History of racism in the United States

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Racism can be defined as a variety of social relations, phenomena, beliefs and practices that work to yield a social structure and a racial hierarchy that result in some people being privileged, superior and powerful while others are discriminated and oppressed. Failure to account for other races and their contemporary and historical roles in society can result in the social structure that is unjust thus also resulting in racism. Irrespective of the country or status of people racism is common in the modern day. Issues regarding the vice are sensitive since they offend and discriminates people from a particular race. It results in adverse consequences since it causes disharmony and racial destruction among the citizens of a country.

History of Racism in the United States

Although the word racism is seen to have been of a recent origin, it doesn’t mean that the racism concept did not exist. Racism has been a primary part of the America since the Europeans colonized Northern part of America in the 17th century. Different groups were victims of this social vice and suffered under laws that discriminated against them, criminal behaviour targeted explicitly towards them and also social practices. Native Americans are among one of the groups to experience racism under the Europeans during colonization. Upon arrival of the Europeans to the shores of North America, they planned to conquer and subdue the land, and this resulted in bigotry and racism against the Native Americans. The colonizers believed the original inhabitants of America needed to be civilized by use of Christianity since they were savages and heathens. The belief of North Americans to be savages and heathens led to their mass murder, genocide and also stealing of their land. Europeans even attempted to wipe out the traditions of the North Americans and force them to assimilate through institutions like schools. The effect of the abuses against Native Americans can also be seen today in that in the United States the Native Americans are reported to have the highest rate of suicide.

Another group in the United States that has been first-hand victims since the 17th century is the African-Americans. In the 17th century, many Africans were kidnapped from Africa and taken to America to be slaves. It didn’t matter that the captured Africans were royalties and literate they were still victims of racism. African women, children, and men were stripped off their names and identities and forced to be Christians and take Christian names. The Africans were tortured, whipped, hanged and lynched by their masters as a form of slavery. Through the process of buying and selling of slaves, families were separated. A large number of the African slaves in America were in the southern states. The free Africans in Americans also went through racism since they were discriminatory laws in place that never let them vote and own property and even they were only given jobs that were considered to have meagre earnings. Racism against the Africans and African-Americans though subtle, it is still seen in the modern day society in the United States. An instance of racism is in Washington DC, the commission of Fair Employment has found that in one out of five work interviews, black faces have been discriminated. The American Sociological Association has also noted that employers in today’s world use different techniques in the hiring process to discriminate against the minorities; for instance by recruiting mainly from white schools and not the official job training programs put in place.

The most common and saddening form of racism that is witnessed in the 21st century is Islamophobia. Islamophobia describes the hostility and discrimination towards the Islam in the United States; this is through harassment and prejudices the Islam’s face. The general phobia towards Muslims in the United States intensified after the terror attacks of 9/11 and the following wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the last decade, Muslims in the United States has been the subjected to over 700,000 interviews by the FBI, wiretapping, and racial profiling and phone surveillance. To fuel this racism against Muslims, countless websites and blogs, radio and television shows automatically link Muslims to terrorism.  Today Islamophobia is the remaining form of racism that is openly accepted in the United States.

Forms of Racism

Racism is known to exist when assumptions and ideas about different categories of race are used to reproduce ad justify a structured national society and racial hierarchy that unjustly limits the access to rights, resources, and privileges based on a person’s race. According to social science, racism takes seven primary forms, and racism operates when two or more of the types are combined (White, 2013). Some of the several forms racism can take include structural, discursive, institutional, systematic, ideological and representational.

Representational Racism

Representational racism is depicted in simple racial stereotypes mostly seen in popular culture and the media. An example is when people are historically inclined to cast people of certain colour as victims of crime and criminals and not in other character or roles in television and film. Representation of the racial groups in popular culture encapsulates racist ideas on people’s minds that imply that the different race is inferior and cannot be trusted thus poisoning the society and the culture. Although this form of racism doesn’t seem particularly harmful, the presence of such images in the community and constant interaction with them help to keep the ideas that are racist and attached to them alive.

Ideological Racism

According to sociologists ideology refers to the world beliefs, views, common sense and ways of thinking that are considered as standard in a culture or society. So this type of racism refers to common sense ideas, views and beliefs that are rooted in racial biases and stereotypes. Ideological bigotry is historically justified and supported by US imperialism and European colonial empires built through acquiring of land, labour, and resources unjustly throughout the world. Even in the world of today, it is troubling to see that it is still believed white light-skinned people are more intelligent and superior in many ways than dark-skinned people. Other typical examples in the 21st century include the belief that Latina women are hot-tempered, African American women are promiscuous and African American young boys and men are criminally oriented. The blacks mainly the victims of this form of racism as they do not have fair access to the professional and educational world. The black people are also subject to police violence and harassment.

Discursive Racism

Discursive racism mainly refers to racism expressed linguistically. Discursive racism can be expressed in the form of hate speech, racial slurs, and also code words that the meanings embedded in them are biased. Examples can be words such as gangster, ghetto or thug. The use of this phrase that relies on racial differences that are stereotypical to communicate implicit or explicit hierarchies increase the racist inequalities that are existent in the society.

