiority of blacks.

Idem 25.


Although the 1860s brought an end to slavery, race as social status and the basis of all human identities remained. Race ideology proclaimed the existence of distinct separate human groups that were created inferior by God and nature. African Americans were viewed as the most inferior of all, and were at the bottom of the hierarchy. The opposite side of the hierarchy was held by European whites (some of them). Each race was thought to have distinct physical and behavioral traits that were inherited in their blood, and passed on to their children. Specific stereotypical traits were attributed to African Americans as lack of intelligence, laziness, loudness, irrationality, musicality, emotional, overly-sexed and superstitious. Finally, it was believed that these race differences could not be transcended or transformed. Along with the 19th century, science using techniques of measuring of the human body affirmed the differences between whites and blacks to justify the exclusion of African Americans and not only, from main stream American society. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the IQ tests became the medium for racial scientists and the new measure of human differences became primarily intelligence. Reaching the 21st century, race scientists persist in promoting these supposed heritable characteristics of different races.

The Etymology of Race in the English Language

In the fifteenth century, western and northern Europeans ventured out from their geographic isolation and discovered the rest of the world. During the next five hundred years, European exploration, expansion, colonial settlement and exploitation changed the course of human history and generated complex new relationships among the peoples of the world. In the process of exploration of what was an unknown world, Europeans adventurers encountered previously unknown peoples. The exotic groups had material, religious and social lives somehow alien to what European had been accustomed. The strangeness of these peoples and their habitats challenged the European imagination, prompting a rash of speculation about and novel interpretations of the discoveries. Europeans imposed upon these alien peoples and lands, meanings and identities that would fit within their own historical understandings, experiences and preconceptions of what the world was all about. Somewhere along the process they began using the term race to characterize differences among human groups. They left

little record about the source of the term and gave us only a hint of the specific meanings attached to it. The term race is found in all the languages of European settlers in the Americas, where it denoted populations of different origins in a melting pot. However, the actual meanings in different European languages have varied. In English, the term has had nearly a dozen distinct meanings dating from medieval times. But as a semantic form referring to human groups, the English term has a curious history. Its etymology appears obscure, although most dictionary descriptions suggest that the term probably stems from the Italian, thus assuming a Latin origin. Some British experts have debated this. H.W. Fowler claimed in 1926 that there is no Latin term from which it is known to have descended. Zoologist, Cedric Dover argued that it came from the Arabic term ras, meaning chief, head, origin. From there, he speculated, it got into Spanish in the form of raza, meaning a kinship group or follower of a headman. Subsequently it spread to other Latin based languages and eventually to English. J.C Travor, a Cambridge anthropologist, restated his argument that race derived from the Latin ratio in an accusative form that had similar meanings to other classificatory terms such as species, kind and nature.27 It came into Italian as razza and from there went into other related languages. In fact, race did not appear in the English language as a technical term with reference to human groups until the 17th century, when it was apparently employed in several ways. One referred to the characteristics or common qualities of certain types of persons. Thus for example, John Bunyan in Pilgrims Progress referred to a race of saints. Shakespeare, along with other writers, seemed to associate the term with the idea of the inherited disposition or temperament of individuals. Other writers conveyed the sense of class or type of person when they spoke of a race of bishops or the race of womankind. The second usage was used interchangeably with species as a general mode of categorizing peoples. Although the information is slim, it seems that the most direct evidence of the origins and early meanings of race derive from the Middle Ages. The word may have been a folk concept in the Romance languages, which evidently emerged from customs of breeding domestic


Smedley, Audrey. Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview . Third Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 2007


animals. Its original meaning seem to have related to a breeding line of animals, a stock or group of animals that was the product of a line bred for certain purposes. As such, the term probably has a long history in the folk cultures of the Latin world. Spanish writers employed the term as one of several ways of referring to new populations discovered in their travels. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish hegemony in Europe was extensive and the countrys contacts with the English increased significantly. It is quite likely that the English adopted the term race from the Spanish, applying it also to New World indigenes. At that time, the Spanish pronunciation reazza could have been easily transformed into the English race in a manner consistent with other known linguistic transformations. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, race developed as a classificatory term in English to and interchangeable with, people, nation, kind, type, variety, stock and so forth. By the latter half of the 18th century, when scholars became more actively engaged in investigations, classifications and definitions of human populations, race was elevated as the one major symbol and mode of human group differentiation applied extensively to non European groups and even to those groups in Europe who varied from the subjective norm. Of all the terms commonly employed to categorize human beings, race became, as we shall see, the most useful one for conveying the qualities and degrees of human differences that had become increasingly consonant with the English view of the worlds peoples. Unlike other terms for classifying people (ex: nation, people, variety, kind and so on), race places emphasis on innateness, on the inbred nature of whatever is being judged. And whatever is inheritable is also permanent and unalterable. However, the English in North America were to develop and elaborate the implications of the term race to a much higher degree than the Spanish, the Portuguese, or the French. The Spanish and Portuguese who settled Latin America evolved a very different perspective on human differences, which did not result in the construction of rigidly exclusive racial groups, as occurred in North America and South Africa. 28




Is Racism affecting white Americans too?

Race in the American society must be studied as an investigation of the ways in which racial classifications are chained to historically variable of oppression. The moral core of such an analysis is to understand the ways in which racial oppression imposes harms on people situated in the racially oppressed category. However it is a huge mistake to think of racism as a fact affecting only the lives of African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and other racially defined minorities. Within the white population racism harms disadvantaged groups in two main ways. Fist, racism has a dividing role into the social and political movements, undermining their capacity to challenge prevailing forms of power and inequality in such way that the ruling elites to apply the strategy divide and conquer in order to protect their own social class interests. Examples for the previous statement are numerous: At the end of the 19th century, a radical political movement of small farmers and workers emerged in the Midwest and the South. They called themselves The Populists and it seemed that common ground could be made between black tenant farmers and small white farmers against large landowners and Southern elites. At its peak, the movement showed serious challenges to the dominant political parties of the period and even to the interests of the dominant classes. When racial conflict appeared within the movement, the agrarian unity of the Populists was lost and led to decline. Throughout the late 19th century and the first part of the 20th century employers used racial minorities as strike breakers in industrial revolts. This fact diminished the ability of unions to win strikes and also contributed to deep resentment against blacks and other minorities within the white working class. Studies have showed that wage inequality in those cities and regions of the United States where the White/Black wage difference is the greatest it is also the case that the wages of white workers are the lowest and inequality against whites is high.29 This fact suggests that because of the racial divisions within the working class, the ability of the workers as a whole to bargain higher wages with the employer had diminished. White workers, in the long run would be better

Michael Reich, Racial Inequality: A Political-Economic Analysis, Princeton University Press, 1981


off economically if there was less inequality and more solidarity between white and black workers. Racial division and racial conflict stood in the way of the popular forces to grow stronger and more capable of influencing the political parties and challenge the interests of the dominant class. The second way that racism has affected the segment of white disadvantaged population is through the ways it has undermined universalistic aspects of the welfare state. Universal programs apply to all people and tend to improve the life conditions for those people at the bottom of the class structure whereas targeted programs apply only to special, designated groups. When the New Deal came into being in the 1930s, a strong opposition was held by Southern Democrats to universalistic policies because of the ways such policies would benefit African Americans as well as White. In spite of the widespread poverty in the South, the Democrats in the South were extremely conservative on social welfare issues and blocked the possibility of national universalistic programs because of racism. For example, in the legislation that set the basic framework for labor law and the rights of unions they insisted that provisions be included which would effectively exclude most black labor union rights, and social security, initially excluded domestic workers and agricultural labor for the same reasons. Universal health insurance was also excluded because of opposition to universalism. While many of the exclusions of the New Deal have since been eliminated, they nevertheless helped create a type of welfare state averse to the kind of universal programs that we see in most developed capitalist democracies. Racism, once again, played an important role in this also harming the interests of the majority of whites.

Racial oppression- a historical overview

The harms produced by racism stand at the core of the American history. As seen in the previous part of this chapter, racism also harms significant segments of the racially dominant

group in the United States. However, racism is above all a form of domination that harms the racially oppressed groups of the American society. Only in the most recent past the classical liberal idea of equality before the law has been extended to include racial minorities, and even today in many critical aspects such equality remains more promise than reality. In this part I will explore briefly the historical variation in the distinctive forms that racial oppression has taken in the United States. Its main purpose is to give feedback to the current problem of racial inequality in American society by seeing what has changed and what still stands. I will mainly focus on the five primarily forms of racial oppression that have occurred in United States history: the first form would be genocide and geographical displacement, followed by slavery, second class citizenship and diffuse racial discrimination. This historical sequential view gathers different racially defined groups subjected to different forms of racism in different historical periods.

Geographical displacement and genocide

The encounter of the European settlers with the indigenous population of the New World led to a clash over the most important economic resource of that time: Land. Soon enough, the European settlers and later on, the newly founded United States Government found out that displacement and genocide were the central means of dealing with the inevitable conflicts over this resource. As the 19th century folk saying the only good Indian is a dead one clearly sums up the moral monstrosity that led to genocide and forced displacement for the Native American into reservations. The land ended up confiscated with brutal force and the inhabitants were either driven off or killed. Occasionally Native Americans gave away the land through treaties in the aftermath of military defeat. Although treaties in their nature guaranteed the Native Americans certain rights, often these rights were ignored. The official reasons on which the Native people lost their ancestral land, as formulated by the civilized Europeans, was the claim that the land was not rightfully owned by these

uncivilized savages since they didnt permanently cultivate the land and because of the nomadic way of living. Even when Native Americans formed agriculture based settlements there was little or no hesitation in forcibly evict them from their land. The best known instance of forcible eviction of the native population was in the 1830s when the Cherokee Native Americans were driven away by Andrew Jackson from the Southeastern United States. Although the Cherokees adopted the American way of life, creating farming communities and even owning slaves, the white settlers took their land anyway and Andrew Jackson used the military power of the Federal Government to force them west of the Mississippi along with other Native American peoples. The beginning of the new 20th century found the Native American displaced completely into arid confined spaces known as Indian Reservations. Today, Native Americans are no longer required to live in reservations, but the lives of many Native Americans are still deeply marked by the legacy of severe forms of racial oppression and geographical isolation to which they were historically subjected. Although they can move freely about the country, as a group they are economically among the most deprived segment of the American population.


