Racism in America


Photo by Samuel Corum/ Getty Images

Delaney Mackebon, Staffer

Racism has a long history in America, but when will it stop? Racism in America has happened even before we were an established country. The racism in America affects all races, but it seems to be focused mostly on African Americans. From slavery to systemic racism, America has seen it all.


The slave trade happened between 1525 and 1866 when 12.5 million Africans were captured from Africa and traveled to the Americas. This was called the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Today in history books, they seem to gloss over slavery, mostly focusing on black leaders during that time like Harriet Tubman. Before 2018, Texas schools taught that states’ rights- not slavery- were the cause of the Civil War. Historians are  bringing attention to slave holders that we consider heroes like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, William Clark of Lewis and Clark, Francis Scott Key, James Madison, and Aaron Burr. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Burr also sexually abused enslaved females working in their households and plantations.


Moving to the mid-1900s, slavery was abolished but racism was still heavly present. African-American soldiers who fought in WW1 and WW2 were still being treated as second class citizens back home. Black innovators and inventors weren’t able to fill patents for their inventions and white medical professionals exploited black women’s bodies.


On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks who was the secretary of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wouldn’t give up her seat to a white rider on a Montgomery bus and was arrested. Activists made a bus boycott that would last 381 days. The Supreme Court didn’t rule segregated buses unconstitutional until November 1956. 


In 1957, 15-year old Minnijean Brown had started at Little Rock Central High School with hopes of “making friends, going to dances, and singing in the chorus.” She and the Little Rock Nine ( a group of black students wanting to attend the local high school after the “Board vs. Brown of Education” desegregated public schools) were met with and subjected to daily verbal and physical assaults.


In 1968, the Kerner Commission, a group convened by President Lyndon Johnson, found that white racism, not black anger, was the cause of the civil unrest that was sweeping the nation. Alice George in 2018 wrote, “bad policing practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression, and other culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination all converged to propel violent upheavel.”


 In the late 1970’s, Lebert J. Lester the second was 8 years old when he built a sand castle on his trip to Connecticut. A young white girl joined him in making sand castles but was quickly taken away by her father. Lester later said the white girl returned only to ask him, “Why don’t you just go in the water and wash it off?” At that time he was very confused stating, “I only figured out later she meant my complexion.” (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/158-resources-understanding-systemic-racism-america-180975029/).

A  study in 2017 assessed how much has changed and to our surprise, it had gotten worse. The rate of black unemployment and incarcerated individuals who were black had gone up. Fred Harris, the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission, said, “We are resegregating our cities and our schools, condemning millions of kids to inferior education and taking away their real possibility of getting out of poverty.” 


In the first 8 months of 2020, police in the United States killed 164 black people. The deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and many more caused massive uproar and protests across the U.S. The police did many things to the protesters that caused even more uproar and pain. For example, they released tear gas, shot rubber bullets, beat protesters with clubs, and many more. 

In the end, racism has been very prominent in America for decades and we should be the ones to end it. Just like John F. Kennedy said, “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”