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Race Relations in the United States, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1099

Essay

For a country that was supposedly founded on principles of freedom and equality for all, the United States has a very long, complicated, and very often dirty past when it comes to the social, political, and economic factors on race relations. For a country that considers itself forward thinking, progressive, and equal, the United States has shown very conflicting views and policies dealing with issues of race relations overall–not even limited to any particular minority. The United States, as a country founded on people attempting to escape oppression, seems to actually revert back to ethnocentrism when confronted with the new and unfamiliar, perhaps as a defense tactic against the oppression the “melting pot” of immigration has felt since before this country was considered its own country at all.

It is no secret at this point the extent to which early settlers from Europe clashed with the indigenous Native American population already well established on the continent for centuries. Although obviously the Western European settlers ended up slaughtering, enslaving, relocating, and overall committing a virtual genocide, it was not like this from the beginning.

It is nice to romanticize the image most children grew up with of Thanksgiving–settlers and Native Americans coming together to share mutual knowledge, and the Native Americans helping the settlers until they were able to sustain themselves. In some parts, this story is true–the settlers in Plymouth were clearly influenced by Native American culture. There is also however, plenty of evidence, particularly near the early Jamestown, Virginia settlement, that indicate the Native Americans were not always as kind to the settlers. This is natural–the Native Americans were attempting to protect their home from outside invasion.

On the other hand, the settlers were absolutely horrible to the Native Americans, and this tradition carried throughout centuries. Although some of the first Western settlers were weakened by their journey, they had a large technology advantage–namely the firearm. Guns are not referred to as the ultimate equalizer for nothing; firearms are the only things that made it possible for the Western settlers to simply take what the Native Americans worked so very hard to keep–the land of their ancestors.

Never to excuse the actions of the settlers, or the subsequent generations of oppressive Western Europeans that followed, but it is nevertheless necessary to examine where these people came from, and why they acted the way they did. These people came from places generally where they were themselves persecutes for their beliefs. They believed they were moving to a place, after a long and terrible journey, where they would be free from the oppression they faced at their respected homes. They tended to band together by groups of faith–problematic when considering the Native American issue–there was never unity to begin with.

Fast-forwarding in time a little bit, the African slave trade was alive, well, and more than thriving. It is impossible to count the amount of Africans that were forced from their homes, placed on a long, death defying journey, and then simply forced into servitude–after, of course, being auctioned or sold like simple farm animals. This kind of treatment is worse than inhumane, it is simply appalling. How in the world would this not leave a scar on race relations between African Americans and white Americans in particular?

This is not even to mention the fact that the United States was the last country in the Western world to outlaw slavery. It is hard to have a serious debate, or constructive conversation regarding race relationships between African-Americans and whites with a statistic such as that hanging over the head of a country. It took an actual Civil War to end the policy of slavery in America, and even that is a stretch–Abraham Lincoln in The Emancipation Proclamation did not even end slavery–the 13th Amendment had to do such after the war itself ended.

African-Americans as a whole did not even obtain legal equality until a little more than fifty years ago. This has certainly left a bad taste in the mouth of generations that were alive at the time of the Civil Right Movement, the extreme race riots, and the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

All of these pieces fit into the same puzzle. It is the same puzzle that incorporates the “No Irish Need Apply” signs near the turn of the century, as well as the “nativism” that erupted as a geyser that broke the bridge between patriotism and nationalism–a very dangerous line to cross, illustrated by the current situation in North Korea. The main point is we, as Americans, can never, and will never, be able to find a full common ground on the issue of race relations, because the country was never able to unify from the beginning.

This is now the root of the problem. Egocentrism and dangerous nationalism has been wired into American ideology since early colonization began. It is true the United States has done some things to attempt to right previous wrongs, such as the reparation money paid to Asian Americans after their detainment during World War II. Another attempt the government has made to right a similar wrong is the implementing of affirmative action programs. These programs, aimed at creating a level playing field for people of all races was the public policy equivalency of Marxism–it looks great as a concept, but not so much in practice, and for similar reasons; Affirmative Action is effective in doing what it was created to do, the consequences are the issue.

As has happened in the past when a ethnicity is threatened, Affirmative Action has not only furthered the stereotype of the “white man’s burden”, but has also lead to rifts within people competing for jobs or places in a university in more than one way. On one hand, the white man feels he may have been slighted for a job he feels he was more qualified for. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the minority may question the merit on which they got the job, hurting them as individuals.

There is currently a Civil War waging in Mexico, a country in which the United States has stolen land from, and exploited throughout its history. This War between drug cartels is a war not for the drug trade within Mexico, but the demand for these drugs in America. It is true that immigration policy should be reviewed, and perhaps reevaluated due to unemployment issues domestically, but to NOT intervene is again ethnocentric and nationalistic.

There the only one thing about the issue of race relations in America today: the country has proven throughout its history that they will not improve, regardless of policy.

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