Is a fact well known that most people with African ancestors living in the United States today are the descendants of people who were kept in bondage, as property by the white American. Today is so hard to understand those times when human beings were viewed as mere objects, when they could be whipped and branded like cattle. The killing of a slave by a slave


master was almost never punished. The rape of slaves was a common practice viewed as normal in a society that considered itself above most of the civilized world. However, the fact that slave owners had absolute control over their slaves does not mean that every slave master ruthlessly abused their slaves. Interestingly many slave owners adopted a paternalistic responsibility over their slaves, viewing them as children that needed to be looked after. Because slave owners were businesspeople for who slaves were an important asset and the value of that investment needed protection. Especially after the international slave trade was banned at the beginning of the 19th century and thus the price of slaves increased, slave owners took measures to insure that the value of their investment did not deteriorate. As a result, by the time of the Civil War the conditions and material standard of living of American slaves was not very different that of the poor peasants and unskilled workers in many parts of Europe. Some researchers go further on by saying that the standards of living of slaves in the 19 th century stated that slavery was not as oppressive as we might think. 30 But the nature of the social structure of slavery, the extensive degradation that slaves experiences, meant that significant physical brutality was universally in spite of the modestly improving standard of living and the paternalistic ideology. Continuous force or threat of force was used systematically by the slave owners to assure their prosperity. Because masters depended heavily on the effort of their slaves even those slave owners who took their paternalistic role seriously considered that without harsh treatment their childlike slaves would not understand and fulfill their duty. Now, I speak what I know, when I say it is like casting pearls before swine to try to persuade a negro to work. He must be made to work, and should always be given to understand that if he fails to perform his duty he will be punished for it31. The end of the19th century brought a lot of change but it would be a mistake to see racial oppression as affecting only the South. The economy of the Industrial North was deeply connected to the Southern slave system. Through the triangular trade the Northern states

Stanley Engerman and Robert Fogel, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery, New York, Norton and Company, 1995. 31 Quotation from Kenneth Stamp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South, New York, 1975, p.171.


profited by purchasing slaves in Africa with European goods, then sold in the Caribbean and North America and the profits used to trade cotton, rum and tobacco back to Europe. The triangular trade was the single most important capital accumulation in the colonies.32 At the time of the Constitutional Convention, slaves were owned by northerners as well as southerners, and many of the founding fathers were slave owners. In the early years of the Revolution, slavery was still legal in a number of Northern States. In New York there were still 11,000 slaves in the 1820 census and significant numbers of slaves were reports as late as the 1840 census in New Jersey. The economy of the North also continued to be dependable of the Southern slavery through textile manufacturing. Even after slavery was outlawed in the North, collaboration with the South in allowing escaped slaved to be captured and returned to the South, particularly after the Dred Scott decision of the U.S Supreme Court , still continued in the late 18th century.33 While many abolitionists in the North struggled for freedom, many people were perfectly content to let slavery continue in the South. When the Civil war burst there were about four million slaves in the United States, nearly 15% of the entire population. In the fifteen states in which slavery was legal, just over one in four white families were slave owners. As of 1860, in the cotton-growing areas approximately one half of the farms did not own slaves; for the South as a whole, the percentage of slave owning families declined from 36 in 1830 to 25 in 1860.34 The incredible system of slavery ended with the Civil War, but its impact did not disappear simply because this form of racialized class relations had been destroyed. Slavery contributed to a particularly form of racist behavior and beliefs that continue to influence American society today. After the American Revolution slavery outlined even better the serious ethical failure of principle such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the foundation of the American

David Eltis, Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade , New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. 33 The Dred Scott Decision ruled in 1856, states that an escaped slave remained the property of the original slave owner even if the slave managed to get to a state in which slavery was illegal, thus being legal for the slave owner to recapture the slave. 34 Gavin Wright, The Political Economy of the Cotton South, New York, Norton.


society. How was it possible to reconcile the devotion to liberty and democracy with the treatment of some people as the property of others? How can these principles adjust to slavery? The solutions founded to answer these question was to elaborate such racial ideologies of degradation and dehumanization of African Americans as intellectually and morally inferior and thus not worthy of treatment as a full person. The attribution of intellectual inferiority meant that African Americans were seen as lacking intellectual capacities for rational action and thus, as in the case of children, choices should be made on their behalf by responsible adults. The attribution of moral inferiority supported the view of blacks as inherently dangerous, ruled by passions, both aggressive and sexual, and thus incapable of existing in liberty. These beliefs constituted the core of the racist culture forged under slavery and although such beliefs were increasingly challenged in the last decades of the twentieth century and are no longer seen as respectable, they continue to influence race relations to the present.

Second class citizenship

The Civil war did not end racial oppression. In 1868 when the United States Constitution ratified the 14th amendment that guaranteed equal protection of the law and full rights to all citizens, followed, two years later by the 15th amendment which stated clearly that these rights be applied to all people regardless of race and color, a glimpse of hope appeared for the African Americans. But only these amendments had been taken seriously and enforced correctly, then racial oppression could not have taken the form of second- class citizenship.

What is second class citizenship? A formal definition would be that: Second-class citizen is an informal term used to describe a person who is systematically discriminated against within a state or other political jurisdiction, despite their nominal status as a citizen or legal resident there. While not necessarily slaves, outlaws or criminals, second-class citizens have limited legal rights, civil rights and


economic opportunities, and are often subject to mistreatment or neglect at the hands of their superiors. Instead of being protected by the law, the law disregards a second-class citizen, or it may actually be used to harass them. Second-class citizenry is generally regarded as a violation of human rights. Typical impediments facing second-class citizens include, but are not limited to, disenfranchisement (a lack or loss of voting rights), limitations on civil or military service (not including conscription in every case), as well as restrictions on language, religion, education, freedom of movement and association, weapons ownership, marriage, gender identity and expression, housing and property ownership. In the decades following the Civil War, official second class citizenship became the main form of racial oppression in the South. The emancipation proclamation of the slaves posed a serious threat over the income of large landowners, who relied entirely on slave labor. Because most of the slaves wanted to become small farmers, the promise of 40 acres and a mule35 opened the possibility for former slaves to create a yeomen class of independent farmers. In order to put in practice this law, a lot of Southern landowners had to be dispossessed of their land but, in spite of the Civil War, the Federal Government was not that keen to violate the right of private property. As a result few ex-slaves were in a position to acquire land. Therefore Southern landowners retained possession of the land, but they no longer owned the labor force. What was needed, then, was a new system to tie ex-slaves to the land and give planters effective control over their labor. In the decades following the Civil War Southern planters experienced with different arrangements, settling finally on the sharecropping system.36 It is of considerable advantage to landowners to have a politically weak and economically vulnerable population available to be tenant farmers. Jim Crow laws the new form of racism were the laws which consolidated the new agrarian social order in the South by the end of the 19th century. Second class citizenship was attributed to African Americans through a number of social actions. The right to vote was among the most obvious since the literacy tests were enforced more strictly upon the black population. Though these laws did not have a racial character they primarily affected African Americans.

40 acres and a mule refers to the short-lived policy, during the last stages of the American Civil War during 1865, of providing arable land to black former slaves who had become free as a result of the advance of the Union armies into the territory previously controlled by the Confederacy, 36 Sharecropping is a form of agriculture in which tenant farmers pay rent to landowners in the form of certain percentage of the total crop grown on the land.


Also, a wide range of segregationist laws excluded African Americans from white schools and universities, hotels and restaurants and relegated blacks to segregated facilities in public transportation.

Figure 1. Lynched African Americans per year 1882-1954.37

Beside all these forms of legal segregation also existed a wide spread of legal and extra legal violence directed against African Americans. The Ku Klux Klan was tacitly supported by the state and allowed to terrorize black communities. Lynching was the most extreme form of such violence and was a common event in parts of the South from the 1880s through the first decades of the 20th century. What is even more incredible is the fact that violence against African Americans was not simply tolerated by state authorities in the South it was the official state policy. This is revealed through the statistics on executions for rape by race in the period before the 1960s as Figure 2 states it. Statistics show that from 1930 -1960 between five and 25 black men were executed annually for rape in the United states, nearly all in the South, whereas for whites the numbers were never more than 4 and in most years zero or 1.


Source: University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law.


Figure 2. Executions for Rape by Race in the United States, 1930-196438

At the beginning of the 20th century, roughly 90% of the black population in the United States lived in the South, mostly in the rural areas. In the North, Africans Americans were not denied the right to vote but it would be incorrect to say that second class citizenship embodied only African Americans from the South. Although Northern states had laws generally

prohibiting segregated education, in practice many school boards in the North enforced racial segregation. Laws against interracial marriage were present in 36 states in the 1920s and were still in place in nearly half of the states in the 1950s. The Federal Government itself supported segregationist principles. Thus while the most restrictive forms of second class citizenship for African Americans occurred in the South, this was a national problem. Racism was a system of explicit legal denial of equality for people based on their race in the United States until the 1960s.




