African Americans and American Indians or Native Americans are two of the major subordinate groups in America today. They face many forms of oppression from the dominant group and have many things in common when it comes to this oppression.
I would like to focus on five specific types of oppression they face: stigmatization, segregation, ethnocentrism, prejudice, and discrimination.
African Americans are facing stigmatization far less these days, but if one looks back a half-century, they will find countless examples. Stigmatization can include the de-humanization, labeling, characterizing, and degrading of a group. During slavery, blacks were stigmatized into the happy and carefree characters Mammy and Sambo. This was done to show that slavery was good and blacks probably wouldn’t be able to function in free society. When slaves were freed, blacks were painted as savages that could not be trusted to live normally. Caricatures of blacks with exaggerated features and portraits of the characters Sambo and Mammy still exist today.
For Native Americans, stigmatization is far worse. Countless sports teams have a Native American as their mascot, some having very derogatory names such as the Washington Redskins. “Indians” were also portrayed as evil in countless western movies and as ruthless savages in others. These stigmatizations make “Indians” seem more like fantasy characters than real people. Many people do not realize that these stigmatizations are very hurtful and detrimental to society.
Segregation, the separation of two or more groups based on physical characteristics, is another issue that still plagues African Americans and Native Americans. From the moment Europeans set foot on what is now America, they have been forcing “Indians” farther and farther west. The American government created reservations for the “Indians” so that they could have the valuable resources that they “needed”. Treaties were signed and broken, and the “Indians” moved farther along the Trail of Tears. Reservations still exist today and for the most part Native Americans have are not integrated into American society.
Most would like to think that after the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education, segregation no longer exists for African Americans. Sure it’s not like we still have separate drinking fountains, but by and large blacks and whites are separate. In all major cities large housing projects have been created for low-income persons. The vast majority of the people living there are black. Most inner city schools are almost entirely made up of minorities. Legal segregation is no longer a problem anymore, but social segregation is still a major problem in society today and something needs to be done.
Ethnocentrism is the feeling by one group that they are superior to another based on ethnic background. Native Americans have always been the victims of this. They were forced to leave their homeland by the “superior” Europeans and thought not good enough to live among them. Native Americans still live mostly separate and many people still degrade them and think of them as inferior both mentally and physically. Most people have not been exposed to them yet judge them anyways. This is very sad and disturbing.
African Americans were thought of as the lowest, stupidest, least civilized people on earth. The whites thought they were far superior and showed this by literally stealing African Americans from their homeland of Africa and forcing to into slave labor. Even after slavery, white supremacy groups such as the KKK still exist and continue to be a proponent for the inferiority of African Americans. Many think of blacks as being less far less intelligent and civilized even today.
Prejudice and discrimination are two of the biggest problems facing African and Native Americans today, and the two go hand in hand. Prejudice involves negative attitudes towards ethnic groups, which can include beliefs, thoughts, and stereotypes. Discrimination is taking action on these prejudices by denying certain rights and opportunities to these groups. Prejudice leads to discrimination of these groups. African Americans as well as Native Americans are discriminated against in employment opportunities, housing options, public school resources, and countless other ways.
They are discriminated against because of these prejudices and stereotypes.For example, say a black man walks into a store with his white friend. The employees of the store are more likely to offer service to the white man and will probably follow the black man to make sure he is not shoplifting. The prejudice views they hold cause them to discriminate against the black man. These problems are very real even today and unless society as a whole addresses them and ways to stop them, they will continue to destroy the fabric of our country.