The history of African Americans is, to a significant degree, the history of the United States. Black people accompanied the first explorers, and a black man was among the first to die in the American Revolution. The United States, with more than 38 million Blacks, has the eighth-largest Black population in the world. Despite the large number, Blacks in this country have had almost no role in major national and political decisions and have been allowed only a peripheral role in many crucial decisions that influenced their own destiny.
The Black experience, in what came to be the United States, began as something less than citizenship, but was “considered slightly better than slavery” (Schaefer, 2006, p. 184). In 1619, 20 Africans arrived in Jamestown as indentured servants or slaves. Their status was not clearly known, even to the people who were living at that time. By 1640, at least one African had been declared a slave. This African was ordered by the court “to serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or elsewhere”. “Within a generation race, not religion was being made the defining characteristic of enslaved Virginians.
The terrible transformation to racial slavery was underway (Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), (n. d. )). ” During the early 17th century, there were no laws that defined the rights, or the lack of rights, of blacks. “Virginia was being held back. Thanks to tobacco, it had the means to make money. What was needed, though, were laborers — laborers to clear fields, to plant and harvest crops. During the 1620s and 1630s, when the price of tobacco was high and English workers had too few jobs available at home, Virginia found its supply of labor in England.
Then after 1660 the value of tobacco dropped and the Great Plague reduced England’s population. In addition, a terrible fire in London destroyed much of the city and created new jobs at home for construction workers of all sorts. No longer able to lure their own countrymen, Virginians looked toward African labor, following the pattern established by the Spanish and Portuguese more than a century before. Gradually the plantation owners’ perspective became more aligned with that of the plantation owners of the Caribbean Islands.
Because they were not Christians, blacks could be forced to work for the rest of their lives and be punished with impunity. Moreover, the color of their skin set them apart, making it easy to identify runaways. Also, there was a seemingly inexhaustible supply of Africans, and since little information flowed back across the Atlantic, mistreatment and abuse in America did not alter the flow of enslaved persons from Africa. Slowly the number of blacks grew in Virginia. In 1625 there were only 23. In 1650 there were about three hundred. By 1700, more than a thousand Africans were being brought into the colony every year.
These numbers would increase dramatically in the years to come (Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), (n. d. )). ” The transformation of indentured servitude to racial slavery didn’t happen overnight, it was not until 1661, when a reference to slavery entered into Virginia law. The following year, the colony went one step further by stating that children that were born would be bonded or free according to the status of the mother. The transformation had begun; it was not until the Slave Codes of 1705 that the status of African Americans was sealed.
The Trans-Atlantic Slave trade began big business for all. As economies began to flourish from the gains of sugar, cotton, and tobacco fields, so did the need to accommodate the lavish and wealthy with laborers. In 1660, the English government chartered a company called the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa. The Company did not fare well, and in 1667, it collapsed. But out of its ashes emerged a new company: The Royal African Company. Founded in 1672, the Royal African Company was granted a similar monopoly in the slave trade.
Between 1680 and 1686, the Company transported an average of 5,000 slaves a year. Between 1680 and 1688, it had sponsored at least 249 voyages to Africa. By the end of the 17th century, England led the world in the trafficking of slaves. Over the next three centuries African Americans endured prejudice, segregation, and racism- because of race, not religion which was the defining characteristic of the enslaved. In sharp contrast to the basic rights and privileges enjoyed by White Americans, Black people lived in bondage and under a system of repression and terror.
Slavery was not merely a single aspect of American society; it has continuously been an essential part of this country’s life. For nearly half of this country’s history, slavery was not only tolerated but legally protected by the United States Constitution as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. Because the institution of slavery was so fundamental to culture, it continues to influence Black-White relations to this day. Some progress has occurred, and some of the advances are nothing short of remarkable, however, the deprivation of the African American people relative to Whites remains.