Resistance was held both by African Americans and some white supporters of civil rights but such opposition to segregation was often accompanied by violence. Lynching of blacks was a common occurrence in the South and almost never such crimes were punished by the authorities. Efforts at passing anti lynching laws failed. Segregationist laws and practices were maintained by violence and terror through the first decades of the 20th century. After United States fought against the extreme racist ideologies of the Nazis in World War II things started to loosen up and state supported racism had been significantly discredited. Moreover, United States claim to be the leader of the free world was in contradiction with the institutions of second class citizenship, particularly with America s efforts to gain influence in the newly ex colonies of Africa and Asia. During the 1930s and 1940s there had been large scale migration of African Americans in the North where they became a more important voting block and thus the issue of civil rights could be easily be translated into national politics. In the 1930s because the mechanization of agriculture and other economic changes, sharecropping had sharply declined in the South. By the middle 1950s it was no longer central element of the Southern economy. This meant one of the crucial economic reasons for the highly coercive system of racial domination in the South no longer mattered very much. Taken together these factors meant that even through the struggles against segregationist laws in the South continued to be met with strong, often violent resistance on the part of the Southern whites and their State Governments, the civil rights movement gained considerably greater national support than it had earlier. By the late 1950s and early 1960s the Federal Government began to back these efforts, resulting in the landmark civil rights legislation of the middle 1960s.39 Although segregationist laws were eliminated in the 1960s, there are still legacies of these legal forms of second class citizenship today. In some parts of the United States a variety of rules around voter registration, for example, have the practical effect of reducing the rate of voter registration among African Americans. Most notoriously are rules that permanently prevent people convicted of felonies from voting, even after they have fully served their time in prison and no probation. Such rules do not explicitly link disenfranchisement to race, but they were initially passed, usually at the end of the 19th century, as part of the effort of excluding African


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efI6T8lovqY Racism A History. Documentary


Americans from electorate, and they continue to create a lower tier of citizenship closely connected race because of the much higher rates of imprisonment of African Americans than of whites. These rules are not officially framed in racial terms, but they have systematic racial effects and the support for such rules is at least in part because of racial hostility. Police practices continue to target racial minorities, especially young African American men, and courts continue to give harsher punishments to African Americans. A young black man driving a car in a white suburb is much more likely to be stopped by police for questioning than a white. This is sometimes jokingly referred to as DWB offense meaning driving while black. Equally important, there are a wide range of public policies, from the location of toxic dumps to the funding of education, which continue to implicitly assign greater value to the wellbeing and interests of some citizens than others.

Diffuse discrimination

Theres a well known fact that all forms of racism involve racial discrimination. In the following situation Ill use the term more narrowly to refer to specific situations in which discriminatory actions are not directly backed up by the legal powers of the state. By that I refer to the wide range of practices such as: landlords only renting to people from certain racial groups, employers not hiring or promoting someone on the race basis, economic institutions making it more difficult for racial minorities to get loans, salespeople treating minorities, especially African- American customers differently from white customers and such examples can go on. As these situations of private discrimination occur informally is very difficult to detect. The contemporary American society is filled with such behaviors that are in fact illegal, but since they are very hard to detect, laws against private discrimination are very difficult to enforce. Although civil rights secured the legal basis against segregation and overt discrimination for African Americans, racial discrimination is still a reality in the United States. Most Americans regard private acts of discrimination as a thing from the past with no real impact in the lives of people today. Figure 3 presents responses by African Americans and

whites from 1885-2008 to a survey question concerning the importance of discrimination in explaining black/white differences in income, jobs and housing. As the chart shows, both whites and blacks responded that these differences existed due to racial discrimination, but it is still the case that a great majority of African Americans respond yes to this question, compared with only 30% of white Americans today. White Americans sustain that there is no need for serious public policies against discrimination since discrimination is no longer the reason for African Americans distress.

Figure 3: Survey question concerning the importance of discrimination in explaining black/white differences in income, jobs and housing.40

If African Americans are disproportionately poor, this is because of their behavior and culture, not because of discrimination. If they drop out of school more than whites, this is because of peer pressure and lack of motivation. If young African American men are in prison at a higher rate than young white man, this is because they commit more crimes.41 The majority of white Americans believe that discrimination has nothing to do with these enumerated situations. Of course, it is also difficult to gather evidence to prove precisely how much of the racial inequality can be observed today is the result of discrimination. I will not attempt to find a resolution here.42 The next section of this thesis will provide evidence for the continuing


Source: General Social Survey; Source: University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law

41 42

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efI6T8lovqY Racism A History. Social scientist try to get to a kind of resolution by examining all of the measurable factors that might affect forms of racial inequality and then treating the amount of inequality left unexplained as being the result of direct


importance of discrimination that have a real life impact on the lives of racial minorities in the United States today.

Chapter 3

Racial Discrimination Today

Racial relations today are a direct consequence of a decisive transformation that occurred in the middle of the 20th century - the Civil Rights Movement. While, as discussed below, racial

discrimination. This is not a very convincing research strategy since the result are highly sensitive to how well different factors are measured.


discrimination remains a significant problem, this must be understood against the background of extraordinary progress since the 1950s.43 The cultural transformation of African Americans as presented by the media show a significant change after 1980s. Positive images of African Americans as sports stars, actors, singers had become celebrities within the white population as well as among African Americans. By the 1990s, African Americans began to appear regularly in advertisements sentimentally depicting people in middle American families, loving, laughing working, playing and in television programs in roles traditionally filled only by whites such as doctors, lawyers, scientists. In a popular 2003 movie called Bruce Almighty God was played by the black actor Morgan Freeman and books endorsed by Oprah Winfrey became instant best seller. Also, the 2008 presidential election clearly stated that America was ready for a change when Barack Obama was elected president. Consider the transformation of the economic situation of African Americans. In 1959 the median annual earnings for black men was 56% of the median for white men and the median earnings for black women was 41% of the median for white women. In 2006 the comparable figures were 69% for black men and 92% for black women. The education gap between blacks and whites has narrowed significantly as seen in Figure 4.


William Julius Wilson in The Declining Significance of Race, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1978, argues that the lives of disadvantaged African Americans is increasingly shaped by the brutal class realities of their lives rooted in urban economic structures and dysfunctional labor markets rather than directly in forms of racial exclusion and domination.


Figure 4: Black and White Education Levels, 1940-2008


In 1957 whites 25 years and older had a high school graduation rate over twice as high as for African Americans , 43,3% v 18.4%. By the year 2008 the black rate was nearly the same as the white rate - 83% compared to 87%. Similarly for college degrees: in 1957, just before the major breakthroughs of the Civil Rights Era, 11% of whites 25-29 years of age had completed 4 years of college compared to 4% of African Americans: and half a century later the figures were 31,1% and 20,6%.

Also, the occupational distributions of blacks and whites have also become much more similar since the middle of the 20th century, as seen in Figure 5. In 1950 only 2% of black men in the labor force and 1.3% of black women were in managerial positions, compared to 12% of white men and 5%of white women. By 2000, the percentage of black men in the labor force who were managers had risen to 6.6% and the percentage of black women in managerial jobs had risen to 8%. A similar pattern occurred for other higher status and desirable occupations.


Source: 1960 Census of Population and Housing and 2007 American Community Survey,


Figure 5: Occupational Distributions within Race and Gender categories, 1950-2000.



Source: General Social Survey; Source: University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law,


Figure 5: Occupational Distributions within Race and Gender categories, 1950-2000.


The political role of African Americans also changed. In1964 there were only 103 blacks elected public officials in the United States. By 2005 (the most recent date for which there is data) this number had increased to 9,470, 1.8% of all elected officials. Of these, 587 served in state legislatures and 39 in the U.S Congress, and 8,844 served in city and country government.47 In the 111th congress (2009-2011), 41 of 435 representatives were black, while only one senator was black. And the most stunning development of all: the election of Barack Obama as President in 2008. 43% of white voters voted for an African American President. This would have utterly unthinkable just a few decades ago. These are all significant developments that constitute a profound erosion of the structures of racial domination and oppression. In the following pages of this chapter I will continue discussing about the socio-economic disadvantages that still affect racial based minorities, especially African Americans.


Source: General Social Survey; Source: University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law,


Idem 46.


Stagnation in the erosion of racial inequality

The unfinished agenda of social transformation stated in the previous figures clearly show the incredible persistence of inequality and oppression. It is true that black elected officials increased from virtually none some decades ago to almost 2%, but African Americans constitute about 13%of the population, so this is still a large under-representation. There are still significant gaps between whites and blacks in the desirable job segments. Most of the convergence in distribution occurred in the 1970s. Figure 5 illustrates this for a number of desirable occupations. For example, for professional and technical jobs, the proportion for black women compared to white women increased from under 50% to 82% between 1950 and 1980 and then decreased to 78% by 2000. For black men the proportion compared to white men increased from 29% to 54% between 1950 and 1980, but then only increased to 64% by 2000 as seen in Figure 5.48 In terms of economic standing, median income for black families increased from around 50% of the median for white families in 1947 to 60% in 1967, but has not changed much since as seen in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Black median family income as a percentage of white median family income

The ratio of black to white wealth, as indicated in Figure 7 has remained virtually unchanged since the early 1980s. Depending upon what indicator you use, average wealth in black households is at most about 20% that of white households and median wealth is generally under 10%. Median financial wealth is only 1-3% of the level of white households. Finally,


Source: General Social Survey; Source: University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law,


although the difference in poverty rates among blacks and among whites declined between 1973 and 2000, poverty rates among blacks remain much higher than among whites.


Figure 7: Wealth by Race, 1983-2004.

