Prejudice in America
What is Racial Prejudice
Racial prejudice is a highly negative judgement toward a minority; it will focus on one or more characteristics that are uniformly shared by all group members. Racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice are the most common forms of prejudice. The foundation of America is based on the fact that all men are created equal. I personally do not find this to be true.
I believe that when our white Anglo-Saxon forefathers made this decision, they sold out their mothers, sisters and any other minority group in America. They created the majority group that is still is in power 237 years later. When Hitler came to power in Germany he and his followers quickly dehumanized Jews. He believed them to be genethically suspect. Hitler drafted the Jews into fear and conflict. The millions of Jews who poured into America as immigrants promptly vanished into an assimilated culture.
Could this happen in America? Yes! I believe that we have been only one step away for a very extended period of time in our country's history. We as a country have been dehumanizing minority groups for a very long time. The color of Justice in America has been disturbing for a very long time. We have been socialized to stereotype individuals or groups of individuals.
We started with Native American. The United States government has been trying unsuccessfully to register Native Americans for well over 100 years. The infamous Dawes Act of 1887 was the first such effort on a large scale. The alleged aim of the Dawes Act was to protect Native American property rights during the Oklahoma land rush. By registering, Native Americans were told that they would be allotted 160 acres of land per family in advance of the land rush. This would be our government's restitution for over 100 years of genocide. This was viewed very suspiciously by many of our Native Americans who had been victims of our governments relocation efforts in the past. To get on the Dawes rolls, Native Americans had to anglicized their names such as Rolling Thunder would become known as Ron Thomas. This allowed our government agents who were sent to the frontier to administer the act, to slip the names of their friends and relatives onto the Dawes Roll and reap millions of acres of land.
When I was a child Native Americans were the one dimensional bad guys in cowboy versus Indian movies. The plot was always the same; that some Native Americans would commit some atrocity on the nice white folks that were trying to bring civilization to an untamed land. We would always romantically portray the nice white folks and white cowboy who would go settle the score, making the world a safer place. In the process, the cowboy always won the undying love of his leading lady. The attitudes of American society at large have changed drastically during my lifetime. However, I have a feeling that most of us who are not Native Americas still have not gotten it right. Of course all of these wonderful feelings have never translated as far as I know into the way of actual benefits for Native Americans. I think the most important thing that we can do as individuals in our society is to ensure that Native Americans are welcomed within our society not subsumed, not incorporated, not amalgamated, but welcomed. Poverty, hunger and joblessness are still problems that Native Americans cope with on a daily basis.
We as a society enslaved African Americans. The African Americans were exploited as slave workers on plantations and farms. We split up families and tore children from their own mother's breast. We actually sold humans at the marke place. Upon emancipation of the slaves we brought them to class conflict and racial oppression. We dehumanized this group with segregation. We denied them a proper education; we grouped them into neighborhoods with redlining. Lynching became a common punishment for the African American. We as a society have been guilty of institutional and individual racism. We imposed governmental control, making the decisions that determined the major outcomes in their lives. Are African Americans really free? They are not technically free, for they continue to encounter limitations on their physical freedom. President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and Reverend Martin Luther King were great advocates of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid 1960s. They were each assassinated one by one.
During World War II rabid anti Japanese American racism surfaced in the first few days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The FBI and the military had been compiling lists of "Potentially Dangerous" Japanese Americans. This led to one of the most shameful acts committed by the United States government in the 20th century. In February of 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which empowered our government to round up citizens of Japanese descent with little more than the clothes on their backs and placed them into bleak detention camps. These camps were located in very remote areas such as Manzanar located just west of Death Valley, California. Barbed wire fences surrounded camps and guards with machine guns were posted in the watchtower. There was absolutely no evidence of a single case of Japanese American espionage throughout the war. I went to the Owens Valley and visited Manzanar War Relocation Center and the shame that I felt will always remain with me.
Operation Just Cause
In the late 1980s "Operation Just Cause" took place. President Bush Sr. claims to have restored democracy to Panama. However, the American public was never told even half of the story of the Panama Invasion. Irrespective of world opinion, Washington outright invaded Panama to instill it's preferred government, which blatantly violates international law. We showed a total disregard for the Panamanian people's sovereignty. The human tragedy resulting from this invasion was massive. Many were left homeless and life in Panama has become unbearable. Poverty levels have risen and unemployment has skyrocketed while the elite light skin citizens are doing well there was a strong under current of resentment in the growing underclass population.
The Reawakening of the Sleeping Giant
On September 11, 2001, Americans became the victims of terrorism and because the country of Afghanistan was supposedly harboring the terrorists we quickly began exhibiting prejudice directed towards people of middle eastern descent. We began to take prisoners of war although our country referred to them as "Unlawful Combatants." On January 2002, the first prisoners arrived at the United States base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They were shown hooded and shackled. The prisoners were being housed in outdoor open air chain linked cages, with concrete floors, wooden roofs and each cage contained a mat and plastic bucket. These conditions are humiliating and debasing and against the rules of the Geneva Convention. Once again, we as Americans are currently and have dehumanized a group of people.
The events that I have discussed within this article represent our society's attitudes regarding-racism and prejudice. With our stereotypes we have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. In some instances we have white teachers who believe that minorities are lazy, superstitions, and ignorant. These teachers are very unlikely to aid the minority student in learning. This student will in turn recognize the teacher's disinterest or contempt and will produce little effort in school. In our society race will frequently refer to a classification of people into categories and falsely claimed to be derived from biological traits. Racial classification is always very helpful to the majority group. I believe we must educate that racial categories do not deserve merit, we must give them the irrelevance they deserve. I believe we must keep the internal colonialist perspective in our minds. We must try to eliminate our ghettos. Poverty inherited from the days of slavery have produced and maintained our ghetto neighborhoods. I believe that Affirmative Action needs to be supported. I see this support as a direct attack on our colonial labor principle. We must not restrict any education or work training. We must respect minority cultures. We must also stop blaming the victim and quit implying that a minority culture is inferior.
The Future of America
In years ahead we in America are going to be forced to make some tough decisions regarding prejudices and racism. We must give all citizens the opportunity to participate equally in our society. If America does not soon make a frontal attack on the combined forces of racism and poverty the terror that will be produced will be unbearable. I believe we need new taxes and a better distribution of the wealth in our society. I believe this to be necessary for our nation to continue to be strong. A heartfelt realization is needed to be a first step to effective action. I am convinced that this is the best way to come to grips with this terrible enemy known as racism and prejudice.