A significant gap remains between African Americans and the dominant group, and to this gap a price is assigned: the price of being African Americans in the United States. African Americans have been affected by almost all of forms of discrimination, 1) dual labor market- a theory that is an explanation of the inequality that exists in the labor market; 2) environmental justice issues- refers to an equitable spatial distribution of burdens and benefits to groups such as racial minorities, residents of economically disadvantaged areas, or residents of developing nations.
Environmental justice proponents generally view the environment as encompassing “where we live, work, and play” (sometimes “pray” and “learn” are also included) and seek to redress inequitable distributions of environmental burdens (pollution, industrial facilities, crime, etc.) and equitably , root causes of environmental injustices include “institutionalized racism; the co-modification of land, water, energy and air; unresponsive, unaccountable government policies and regulation; and lack of resources and power in affected communities; 3) affirmative action- policies that take race, ethnicity, physical disabilities, military career, sex, or a person’s parents’ social class into consideration in an attempt to promote equal opportunity or increase ethnicity or other forms of diversity.
The focus of such policies ranges from employment and education to public contracting and health programs; 4) redlining- is the practice of denying, or increasing the cost of, services such as banking, insurance, access to jobs, access to health care, or even supermarkets to residents in certain, often racially determined, areas;
5) double jeopardy- race and gender barriers that still exist, to a large degree, in terms of advancement at higher level positions; 6) institutional discrimination- hold that discrimination and segregation in the United States housing market have endured despite the condemnation of discriminatory practices.
Institutionalized, or systematic, racism has been shown to occur even though overt racist policies have been discontinued. Race is the biggest factor in residential segregation, not class. Socioeconomic factors generally do not keep from desegregating communities. Non-discriminatory policies have been created in order to help desegregate neighborhoods, and help everyone purchase homes.
However, most of the policies created to help African Americans and other minorities have done little to help, and in some cases even hurt them more; and 5) glass ceilings- The “glass ceiling” refers to the barriers that often confront Ethnic Americans and women in trying to reach the upper echelons of corporate America, because: “African Americans have advanced in formal schooling to a remarkable degree, although in most areas residential patterns have left many public schools predominantly Black or White. Higher education also reflects the legacy of a nation that has operated two schooling systems: one for Blacks and another for Whites.
Gains in earning power have barely kept pace with inflation, and the gap between Whites and Blacks has remained largely unchanged. African American families are susceptible to the problems associated with a low-income group that also faces discrimination and prejudice. Housing in many areas remains segregated, despite growing numbers of Blacks in suburban areas. African Americans are more likely to be victims of crimes and to be arrested for violent crimes. The subordination of Blacks is also apparent in health care delivery.
African Americans have made substantial gains in elective office but still are underrepresented compared with their numbers in the general population” (Schaefer, 2006). African Americans are said to be the primary cause of 1) reverse discrimination- discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, or in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group. Groups may be defined in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, or other factors. This discrimination may seek to redress social inequalities where minority groups have been denied access to the same privileges of the majority group, because we want equality!
I culturally identify more with African Americans because I was born an African American; I have lived as an African American; and being a United States citizen, worked in America as an African American. My expertise in the subject manner of being African American speaks for itself. In conclusion, the history of African Americans is, to a significant degree, the history of the United States. Black people accompanied the first explorers and a black man was among the first to die in the American Revolution. The United States, with more than 38 million Blacks, has one of the largest Black populations in the world.
Despite the large number, Blacks in this country have had almost no role in major national and political decisions and have been allowed only a peripheral role in many crucial decisions that influence our own destiny” (Schaefer, 2006, p. 184). References 1) Schaefer, R. T. (2006). Ch. 7 & Ch. 8. Racial and Ethnic Groups with Census 2000 CD (10th Hardcover Edition) (pp. pgs. 183-233). Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall. 2) Wikipedia. (n. d. ). Wikipedia. Retrieved March 19, 2010, from http://www. wikipedia. org 3) www. PBS. org. (n. d. ). Africans in America/PBS. Retrieved March 19, 2010, from http://www. pbs. org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p263. html.
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