The figures for black children remain especially high (Figure 8). In the early 2000s nearly 40% of black children under 6 lived below the poverty line compared to 16.6%of white children. The figures presented earlier bring forward the stark reality in the United States today. Although huge progress has been accomplished in ending racial injustice, nonetheless, the economic inequalities between African Americans and the mainstream white population remain substantial.

Figure 8: Child poverty rates by Race, 1979-2005



Source: Table 5.6 from Lawrence Mishel, Jared Bernstein, and Sylvia Allegretto, The State of Working America 2006/2007. An Economic Policy Institute Book, Cornell University Press, 2007.


Reasons for these situations are many. Some of the inequalities are undoubtedly past legacies. If up to a particular point in time inequalities between groups were the result of legally enforced forms of oppression and then those legal forms are destroyed, it would still take an extended period of time for the inequalities between groups to disappear even if there was no on-going discrimination. This fact had lead many people to believe that discrimination is no longer a significant issue in American society. Unfortunately, this is not the case. United States today still clings itself on the remains of racial discrimination. Racial discrimination occurs in a wide variety of institutional contexts and takes many forms. Here, I will focus on five contexts of discrimination: daily life interactions, housing, credit markets, employment, education and the criminal justice system.

Daily life interactions

The most pervasive form of discrimination occurs in the context of ordinary, daily interactions on the street, at work, in stores, classrooms. This is often very difficult for an outside observer to detect but can be acutely felt by the person subjected to discrimination. According to a poll study conducted in 1998, half the black respondents reported that in the previous month they had experienced at least one form of discrimination in daily interactions.51

Here are some examples of discrimination in daily interactions: In stores, black customers are more likely to be monitored and treated with suspicion by store employees concerned about shoplifting than are white customers. This is not simply the case for teenagers but for middle class, well dressed African Americans as well.

Table 6.3 from Lawrence Mishel, Jared Bernstein, and Sylvia Allegretto, The State of Working America 2006/2007. An Economic Policy Institute Book. Ithaca, N.Y.: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2007.

Survey by Gallup Organization, January 4-February 28, 1998. Reported by Christopher Doob in the November 19, New York Times, On Race, Americans Only Talk a Good Game; For Whites, Confusion.


Many white middle class African Americans report the experience of having to wait longer to be served in restaurants than white customers who arrive after they do. In a study of black male college students at elite historically white universities, the participants in the research reported many incidents of surveillance by campus police in which they treated with suspicion and asked for their I.D.s. An average it takes longer for a black man to get a taxi than a white man. This can even be issue when the man is well dressed and clearly affluent. A famous incident was reported in the New York Times: But the actor Danny Glover was not laughing last month when several taxis declined to pick him up in Manhattan, presumably because Mr. Glover is black and stands 6 feet 4 inches tall. In lower Manhattan, the actor was forced to hide in the shadows while his daughter did the hailing. The driver had to be cajoled into unlocking the doors.52

Research showed that these daily experiences that convey denigration and a lack of social respect can have a significant negative impact on morale and self esteem. A pertinent experiment on the impact of discrimination and denigration was conducted by Jane Eliott, a school teacher from Iowa, who subjected her elementary class students to systematic discrimination on the basis of eye color : brown eyes were inferior, blue eyes were superior. After three days of such treatment, the brown eyed group performed much more poorly on a simple math test than the blue eyed one. The same experiment was conducted using adults with the same results.53 The experience of repeated social disrespect generates forms of stress, anxiety and self doubt that significantly undermine performance.

Driving while black

Driving while black offence is one of the best documented forms of discrimination upon which African Americans are mostly subjected by the police.


Examples from Devah Pager and Hana Shepherd, The Sociology of Discrimination: Racial Discrimination in Employment, Housing, Credit, and Consumer Markets Annual Review of Sociology 2008. 53 Jane Elliotts experiments are presented in two documentary films Eye of the Storm and A Class Divided. 62

A report by the leadership Conference on Civil Rights provides systematic evidence that this practice is widespread. Here are some examples taken from Justice on Trial: Racial Disparities in the American Criminal Justice System:54 Under a federal court consent decree, traffic stops by Maryland Police on Interstate 95 were monitored. In the two year period from January 1995 to December 1997, 70% of the drivers stopped and search by the police were black, while only 17.5% of overall drivers as well as speeders were black. In Volusia County, Florida, in 1992, nearly 70% of those stopped on a particular interstate highway in Central Florida were black or Hispanic, although only 5% of the drivers on that highway were black or Hispanic. Moreover, minorities were detailed for longer periods of time per stop than whites and were 80% of the cars that were searched after being stopped. A study of traffic stops on the New Jersey Turnpike found that 46% of those stopped were black, although only 13.5% of the cars had a black driver or passenger and although there was no significant difference in driving patterns of white and non-white motorists. A Louisiana State Police Department training film specifically encouraged the Departments officers to initiate pre textual stops against males of foreign nationalities, mainly Cubans, Colombians, Puerto Ricans and other swarthy outlanders. In 1992, as part of a report by the ABC news program 20/20, two cars, one filled with young black men, the other with young white men, navigated the same route, in the same car, at the same speed through the Los Angeles city streets on successive nights. The car filled with young black men was stopped by the police several times on their drive; the white group was not stopped once, despite observing police cars in their immediate area on no less than 16 occasions during the evening. A July, 2008 New York Times/CBS News poll asked a national random sample of adults, Have you ever felt you were stopped by the police because of your race or ethnic background? 66% of black men responded positively compared to only 9% of white men.


Justice on Trial: racial disparities in the American Criminal Justice System. (The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Washington, D.C., 2000). 63

Racial profiling is often used upon innocent people and also contributes to the disproportionate arrest of young African Americans for nonviolent drug crimes that otherwise not have occurred.


Segregated neighborhoods are still a reality in the United States. In the 1990s in the northern cities on average over 70% of people would have had to move to different neighborhoods to lead to random housing patterns. 55 The ending of the 20th century showed that the level of segregation was just as high as they had been at the beginning of the century. 56 Despite the fact that the 1990 brought a slightly decline in residential segregation research still show that most of the American cities remain highly segregated along racial lines. Researching this issue, four interconnected reasons have been found to explain this pattern of segregation. History shows us that until the civil rights era, many cities real estate agents would simply refuse to show blacks houses in white neighborhoods. Until the 1974 Equal Opportunity Credit Act, out showing the practice of banks which didnt approve loans to people in certain parts of cities, was legal in the Unites States and this certainly contributed to housing segregation. Even with no further discrimination, this would account for some of the existing segregation of American cities. Self segregation practiced by African Americans that buy houses in predominantly black neighborhoods because it is more socially comfortable could be the second reason that supports the racially divided neighborhoods. According to Lincoln Quillan, On surveys, most Whites say they pr efer neighborhoods that are less than 30% Black. African Americans, on the other hand, strongly prefer


Douglas S Massey and Nancy A. Denton. American apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 1993 p.63. 56 Devah Pager and Hana Shepherd, The Sociology of Discrimination: Racial Discrimination in Employment, Housing, Credit, and Consumer Markets Annual Review of Sociology 2008. p, 188


neighborhoods that are 50% Black. These surveys suggest that Blacks prefer much more integrated neighborhoods than do Whites, but not entirely White neighborhoods.57 House segregation could also be influenced by the so called white flight, a tendency for white families to move out of the neighborhood once a few black families have moved in. Nevertheless this tendency must not be generalized. The reasons for such behaviors are diverse: for some it is directly a question of racist attitudes but for many the issue may be more about concern for long term housing values. Even if many white homeowners have no personal problem at all with living next to African American families, they may worry that increasing black residency will depress prices, and given that homes are for most people their own form of wealth, this may lead them to move. What this means is that once African-Americans begin moving into a previously all-white neighborhood, depending upon the distribution of racial preferences among whites in the neighborhood there can be a cascade of white exists.58 Although much have changed in the last decades and the white flight may have diminished, there was a time when a single African American family moving on a block was enough to trigger an exodus of white families out. Discriminatory practices continue to exist in housing markets. Studies have showed through the so called housing audit demonstrations in which homebuyers of different races but with identical credit ratings and income, go to real estate agents for help in buying a house and are treated somehow differential. The key issue is whether and in what ways there is differential treatment of these prospective homebuyers on the basis of race. Devah Pager and Hana Shepherd summarize the results of a series of large housing audit studies by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this way: The study results reveal bias across multiple dimensions, with blacks experiencing consistent adverse treatment in roughly one in five housing searches and Hispanics experiencing consistent adverse treatment in roughly one out of four housing searches (both rental and sales). Measured discrimination took the form of less information offered about units, fewer opportunities to view units, and, in the case of home buyers, less assistance with financing



Thomas Schelling, A process of residential segregation: Neighborhood tipping, in Racial Discrimination in Economic Life,1990.


and steering into less wealthy communities and neighborhoods with a higher proportion of minority residents.59


As we have seen in figure 7, whites are known to be much wealthier than African Americans, having greater savings, owning more stocks and since assets can be used in getting loans, it would be expected that this wealth difference would directly translate into racial differences in the credit market. In addition to this, however, there is good evidence that African Americans face discrimination in acquiring loans. Again, audit studies are the clearest evidence for this. Black testers with the same credit histories, wealth and income as white testers, are less likely to receive a quote for a loan than are white testers and are given less time with the loan officer, are quoted higher interest rates, and are given less coaching and less information than are comparable white applicants. In two audit studies in which creditworthy testers approached subprime lenders, whites were more likely to be referred to the lenders prime borrowing division than were similar black applicants.60