Interactional Racism

Interactional racism is expressed by how people interact with one another. This form of racism involves a person being physically or verbally assaulted because of their race. A typical example occurring neighbourhoods in the United States is when a neighbour contacts the police to inform them of a suspected break-in because they do not know their neighbour who is black. Interactional racism is also manifested in job industry when someone automatically assumes that any person of colour could be an assistant or hold a low-level position of which they might be the manager.

Institutional Racism

Institutional racism in institutions in the society is caused primarily by how laws and policies are crafted in the systems. An example of a guideline that was set almost a decade ago is “The War on Drugs” policy; this has seen neighbourhoods and communities that people of particular colour are unfairly targeted. Another example is real estate agents not allowing people specific colour not own properties in some areas. This form of racism fuels and maintains gaps caused by race in education and wealth this racism serves to perpetuate privilege and white supremacy.

Effects of Racism

Racism has devastating effects on the culture, society, and country this is so because it causes tremendous economic, cultural and moral, suffering. When children are brought up to believe that a particular race is superior to the other racism will never come to an end in the United States this can create and extend community divisions within a society. Stereotyping, discrimination, prejudice is to describe racism. A study conducted by the Cornell News service showed that racial bias could lead to the deteriorating of one’s mental health. From experiencing racial discrimination, an individual can become anxious, depressed and end up being mentally unwell. Sexism, personal and institutional racism have not been entirely eradicated. It will provide analysis of its effects on the community, nation, and individual level. Lack of diversity and racism can harm productivity in the workplace.

Racism in the Canadian Criminal Justice System

Canada, as a nation is, has a reputation for being a diverse nation that is comprised of individuals from many religious, racial and cultural groups. As with all various countries, Canada has also been known with rising panics within the state in regards to immigrant criminality and concerns about the criminal justice system not being just to the minorities. A large proportion of the minorities in Canada have no faith in the criminal justice system and specifically the police. In Canada, the problems of racism are evident among the aboriginal population where they are treated worse while living in hardship condition than the other people. Aboriginal is regarded as a group with racial problems. Black and native Canadians are disproportionately high in Canadian correctional facilities. Both the native and black Canadians are overrepresented in the correctional services concerning victimization and violent offending. At times discrimination against the minorities in Canada is supported by court decisions that are made.

A journal article published in the New York Times in the year 1996 the Canada’s Justice System faced charges of Racism. This was as a result of increased racial profiling and arrest of black Canadians on charges that had no ground (Farnsworth, 1996). Victims of the arrest when both were interviewed separately had the same account of the stories and both believed were they not black they would not have been arrested. Between the years 1986 to 1993, the number of blacks who were arrested in Ontario increased as compared to the whites. According to the analysis of bail and police court decisions found that the number of blacks being released was lower than the whites.

Racism in the United States Criminal Justice System

Race in the United States has always been a factor more so in the criminal justice system as the nation was founded on the soil of Native America. And so racism continues to be a factor throughout history and also today. Today that there is an increase of police brutality cases in the United States primarily towards black Americans (Quigley, 2011). The most infamous act of racial bias in the justice system was the shooting of Michael Brown which occurred in Ferguson in August 2014. The 18-year-old young black man was shot dead by a white police officer, he was suspected of an armed robbery in a convenience store (NEWS, 2014). After the incident in Ferguson, many black Americans have suffered from more subtle forms of discrimination from the Criminal Justice System.

New solutions in the judicial system have to be implemented to prevent racism in the criminal justice system. One way in which we can avoid racism is by ensuring that the cases brought before the prosecutor is blinding. Blinding cases involve eliminating a suspect’s race from the file case provided to the prosecutor. Prosecutors are known to be the primary reliance on the information that is provided to them by the police files since they do not come in contact with the suspect or the scene of a crime. Blinding has been used in the various field to prevent unconscious bias. Examples of the areas using the blinding technique are the medical research when dealing with drug trials. In 2001, the Department of Justice formed a system in which blind reviews were conducted by for attorneys on cases that included death penalties, this step is a positive one, and if more work is done on the area, the impact could be felt.

Conclusion

Despite the attempt of the justice system to come up with legal and constitutional measures aimed to protect racial minorities’ rights in the United States the practices and private beliefs of many Americans have remained racist. The rising number of protests every day in the streets is not likely to reduce the social vice of racism but instead, increase the number of victims of police brutality in the streets an also increase the mistrust of civilians towards the criminal justice system. The use of probation and appropriate training will no doubt reduce if not eradicate racism. Support from politicians regarding backing the developments of new legal policies against racism and confidence in magistrates and judges sentencing decisions will be a positive step forward towards ensuring all sections of the population are protected to an equal degree by the criminal justice system.

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  1. Farnsworth, C. H. (1996). Canadas Justice System Faces Charges of Racism. New York Times.
  2. NEWS, B. (2014, November 25). Ferguson protests: What we knew about Michael Browns last minutes. Retrieved from BBC.
  3. Quigley, B. (2011). Fourteen Examples of Racism in Criminal Justice System. HUFFPOST.
  4. White, R. F. (2013). Crime and Criminology: An Introduction. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
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