Racism has been one of the biggest evils faced by mankind. It is the belief that inherent racial differences among people, is the reason for superiority of a particular ethnic group or religion. Discrimination against African-Americans is one such story.
Casting Beyond Boundaries
During the 2008 US Presidential Elections, Barack Obama was elected to the Presidential Post backed by a majority of votes from White Americans (43%). This is cited by many as a step up in race relations.
Racism denotes prejudice, oppression and atrocities against a certain sect or group of people by other class of people. It exists in many forms throughout the world and is a big blot on the humanitarian cause, the foundation of a global harmonious society. The basis of this difference is largely the color of the skin, viz. racism against black people.
African-Americans, who form a significant part of the American population were, and in some sporadic cases, ‘are’ subjected to tremendous discrimination. The Civil War was partly a movement to stand up to this oppressive system, but sadly, racism continued to cast a gloomy shadow over the development of the American nation.
Period of Slavery
The Europeans, who settled in America in the early 1600s brought along the African black population, whom they had enslaved. Slowly, as the white population settled and flourished in America, slavery rooted itself in the US.
The period from 1619 to 1865 especially, witnessed a tremendously racist America grossly harassing the African-American populace. After the Civil War, several draconian laws were drafted by the government which severely prejudiced the black community. It was a sort of wicked competition amongst the states on inflicting misery against their own population.
Massachusetts legalized slavery in 1641 and was the first state to do so. The latter half of the 18th century witnessed a big upheaval in America, against the British. The issues of human rights and independence began to gain ground and hamper the British policies. Many Americans were even freed, but the status of blacks never improved.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the attacks against the black community and even on the whites associated with their cause increased. Since the elections of 1868, the Democrats who openly advocated prejudice against the blacks, used violence, corruption, and intimidation to stop them from voting.
The Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1867 as a secret organization, terrorized the African-Americans and the black population at large.The group indulged in brutally murdering the black community and anyone supporting their cause. The Colfax and Coushatta massacres in 1873 and 1874, were just some of the many brutal assaults launched against the African-Americans.
For every 3 whites killed in the fight, 40-50 blacks were killed. This was popularized as atrocity against whites, until the 20th century, when historians finally unearthed the true story.
The Jim Crow laws were a series of state and national laws, enacted in the United States that segregated all the public facilities for the whites and the blacks.The period from 1890 to 1940 is known as the Jim Crow era.
Millions were brutalized, killed and frightened to death for voting and taking formal education, during these years. The concept of ‘lynching’, where the whites openly ‘punished’ the black population, was a rampant practice. White people would publicly hang black people for petty reasons, all over the country.
The ‘America’s Black Holocaust Museum’ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has a collection of photographs and other evidences of the plight of African-American populace, over the years. The first half of the 20th century also witnessed migration of the African-American population from the disturbed Southern states to the North and the Midwest.
The search for a better and a peaceful lifestyle, compelled millions to take this migratory step. Many African-Americans fought for the US cause in World War I and World War II. Their exemplary service led to the desegregation of the US Armed Forces in July 1948.
The Civil Rights Movement culminated with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination in employment, labor unions and public accommodations.
The African-American cause received great fillip during the American Civil Rights Movement. It was at the threshold of this movement, that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from the steps of the grand Lincoln Memorial.
Political and economic rights were soon granted to the blacks. In 2000, there were 8,936 black office holders in the United States. According to Forbes magazine, Oprah Winfrey was the richest African-American of the 20th century.
Perhaps, the greatest achievement in the history of African-American stand for justice was the rise of Barack Obama, the first black presidential nominee, of the Democratic Party. He went on to become the first African-American man to win the most coveted position in the world.
Barack Hussein Obama is the 44th President of United States of America. The tears that trickled down the face of many African-Americans at his swearing-in ceremony, perhaps, signify the joy of victory against racism, which has hopefully ended once and for all!