When it comes to employment discrimination research has showed that whites are generally somehow advantaged compared to African Americans. The Civil Rights Movement succeeded to eradicate the various policies, laws and institutions that had long limited the life prospects of African Americans. Differences between blacks and whites in many outcomes have

Devah Pager and Hana Shepherd, The Sociology of Discrimination: Racial Discrimination in Employment, Housing, Credit, and Consumer Markets Annual Review of Sociology 2008. 60 Thomas Schelling, A process of residential segregation: Neighborhood tipping, in Racial Discrimination in Economic Life,1990.


since narrowed sharply, but some gaps remain stubbornly persistent, including large differences in labor market outcomes such as wages and employment probabilities. The continued presence of racial differences such as the large racial differences in various measures of educational attainment and cognitive skill could stand as a possible explanation for these differences. This is why audit studies of hiring are valuable, for they make it possible to more carefully control for individual characteristics other than race. In a study conducted by the University of Chicago in 2004, racially identifiable names were used as the way to signal race to prospective employers. As the title of the published paper from the research asked Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? Resumes which were otherwise substantively identical were sent to employers to see how they would react to the different names. The callback rate for white names was 50% higher than for black names. What might seem even more surprising, this difference increased with the level of qualifications of the resumes, the racial gap in callbacks increased with skill level. In a second study, Devah Pager trained black and white male testers to apply in person for entry-level low-wage jobs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 61 Half of the testers had resumes which indicated that they had served 18 months in prison for a nonviolent drug offense, and half did not. In other respects the resumes indicated equal education and job experience. The study thus involved four types of people: white felons, black felons, white non-felons and black nonfelons. Again, the empirical question is how different across these categories are the rates at which the applicants were called back for an interview. The results are shown in Figure 9: 34% of the whites without prison records received callbacks, compared to 17% of the whites with prison records, 14% of the blacks without records, and 4% of the blacks with records. In other words, it is roughly as disadvantageous in labor market to be a white male with a prison record or a black male without a prison record.


Devah Pager, Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration , Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.


Figure 9: Results of an Audit study of the Effects of Race and Criminal Record on employment62

The results of these studies indicate that active discrimination exists in labor markets. Although employers in question do not personally dislike African Americans the main reason for this unfortunate situation is called statistical discrimination. Employers believe that the average black worker will be less capable than the average white worker. This situation does not necessary exist because they believe in the inherent intellectual inferiority of blacks. It can be because they believe the quality of schooling of the average black workers is inferior to that of the average white worker. The important thing is that the employer has a belief that the average member of one racial category is a less desirable employee than the average member of another category. Since it is difficult to get accurate information about the actual reliability and competence of any given individual, employers rely on these perceived group differences to make individual hiring decisions. This is perfectly rational and economically efficient even if it is morally unjustified and harmful. The result is discrimination.63

Devah Pager, Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007

Devah Pager and Hana Shepherd, The Sociology of Discrimination: Racial Discrimination in Employment, Housing, Credit, and Consumer Markets Annual Review of Sociology 2008.



The educational system in United States is designed to build individuals for successful participation in democracy, or so the theory goes. It has also been thought as an instrument of social control, a way to impose values and classify individuals according to dominant ideals. A well known fact is that education has always been at the heart of conflicts over race. The landmark decision of Brown vs. Board of Education that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional stated unanimously that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Substantial progress has been made toward the provision of educational resources to African Americans . Yet black and white educational opportunities are not generally equal. Standards of academic performance for teachers and students are not equivalent in schools that serve predominantly black students and those that serve predominantly white students. Nor are equal encouragement and support provided for the educational achievement and attainment of black and white students. Measures of educational outcomes concerning attainment and achievement reveal substantial gaps between blacks and whites. African Americans, on average, enter the schools with substantial disadvantages in socioeconomic backgrounds and tested achievement. American schools do not compensate for these disadvantages in background: on average, students leave the schools with black-white gaps not having been appreciably diminished.64 There remain persistent and large gaps in the schooling quality and achievement outcomes of education for blacks and whites. At the pinnacle of the educational process, blacks' life opportunities relative to whites' are demonstrated by the fact that the odds that a black high school graduate will enter college within a year of graduation are less than one-half the odds that a white high school graduate will do so. As Gerald David Jaynes observes in his paper A Common Destiny Blacks and American Society, college enrollment rates of high school graduates, after rising sharply since


Gerald David Jaynes and Robin M. Williams, A Common Destiny Blacks and American Society, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C, 1997


the late 1960s, declined in the mid -1970s while white enrollment rates have recovered, black rates in the 1980s remain well below those of the 1970s. Also, the proportion of advanced degrees awarded to African Americans has also decreased and it cannot be said for sure if this situation is caused by the decline in financial aid grants for students but other reasonable hypotheses can explain only a negligible component of this change. Segregation and differential treatment of African Americans continue to be widespread in the elementary and secondary schools. Statistics show that school desegregation does not substantially affect the academic performance of white students, but it does modestly improve African American performance. It has been shown that intergroup attitudes and relations improve after schools are completely desegregated. Moreover, a significant reduction of racial isolation as well as improvement of the academic and social outcomes for African Americans could be achieved. Differences in the schooling experienced by black and white students contribute to blackwhite differences in achievement. These differences are closely tied to teacher behavior, school climate, and the content, quality, and organization of instruction. Early intervention compensatory education programs, such as Head Start, have had positive effects on African Americans' educational performance. But a remaining substantial gap in overall educational attainment is non completion: high school dropout rates for African Americans are double those for white Americans. Changes in academic achievement test scores show that, while black students' average scores remain well below white students' average scores, black performance has improved faster, and black-white differences have become somewhat smaller.

The Criminal Justice System

African American distrust of the criminal justice remains wide spread. African American history has showed that discrimination against black people in arrests and sentencing was more than real. Before the 1970s, very few blacks were employed as law enforcement officials, but in the 1980s, the percentage of blacks in police forces has increased to substantial levels. Black


representation among attorneys and judges has also increased, although it is not as high as that in the police.

African Americans are arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for criminal offenses at rates much higher than are whites. Currently, blacks account for nearly one-half of all prison inmates in the United States. Thus, African Americans representation in prisons is about 4 times their representation in the general population. Compared with the total population, African Americans are disproportionately victims of crime: they are twice as likely to be victims of robbery, vehicle theft, and aggravated assault, and 6 to 7 times as likely to be victims of homicide, the leading cause of death among young black males. African Americans also suffer differently from injuries and economic losses due to criminal actions. Offenders and victims are often in different socioeconomic strata: most offenders are poor, many victims are not. Consequently, middle-income and near-poor blacks have greater economic losses due to criminal acts than the black poor or than whites at any income level.65 The unexplained differences in black- white arrest rates may be due to racial bias that results into differential treatment. Current black-white differences in sentencing appear to be due less to overt racial bias than to socioeconomic differences between blacks and whites: people of lower socioeconomic status, regardless of race, receive more severe sentences than people of higher status. An important exception may be bias in sentencing that is related to the race of the victim: offenders whose victims are white are on average punished more severely than those whose victims are black. As long as there are great disparities in the socioeconomic status of blacks and whites, blacks will continue to be overrepresented in the criminal justice system as victims and offenders. And because of these disparities, the precise degree to which the overrepresentation reflects racial bias cannot be determined. Racism could still be implicated in shaping the social and economic conditions that lead to such criminal behavior, but racial discrimination inside of the criminal justice system would not be a significant factor. We will first look at the basic data on racial disparities, and then examine the problem of discrimination.

Gerald David Jaynes and Robin M. Williams, A Common Destiny Blacks and American Society, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C, 1997


Figure 10 presents imprisonment rates by race in 2004. If these rates were to persist into the future, it would mean that the lifetime probability of an African-American man spending time in prison would be 32%, compared to 11% for all men.

Figure 10: Incarceration rates by Race66

Figure 11: Lifetime Chances of Being Sent to Prison67

These data certainly show that there are huge racial disparities in incarceration. Racial discrimination of various forms could play an important role in generating these disparities at

Source: Prison Policy Initiative, Incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment, 2005, http://www.prisonpolicy.org/

Source Prison Policy Initiative, Peter Wagner Lifetime Chance of Being Sent to Prison at Current U.S. Incarceration Rates (2003) http://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/lifetimechance.html


every step of the process: racial biases and racial profiling by police could lead to disproportionate surveillance and arrests of African Americans .Racial biases within the processing of arrests could lead to more prosecutions of blacks racial biases within court proceedings could lead to more convictions and racial biases in sentencing could lead to more incarceration. It is a very difficult matter, however, to get solid, unequivocal statistical evidence for the magnitudes of such possible effects of racial bias. Critics of the sentencing process contend that crimes by racial minorities are punished more harshly than similar crimes by equally culpable whites68. Other scholars challenge this assertion. They contend that the harsher sentences imposed on racial minorities reflect the seriousness of their crimes and prior criminal records as well as other legally relevant factors that judges consider in determining the appropriate sentence. The findings of more than 40 years of research examining the effect of race on sentencing have not resolved this debate. Some studies have shown that racial/ethnic minorities are sentenced more harshly than whites, even after crime seriousness, prior criminal record, and other legal variables are taken into account. Other studies have found either no significant racial differences or that blacks are treated more leniently than whites. Still other research has concluded that race influences sentence severity indirectly through its effect on variables such as bail status, type of attorney, or type of disposition, or that race interacts with other variables and affects sentence severity only in some types of cases, in some types of settings, or for some types of defendants.69 As long as there are great disparities in the socioeconomic status of blacks and whites, blacks will continue to be overrepresented in the criminal justice system as victims and offenders. And because of these disparities, the precise degree to which the overrepresentation reflects racial bias cannot be determined.


