On May of 1607, the first English colony in the present-day United States was founded at Jamestown, Virginia (A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States of America, 2007). After many years, a Dutch ship arrived at the port of Jamestown and brought about twenty African slaves to the English colonists. Thus, the so-called African slave trade began. The African slaves came from the savannahs of central and southern Africa. The Dutch often called them “humanlike” monkeys, barbarians, and uncivilized brutes.
Thus, the Dutch preferred locking them in the sub cabins of their caravels (A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States of America, 2007). They were irregularly provided with food. Most of the times, they were held in chains (because the Dutch were afraid that they might cause some trouble in the ship). When they were brought to Jamestown, their condition worsened. They were forced to work in flat farmlands at least 15 hours a day. Large plantations of cotton and other agricultural products were assigned to them by the English colonists without pay.
Although they were provided with housing, it was in shambles. The houses were designed in the form of “barnyard” to accommodate as many slaves as possible (a form of segregation). Added to that, this type of housing was a means for the English colonists to “distinguish” themselves from these “lofty and barbaric” human beings. The food provided by the English colonists was never adequate to balance the energy the slaves consumed in farm work. Added to that, the children of African slaves were also forced to work in the plantations. Their work varied, from weaving cotton to harvesting agricultural products.
The landlords, insensitive to the contributions of these African slaves to their estates, usually utilized the “whip” against the African slaves as a form of disciplinary measure. Thus, not only the African slaves provided a cheap and efficient source of agricultural and household labor, they were also the source of prejudice, discrimination (described above), racism, and “embarrassment” to the English colonists. For example, the English colonists did not regard the African slaves as a separate race.
The English colonists regarded them as “subhuman, but a little higher than primates. Even after the Declaration of Independence, the descendants of these slaves were not better of. Usually, the American landlords regarded them as personal properties. They had no civil or political rights. At times, American colonists in the West used them as soldiers (unpaid) in its wars with Indian tribes. Thus, it can be said that the history of African-Americans was a history of discrimination, oppression, and prejudice. They were the target as well as the source of racial cynicism of white Americans, British, and almost all Americans of European descent.
The stigma attached to them by these cultural groups remained until (as one may notice) the present time. The labor market in the United States at the close of the 19th century was comprised of poor white farmers and African slaves-descent laborers (using the term Black is a form of discrimination in this case) (Bohmer, 2007). In 1876, an alliance between African slaves-descent laborers and poor whites was defeated by Southern landlords. The alliance was formed out of the perceived oppression of their class by the ruling Southern landlords. For example, their pay was inadequate to support their families.
Nonetheless, their working conditions under these Southern planters were really “bad” in terms of long-working hours and high rents. Their defeat was magnified y the 1896 Supreme Court ruling that segregation was constitutional. Although their labor produced much of the wealth of the Southern planters, they were never given safety nets (such as social security) in the procurement of their labor in the market. In contradiction to the conception that African-Americans are never interested in environmental issues, here are some African-Americans who contributed much in protecting the environment.
George Washington Carver can be regarded as one of America’s finest agricultural researchers. He was able to develop throughout his lifetime over 325 new products from peanuts and over 100 products from sweet potatoes. He often told his students that nature was his best teacher (A Selection of African-American Environmental Heroes, 2007). Vernon Jones is another African-American who led the struggle to preserve government-owned lands in a county in Georgia. In March 2000, he was able to pass a 125 million dollars bond referendum to acquire public lands for the construction of parks (A Selection of African-American Environmental Heroes, 2007).
This is an indication that even if African-Americans are still discriminated, they would never be indifferent to issues that can affect the lives of people outside his ethnic group. Affirmative action can be defined as a set of state policies and objectives created to help eliminate past and present discrimination based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, and sex. The United States government under the terms of different presidents implemented a series of affirmative actions in order to eliminate forms of discrimination in the United States.
For example, President Truman issued an order to the Bureau of Employment Security to implement nondiscriminatory labor policies (Sykes, 1995). Today, the Equal Employment Opportunities Act was passed to put an end to “discrimination” in the workplace, by giving minority groups opportunities to assert their employment status (Sykes, 1995). These series of affirmative action was the result of struggle of minority groups, especially African-Americans, to assert their rights as citizens of the United States.
In the present, however, discrimination in the workplace against minority groups (e. . African-Americans) is never totally eradicated. Redlining, or more particularly service redlining, is the custom of refusing to provide goods and services to people of low-income and minority groups (Fuller, 1998). In the United States, African Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups are experiencing this form of segregation. Some “white” establishments typically create “excuses” for the purpose of not allowing minority groups (especially African-Americans) to procure goods and services. This was the most controversial issue in the 1950’s.
There were different types of services: one for whites, and one for African-Americans. Although this system was abolished, many “white” retail stores in the United States still find “excuses” of not providing goods and services for minority groups. African-Americans today face what sociologists call double jeopardy. Because African-Americans are discriminated, they have difficulty of finding good jobs. It is estimated that a majority of African-Americans in the United States today are in the poverty threshold. They comprised also the majority in service sectors jobs. Their poverty reinforces their minority status.
Thus, the so-called “ladder of discrimination” as what sociologists call is also reinforced. African-Americans have the difficulty of upgrading their status by economic means. Thus, white Americans always associate African-Americans with poverty. The institutionalization of discrimination was the most noted issue in African-American history. Before the handing down of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (which abolished segregation in public schools) in May 1954, all public schools in the United States were segregated. African-Americans were provided separate public schools, usually close to their communities.
Added to that, the formulation of educational curriculum of some states was also segregated. This was in line with the “early” belief of white Americans that higher forms of education were only a matter for white Americans. Segregation could also be noted in the construction of residential areas. Reverse discrimination can be defined as the negative effect of an affirmative action to some members of the dominant ethnic group which is seen as tantamount to another form of discrimination (Pincus, 2002:1). Often some white Americans complained that they were rejected in some jobs because of preferential treatment for African-Americans.
They call it “reverse discrimination. ” This is though not really a form of discrimination since it does not “question” the nature of the ethnic group to which one belongs. In the case of African-Americans, the opening of new opportunities is a means to upgrade their economic status. It cannot be a form of discrimination. Glass ceiling can be defined as the barriers or blocks that confront minority groups in reaching the upper ladder of corporate America (The Glass Ceiling for African, Hispanic (Latino), and Asian Americans, 2004).
African-Americans today have little difficulty of reaching the upper ladder of society (noted personalities like Oprah, Morgan Freeman, and Janet Jackson serve our examples) although not as easy as that of white Americans. Personally, I identify myself to the cultural group I belong, although I recognize the commonalities between African-American and white cultures (especially those which relate to equality and freedom of the individual).