Cassia C. Spohn, Thirty Years of Sentencing Reform: The Quest for a Racially Neutral Sentencing Process, Criminal Justice, volume 3, 2000.

Idem 68.


Racial Equality: Future Prospects

Race at the beginning of the 21st century in the United States can be characterized by three central features: The first would be the real progress that has been made in the decades since the civil rights victories of 1960s on many aspects of racial inequality. As a consequence to this progress, black middle class African Americans imposed themselves as educated workers, professionals and small business people as well as reliable faces in corporate, cultural and political elite. As seen previously, discrimination continues to manifest both in daily social interactions and in the major institutional contexts in which lives and opportunities are formed. These discriminatory practices harm people, they violate values of fairness and they block the further advance of racial equality. They affect all African Americans, including the wealthy and middle class, even if the consequences are most damaging for the poor. The economic marginalization continues to characterize the lives of many African Americans. The intersection of the sharp deprivations generated by economic marginalization and continuing discrimination underwrites racial oppression in the United States today, reflected in the devastating rates of incarceration of young black men. The mass incarceration of poor, young black men, in turn, deepens their marginalization from the labor force and stable employment. As a broad generalization, compared to the middle of the 20th century, by the beginning of the 21st century race has become less salient and life-defining within the educated middle class and elite, but continues to intensively reinforce the deprivations and disadvantages of acute poverty. One remedy for these situations is the courts, at least for those contexts in which discriminatory behavior is technically illegal. The examples of housing, lending and employment discrimination we have just discussed mostly reflect behaviors that violate legal prohibitions on discrimination. So, one solution is for the targets of such discrimination to sue the discriminator. In most situations this is simply not possible in practice. Hiring decisions are made behind closed doors. The rejected candidate has no way to know who were the other candidates,

what their relative qualifications were, and so on. After all, in the Milwaukee audit study, 69% of whites without prison records also did not get a call back, so on what basis could a black applicant make the claim of discrimination? Even in cases where the discrimination is more blatant, as happens sometimes in discrimination over promotion or pay, it is extremely difficult and costly for an individual to bring a suit against an employer. In the discrimination that takes place in real estate offices and lending institutions it is equally hard, if not impossible, to prove discrimination. The principle alternative to using the courts to counter discrimination has been a set of policies that go under the name of affirmative action. Affirmative action refers to a family of policies which give some kind of preference in a context of scarce resources to a traditionally disadvantaged category of people. The main contexts in which such policies have been implemented are admission to high education, hiring and promotions in jobs, but rules that require a certain proportion of contracts by cities to be to minority business would also constitute a form of affirmative action. Many specific devices are possible. The simplest is a quota system in which, for example, a certain proportion of the students admitted to a program are required to be African-American or other historically discriminated against groups. More complex systems allocate points to a wide variety of criteria relevant to admissions: test scores, interviews, extracurricular activities, special talents, economic disadvantaged, and so on. Race could be one of the criteria in such a list. This is not a quota system, but a system for giving some weight to race. A third strategy is to adopt selective admission criteria that are anchored in some condition that is highly correlated with race, but not race itself. Extra admissions points, for example, can be given a student who comes from a school with a high poverty rate, since the students in such schools will be disproportionately minorities. But regardless of the specific mechanism, all of these are devices through which more African-Americans and other historically disadvantaged groups would be admitted than in the absence of the program. Many people strongly object to affirmative action on the grounds that it is reverse discrimination, but contrary to what is often thought, opinion polls consistently indicate that most Americans support at least some forms of affirmative action. In a Pew Research Center survey reported in 2003, 63% of respondents indicated that they favored affirmative action programs designed to help African Americans, women and other minorities get better jobs and

education and 57% said that the favored programs which give special preferences to qualified African Americans, women and other minorities in hiring and education. Polls have also consistently shown support for affirmative action in the 55-60% range. So there is considerable public support for such programs, even if many people also have their doubts. And the fact of the matter is that there is basically no viable alternative to some form of affirmative action if we want to counter the malicious effects of certain forms of discrimination. What affirmative actions policies do is create real incentives for employers and admissions officers to accept the additional costs needed to overcome statistical discrimination based on race and actively seek out the best minority candidates they can find. It is expensive to gather high quality information on applicants and actively recruit people from outside of ones spontaneous networks. In the absence of affirmative action in many contexts it is cheaper just to treat individuals on the basis of group characteristics. Affirmative action undermines the incentives that sustain that kind of discrimination.


Chapter 4
Barack Obama and a post racist United States

Almost half a century from Martin Luther Kings I Have a Dream speech came the most significant shift in the racial landscape of American politics. Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the Unites States of America and the first African American to hold the office. Was the election of Barack Obama the turning point in Americas racial development? Is the United States now set on a path to realize all its hopes and dreams of the civil rights era and narrow the divisions between the races? The election of Barack Obama was heavily influenced by symbolism. The election of a political figure which, as largely believed, could inspire all Americans to transcend their ideological differences and embrace common interests brought into foreground the discussion of a post racial United States of America. We dont have racism in America anymore said conservative Ann Coulter in an interview on Fox News Channel. But the color blind strategy is not exclusive to Republicans or conservative. Asked about the need for targeting policies to assist African Americans in an interview with BET news reporter Emmitt Miller, Obama responded: Thats not how America works. America works when all of us are pulling together and everybody is focused on making sure that every single person has opportunity70 Although Barack Obamas statement seems legit the racial reality in America along with the discriminatory historical policies clearly contributed to the inequality between whites and African Americans that is seen today. History proves that key social reforms implemented in the 1930s and 1940s, including many New Deal programs, were implemented in a discriminatory way, setting in motion long term racial disparities.




There is no doubt that America has made great progress since Martin Luther king Jr. stated, I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal71, as the election of Obama showed in dramatic terms. Unarguably, Barack Obamas election marks continued progress toward ideals of freedom and equality, affording all Americans great hope about the promises of their Constitution. Yet, many argue that theres still a long way to go in terms of achieving Martin Luther Kings dream of a just society. Discrimination continues in more subtle forms that often go unnoticed or unmentioned. The vast economic and social disparities between racial and ethnic groups saliently persist. While some see a post racial America, others look at the same scene and see a society more racially polarized than ever. Posing a post racially United States would actually worsen racial disparities, some analysts argue, and cripple the attempts to move the economy forward. The recent census predictions tells that people of color will soon represent the majority of the United States population and a great challenge will reveal itself then. The data presented in this chapter are meant to reinforce the fact that social and economic disparities between whites and blacks are still at home in Obamas administration. Post racial has became the new buzzword in the American social and political lexicon and its reach has had an enormous impact. By electing Barack Obama, an African American, to be President, some politicians, media representatives have stated that the work of the Civil Rights Movement is completed. And yet, racial minorities in the United States continue to suffer from deplorable public schools, chronic unemployment, substandard housing and healthcare, intense residential segregation, and striking rates of incarceration. Clearly, discrimination has not been eliminated remaining an integral component of complex and enduring social and political systems that promote racial inequality. Obamas victory provides evidence of great progress, while also illustrating the ongoing salience of race in American democracy. As exit polls have shown at the 2008 Presidential Election, 95% of African Americans, 62% of Asian Americans and 67% of Latinos voted for


Martin Luther King Jr, "I Have a Dream", 1963 http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm


Barack Obama at a national scale, but only 43% of white voters cast their vote for him. White voters were the only racial group that did not cast a majority of votes for Barack Obama. Moreover, the results in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana bring these national racially polarized trends into even sharper focus. The historic level of support for Obama by voters of color in those states was decidedly not shared by their white neighbors: of the white voters in these three states, only 10 percent in Alabama, 11 percent in Mississippi, and 14 percent in Louisiana voted for Obama.

Figure 12: White Voters support for Barack Obama in 2008


Barack Obamas historical election was compared with other outstanding moments in United States history that signified progression and racial equality. The civil rights movement, the March to Washington, the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court outlawing segregation in public schools and the Million Man March, each symbolically promised lasting change in Americans attitudes toward racism. Although these significant events acknowledged an improvement of race relations, they did not cause a shift to a post racial United States. These symbolically significant events provided legislative and judicial protection from discrimination, but the lack of the underlying racial issues proved to be detrimental to lasting change. The legacy of a white supremacy through means such as enslavement and discrimination affected deeply the American psyche. As long as this mentality exists for a social majority, even an event as monumental as the election of the first African American president, will not accomplish a post racial United States. A race neutral mentality was adopted throughout Barack Obamas campaign both by the candidate himself as well as by many facets of American society including politicians, media and the white community. Many analysts share Esposito and Finleys argument that Barack Obama appealed to a color blind ideology during his campaign and his followed term to overshadow the reality of racism with the possibility of American egalitarianism.72 But such tactics, says professor Thabiti Asukile, are more dangerous than ever because of the illusion many politicians, academics and journalists are promoting that race does not matter anymore. The race neutral position that Barack Obama takes makes us wonder: if he could not adequately address racism while running for the Presidency, how could there be any meaningful change following his election? Barack Obamas actions suggest that he will avoid addressing race unless his political survival depends on it. However, for the possibility of a shift to a post racist America, Obama


Esposito, L. & Finley, L.L. (2009). Barack Obama, Racial Progress, and the Future or Race Relations in the United States. Western Journal of Black Studies


needs to led by example and address issues of racial disparity in order to force the American society to face the idea that color blindness is not the same as equality. Genuine progress on racial issues comes from respecting differences, not avoiding them. Nonetheless, statistics showed that Barack Obamas avoidance in racial matters favored his campaign, as the Pew Research Centre states,73 being the major factor in attracting large numbers of African American voters. Their share of the electorate in 2008 was more than 13%, compared to 11% in 2004 and 10% in 2000. This fact suggests that Obamas race in itself increased the inclusion of African Americans in the democratic process. Since his inauguration in December 2008, African Americans anticipated that Obama would draw in a meaningful change in policies although he did not promise such actions specifically. The Obama administration has not made any changes to policies which

disproportionately have a negative impact on African Americans. Though as a society, Americans are more socially conscious than ever before in their history and racial equality in at a high point, this improvement in the social position of race in not entirely reflected in either their conscious attitudes or their institutional policies. Barack Obama inaction in the race matter policies may suggest that he is not more involved on issues of race than his white male predecessors. Although African Americans social status has improved significantly there are still major gaps that need filling. The poverty line for African Americans still remains more than twice that of white Americans. While the median income rose dramatically for African American women between 1970 and 2005, it fell for African American men. Until there are changes in policy to correct these unbalances, no meaningful change can occur. Obamas Presidency indicates an improvement in racial attitudes but this is yet to translate into policies and opportunities in both the private and public sectors. Residential segregation, unequal opportunities in education, health care and employment highlights that race based inequality embedded in policies and practices makes it hard for the United states to resolve its deep rooted racial problem. Racial apartheid and the most blatant




20th century forms of discrimination are behind us but the color line has hardly faded away 74, says Linda Burnham human rights activist. Although Barack Obamas Presidency does not offer a post racist shift, it has the ability to transform racist attitudes, practices and policies. About two years before his election, a victory for Obama was viewed by a majority of political experts as impossible because of his race. However he succeeded and proved his critics by winning a significant percent of white voters and drawing large numbers of new African American voters. Barack Obamas election is an important step in the evolution of the American democracy as well as an incredible ascension for African Americans, from slavery and oppression to complete participation in the social, economic and political spheres of American life. Obama represents an emerging demographic of educated and influential African Americans who have benefited from social changes that were predominately brought about by the civil rights movement. He becomes a part of a profound cultural shift and his election creates opportunities to redefine a range of social and cultural constructs in American society. Multiculturalism along with the influences of globalization will create an even broad context of racial identity as multicultural Americans, Asians Americans and Latinos demand a stronger political voice. As demographics change, so too do the pressures on political candidates to represent broader communitys interests and demands. These are not heavily influenced only by race but social class and generational differences. Barack Obamas election signifies the beginning of this process but cannot stand as an indicative of a post racist United States. These immense changes that are to come in the American society, there is a need for a new theory on racial and class identity that addresses the challenges to reducing racism. Race neutral policies will only hinder necessary progress, not promote it. The United States developing towards becoming a post racist society can only be achieved through cooperation of the entire American society to address the issues of racial disparity. Through his Administration, non profit organization, policy makers, marginalized communities and the American public, Barack Obama can make the first steps towards a post



racial United States. Until the Government addresses unequal opportunities and social exclusion, it cannot abolish racism that has been deeply embedded in the American history and culture. During his address at the 2004 National Democratic Convention, Barack Obama portrayed himself as a unifier to whom race was irrelevant: Well, I say tonight, theres not a liberal America and a conservative America; theres the United States of America theres not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; theres the United States of America. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. On November 4, 2008, President elect Barack Obama said on the occasion of his historic election night victory: Its the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of red states and blue states: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.75 The extent to which the actions of Barack Obamas administration have contributed to a less race conscious United States can be analyzed in a manner that is radically at odds with the image conveyed prior to his election. Candidate Obama appeared to be an individual who wanted to get beyond race while President Obama is presiding over an administration that is slowly enshrining race more deeply into the fabric of the United States at a federal, state and local level. The explanation for the discrepancy between the post racial image of the campaign and the reality on how the administration is conducting itself is the fact that until the presidential election of 2008, it was conventional stated that no black individual could be elected president of the United States. This being based on racial prejudice that no African American was qualified to serve on the highest administrative function of the state, and a black president would favor his own kind.




President Obama is well aware that a significant number of blacks will not be content to support him for a second election without some return of their investment from his original election. With 92% of African Americans supporting him in 2008, it is not unrealistic for Barack Obama to be conscious of the need to do something to motivate for his second election. Racial solidarity cannot be relied upon to produce the same 95% result the second time around. As a 2010 national online poll of political attitudes and behaviors show, the presence of the first African American President at the White House has not eased racial stereotypes. The data shows that each racial group harbors negative evaluations and stereotypes of other group. Racism is still a significant factor in the day to day experience of African Americans. The policies designed to address racial inequality are among the most controversial and much has been written on the limited support among the white population for policies created to address racial equality. To some scholars the gap between ideology and policy often reveals intrusive forms of racism. To others, the response is much more blurred suggesting opposition to specific policies does not represent racial animosity but rather opposition to government intrusion into private affairs. The study asked respondents about the levels of discrimination various groups experienced, as seen in Table 1:
1 Experience day to day discrimination 48.1% 38.6% 81.4% 80.3% 61.9% 66% 2 Received Poorer Service 34.5% 28% 69.3% 68.8% 44% 45.5% 3 Treated as if persons feared you 18.8% 15.5% 58.1% 58.5% 26.1% 30.3% 4 Treated with Less Respect 46% 36.7% 76.9% 71.9% 57.2% 56.1% 5 Called Names 28.9% 22.1% 37.6% 38.8% 27% 30.4% 6 Physically Attacked/ Threatened 14.4% 14.7% 19.2% 18.9% 11.2% 17% 7 Racially Profiled by Police 14.6% 10.4% 43.8% 44.2% 20.3% 29%

Southern Whites NonSouthern Whites Southern Blacks NonSouthern Blacks Southern Latinos NonSouthern Latino

Table 1. Life Experiences due to Race or Ethnic Background


Examination of this data reveals that race still significantly influences the day to day experiences of African Americans - 81% of Southern African Americans and 80.3% of nonSouthern African Americans reported experiencing discrimination in their day to day life. Latino respondents reported less discrimination in their lives compared to African Americans. The study also shows that a considerable number of whites in both the South (48.1%) and in the nonSouthern regions (38.6%) expressed that they had experienced discrimination. As seen in Table 2, the majority African Americans and Latinos express strong concern that race and racial issues remain unresolved: 47.2 % of African Americans and 40.7% of Latinos felt that too little attention is being paid to race. In comparison, only 14.1% of whites reported that too little attention is being paid to race.
African Americans Whites Latinos

Too Little

Right Amount




Too much







Table 2. Is too much, too little or right amount of attention paid to race and racial issues?

Long standing racial stereotypes have been consistently portrayed in the media and have been studies extensively by scholars. According to many, however, the election of Barack Obama indicated the decline of racial stereotypes. Among the most common stereotypes of minorities include the propensity towards criminal behavior, increased aggression and limited intelligence. These stereotypes reinforce anti black attitudes in the United States. According to the Blair-Rockeffeller Poll, the presence of the first African American family in the White House has unfortunately done little to diminish these attitudes. Survey respondents were asked to rate other groups in terms of how hard working, intelligent and trustworthy they are.


Source: 2010 Blair-Rockefeller Poll. This chart reflects the national response. Only 1.7% of the sample refused to answer this question. http://blairrockefellerpoll.uark.edu/5145.php


Blacks Latinos Whites

Blacks Intelligent 44.2% 22% 15.5% Blacks Trustworthy 26.5% 13.2% 11.3%

Blacks Unintelligent .8% 5.6% 1.3% Blacks Untrustworthy 2.1% 15.1% 4.4%

Latinos Intelligent 31.9% 32.3% 13.6% Latinos Trustworthy 19.2% 22.3% 9.8%

Latinos Unintelligent 2.5% .9% 1.8% Latinos Untrustworthy 3.8% 2.4% 2.6%

Whites Intelligent 39.7% 32.7% 20.7% Whites Trustworthy 16.7% 17.9% 13.3%

Whites Unintelligent 1.9% 1.3% .1% Whites Untrustworthy 8.0% 4.6% .5%

Asian Intelligent 48.1% 40.8% 27.5% Asian Trustworthy 21.1% 16.4% 12.7%

Asian Unintelligent 1.2% 1.1% .4% Asians Untrustworthy 2.9% 4.1% 1.5%

Blacks Latinos Whites

Table 3. National Group Responses to how they viewed other groups

Looking at the data we see that Asians are viewed most intelligent by all groups. African Americans were perceived the least trustworthy by Latinos. Only 15% of whites saw African Americans as intelligent although 39.7% of African Americans saw whites as intelligent. These data reveal that negative stereotypes still exist and are held to some degree by all racial and ethnic groups.

Figure 13. White ratings of racial or ethnic groups as hardworking or lazy.

According to some observers, the 2008 historical election of Barack Obama ushered in a new era in which racial animus and barriers to equality no longer existed. The data presented

here show that there is a relevant and stark racial divide in perception and policy support. Whites seem to remain less supportive of policies designed to improve equality in comparison to African Americans. This reality is also reflective of the life experience expressed by African Americans. Will the United States eventually move to a post racial society? That is difficult to tell but what is clear that another big step was made into achieving that goal. A study led by psychologists at the University of Washington, shows that between January and April 2012 eligible voters who favored whites over blacks either consciously or unconsciously also favored Republican candidates relative to Barack Obama. They may play an even larger role in this years presidential election. People were saying that with Obamas election race became a dead issue, but thats not at all the case said lead investigator Anthony Greenwald, A University of Washington psychology professor. The studys findings mean that many white and non-white voters, even those who dont believe they tend to favor whites over blacks, might vote against Obama because of his race. These voters could cite the economy or other reasons, but a continuing cause could nevertheless be their conscious or unconscious racial attitudes: Our findings may indicate that many of those who expressed egalitarian attitudes by voting for Obama in 2008 and credited themselves with having done the right thing then are now letting other considerations prevail, said professor Anthony Greenwald. In the study, a majority of white eligible voters showed a pattern labeled automatic white preference on a widely used measure of unconscious race bias. Previous studies indicate that close to 75% of white Americans show this implicit bias. Compared to a study done prior to the 2008 presidential election, professor Greenwald found that race attitudes played a role in predicting votes for the Republican candidate John McCain. In 2012 data, collected from nearly 15,000 voters, show that race was again a significant factor in candidate preferences. Survey takers were asked about their political beliefs, how warmly they felt toward black and white people, and which presidential candidate they preferred. The study found that favoritism for Republican candidates was predicted by respondents' racial attitudes, both their self-reported views and their implicit biases. Professor Greenwald

emphasized that the study's finding that some candidates are more attractive to voters with prowhite racial attitudes does not mean that those candidates are racist: "The study's findings raise an interesting question: After nearly four years of having an African-American president in the White House, why do race attitudes continue to have a role in electoral politics?" Professor Greenwald says that Barack Obamas power as president in 2012, compared with his lesser status as candidate in 2008, may have brought out race based antagonism that had less reason to be activated in 2008. Yet another possibility is that Republican candidate, Mitt Romney assertion that his most important goal is to remove Obama from presidency may have strong appeal to those who have latent racial motivation77 The question of whether the postracial image was little more than a mirage is one for the American people to ponder, but it is clear that the Federal Government has taken a decided detour from the colorblind creed to which the majority of Americans subscribe. The issue of colorblind government versus the conscious pursuit of diversity is one that confronts all segments of American life. Therefore, Barack Obama should not be faulted, absent his specific 2008 campaign depiction of race, for now supporting raceconsciousness. It is appropriate, however, to question whether he has been true to his campaign representations. It is equally appropriate to expect the president, regardless of his pigment, to provide leadership on an issue that continues to torment the American people: Race.





The most cherished American paradox is freedom. Deeply embedded into the United States historical chart of events, freedom becomes the central term in the American political vocabulary. The Declaration of Independence lists liberty among mankinds inalienable rights, The Constitution announces as its purpose to secure libertys blessings. The United States fought the Civil War to bring about a new birth of freedom, World War II for the four freedoms 78, and the Cold War to defend the free world. The current war has been given the title Operation Iraqi Freedom. If asked to explain or justify their actions, public or private, Americans are likely to respond, Its a free country. In 1944, the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal published a 1483 page analysis on the place that African Americans occupied in the United States, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and American Democracy. Though the study consisted of social scientific data and analysis, Myrdal framed the whole report in terms of a gap between American ideals and the reality of how African American actually lived in the United States. His study served to cast into bold relief the facts that were to follow. The prejudicial treatment of African Americans was an anomaly, a striking case in which Americans had failed to live up to their ideals. America is truly a shock to the foreigner. For that reason it is a common place to point out the heterogeneity of the American nation and the successive swifts in every conceivable direction that this paradoxical situation takes. Nevertheless, there is evidently a strong unity in the American nation, paradoxical: yes, but a basic homogeneity and stability in its values. Americans of all national origins, classes, regions, creeds and colors have something in common: a social ethos, a political American creed.


The Four Freedoms were goals articulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 that people everywhere in the world ought to enjoy: 1.Freedom of speech and expression; 2.Freedom of wor ship; 3.Freedom from want; 4.Freedom from fear;


Once the American creed is detected the cacophony no longer hurts that much the ear, creating even a bitter sweet melody. The further observation then becomes apparent: that America compared to every other country in Western civilization has the most explicitly expressed system of general ideals in reference to human interrelations. Though the American creed is not very satisfactory put into action in the actual social life, the principles which ought to rule has been made conscious to everyone in American society. The African Americans are no exception to the national American pattern: I had an incredible revelation to hear Negroes sometimes indulge in a glorification of American democracy in the same uncritical way as unsophisticated whites often do. 79 Ralph Bunche, the first African American to receive the Nobel Peace prize in 1950 observes: Every man in the street, white, black, red or yellow, knows that this is the land of the free, the land of opportunity, the cradle of liberty, the home of democracy, that the American flag symbolizes the equality of all men and guarantees to us the protection of life, liberty and property, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and racial tolerance. The United States state of uniqueness as an example to the rest of the world of the superiority of free institutions remains a central part of the American political culture. The American democracy, rhetorically founded on liberty but resting economically in large measure on slavery in the colonial era and the 19th century are historical facts covered in the first chapter of the thesis. The central elements of American freedom such as birthright citizenship and equal protection of the law without regard to race, were products of the antislavery struggle and the Civil War. The abolition of slavery had not produced anything resembling racial justice, except for a brief period after the Civil War when African Americans enjoyed equality before the law and suffrage for men.


Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma-The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, 1944, Harper y Brothers Printed in the United States of America. http://www.archive.org/stream/AmericanDilemmaTheNegroProblemAndModernDemocracy/AmericanDelemmaV ersion2_djvu.txt


By the end of the century a new system of inequality installed itself in the South with the rest of the nations well awareness. This system rested on segregation, disenfranchisement, a labor market rigidly segmented along racial lines and the continuous threat of lynching for those who challenged the new order. The language of freedom continued to be heard for the African Americans in the special days of the civil rights movement. When Martin Luther King Jr. ended his great oration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the words, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, Im free at last, he was not referring to getting the government off his back or paying low taxes. Freedom for African Americans meant empowerment, equality, recognition as a group and as individuals. Most white Americans believe that freedom is something which they possess, and which some outside force is trying to take away. Most African Americans view freedom not as a possession to be defended, but as a goal that still needs to be completely achieved. Far more African Americans live in the suburbs areas than ever before but most of them in black suburban communities which means that most of the suburbs remain exclusively white. Because of this fact schools in many suburban areas are still segregated by race although not officially. African American middle class rise to incredible numbers but so does the underclass trapped in urban poverty. The difference in income, employment and education between white and black families has narrowed considerably since 1940 or 1960 but the median wealth for African American remains far below that of white America and the poverty index is far much great among nonwhites than whites. The long history of uneven treatment is reflected now in the status indices that have produced profound differences in outlook between racial minorities and white majority. The idea that race has only a minor impact today is shared by most white America that African Americans receive the same indiscriminately treatment from individuals and institutions. But most nonwhites feel that race still represents an obstacle and discriminatory incidents are reported daily. This difference in perception is not an inborn racial trait rather it bursts out from the distinctive historical experiences of white and non white America. And as long as these differences in outlook and perception remain alive, so too will great differences in how African Americans and white America understand their nations past present and future.


I, Too, Sing America Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong.

Tomorrow, I'll be at the table When company comes. Nobody'll dare Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen," Then.

Besides, They'll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.


Engerman, Stanley and Robert Fogel, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery, New York, Norton and Company, 1995. Eltis, David. Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade , New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. Esposito, L. and Finley, L.L. (2009). Barack Obama, Racial Progress, and the Future or Race Relations in the United States. Western Journal of Black Studies Jaynes, Gerald David and Robin M. William, A Common Destiny- Blacks and American Society, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C, 1989, pg. 223. Liggio, Leonard P. English Origins of Early American Racism. Radical History Review 3, 1976 Mishel, Lawrence. Jared Bernstein and Sylvia Allegretto, The State of Working America 2006/2007. An Economic Policy Institute Book. Ithaca, N.Y Cornell University Press, 2007.

Massey, Douglas S and Nancy A. Denton. American apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 1993 p.63. Morgan, Edmund. American Slavery, American Freedom. New York: W. W. Norton. 1975 Parent, Anthony S. Jr. Foul Means: The Formation of Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2003 Pager, Devah and Hana Shepherd, The Sociology of Discrimination: Racial Discrimination in Employment, Housing, Credit, and Consumer Markets Annual Review of Sociology 2008. Pager, Devah. Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration , Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007 Plous, S. Ten myths about affirmative action. Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination (pp. 206-212). New York: McGraw-Hill. Smedley, Audrey.2007 Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview . Third Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Spohn, Cassia C. Thirty Years of Sentencing Reform: The Quest for a Racially Neutral Sentencing Process, Criminal Justice, volume 3, 2000. Stamp, Kenneth. The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South, New York, 1975, p.171. Wright, Gavin. The Political Economy of the Cotton South, New York, Norton.


Thomas Schelling, A process of residential segregation: Neighborhood tipping, in Racial Discrimination in Economic Life,1990.

Survey by Gallup Organization, January 4-February 28, 1998. Reported by Christopher Doob in the November 19, New York Times, On Race, Americans Only Talk a Good Game; For Whites, Confusion.

Jane Elliotts experiments are presented in two documentary films Eye of the Storm and A Class Divided. Justice on Trial: racial disparities in the American Criminal Justice System. (The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Washington, D.C., 2000).

RACE- The power of an Illusion, http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-03.htm Internet sources


http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/freedom-of-petition-clause.html http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v13/v13n5p-4_Morgan.html
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/CREV/letter03.html Text: Letters from an American farmer, by J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur, reprinted from the original ed., with a prefatory note by W. P. Trent and an introduction by Ludwig Lewisohn. New York, Fox, Duffield, 1904.

http://web.me.com/joelarkin/MontereyDemographicHistory/Naturalization_1790.html http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2933.html Dred Scott decision. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=311 Manifest destiny. http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h933.html http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_williams.html Williams vs. Mississippi. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0163_0537_ZS.html Plessy vs. Ferguson. http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1979/2/79.02.04.x.html Lynchings https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/featuredtask.html http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/paradox.html


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