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The History of Racial Segregation

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Race, class and even gender have been dominant in our social structure from past to present. Race, class and gender seem to intersect with one another while analysing the connection they have in terms of society and stereotypes based off each. These stereotypes allow for either a construction of one’s lifestyle and experiences based off of these differences. These ideas are embedded into our brains since they have been so prominent not only in today’s society, but history in general, allowing for a generalization, norm, and stereotype, affecting mostly those who are oppressed. Though this is true, it allows for an understanding of these stereotypes based on our social structure and society as a whole.

Race can be traced back many generations and is seen through a racial hierarchy and social structure, the first being slavery. It is seen throughout history, most prominently in the days of early America and the discovery by Columbus. As columbus had entered new land, he quickly took advantage of these kind strangers greeting him: “they wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears… This was to have enormous consequences: it led Columbus to take some of them aboard ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold” (Zinn). Here I see a sense of entitlement and power by Columbus and his men. Taking advantage of these seemingly inferior, poor, uncivilized Arawak Indians. Their is a huge cultural difference to recognize here as well, that being the lifestyle of the Arawak Indians, being kind yet surviving on their own, in their own land, less privileged and a much different environment than Columbus came from.

Columbus described the Arawak Indians as “animals”. He used them to reach his goal, of course of wealth, money, and power, which seemed to be the dominant goal of the western civilized culture during this time, much opposite to the Arawak Indians whom just seemed to try and survive. Even back in this time there was a clear class, social and race difference in which Columbus both picked up on and took advantage of. Violence was a theme throughout the history of Columbus. Violence used on those minorities, or specifically seemingly inferior, or poor. The very old and inhumane idea of using these other humans whom bare cultural, social, and race differences seem to be abundant in maintaining power among the Europeans during this time.

Furthermore, this seems to repeat through history, as it became socially normal and accepted among those of wealth and power, being the white Europeans. This could have been the beginning of the “white privilege” and other ideas born into our society throughout history: “The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (Arawaks)- the quiet acceptance of the conquest and murder in the name of progress- is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders” (Zinn). Speaking of the past and the present, “white” always seems to have had power, and maintain power even today, through these institutions stated. While power is maintained through the government, ran by the wealthy and mostly white Americans, it encourages the social structure, and the racial hierarchy in terms of stereotypes and racism to maintain the same.

After history nearly killed off the Arawak Indians, this is when they went on to new land, and new people to take advantage of. This is when Black slavery began. Zinn describes the beginning of black slavery as the Europeans appreciating their culture, taking them more seriously as humans, and initially needing them to thrive. During this time, the blacks were described as being “desperate for money” (Zinn). Though the White’s needed them in terms of help with the plantation and other areas of their expertise, they could not completely enslave them, as the blacks strongly outnumbered the whites (Zinn). They started in America as “servants” just as some more poor whites were commanded, and quickly began to lose more rights which taught them to fear the whites and be deemed inferior. The clear class and racial differences may have caused this. Whites were described not to have liked blacks just because of their color which was so clearly opposite of them.

Later on came the second generation of racial hierarchy, the time of segregation. Though slavery was illegal, blacks were still segregated from the whites. So even though the law enacted rules against slavery, a deterrent against racism, it still strongly existed in this obvious class and race difference. Black’s were left at an even more strong disadvantage, as they were taken their with no money. After they were set free, they still had no money, so maintained the same class difference that they had came their with, maybe even worse. They were left nothing. This was only in the mid 1960’s, which makes it clear why their is still such a strong class difference. Whites came to America, and conquered America, maintaining power. The blacks came here with nothing, being ruled by the Whites, and then given “freedom” but not knowing what to do with it, because they were given nothing else. Being 2018, they are still facing the severe consequences that the White’s brought upon them and their ancestors.

Not only are blacks still at a strong disadvantage due to the not so long ago past, but there is still a clear mindset that whites maintain as the majority, and the more “powerful” also in terms of wealth and education in America today. Since it was not so long ago, it is hard to get rid of past stereotypes and ideas that many held in the past. The ideas that blacks are inferior to whites, that they are less educated, and now the idea that they are more dangerous due to their social circumstances. Circumstances in which they face because of history. As time goes on it is the hope that blacks get more opportunities than they had before, better education, more power, but it will take a while, this due to the fact that there are still strong ideas set in people’s minds. They came here at a disadvantage, and maintain that disadvantage as the minority and the unfortunate stereotypes that society has put on them.

The third generation of the racial hierarchy and structure, is the one we live in today, and that is mass incarceration (lecture notes). Though it is said that we are all equal, which legally we are, there is still an obvious bias and stereotype against the minority, which is blacks. With mostly whites still in power, and the racism that still faces our nation today, blacks have a heavy disadvantage in our society. Stuck in the lower class, they are given almost no opportunities, and are not encouraged to try based on their living circumstances. The white and wealthy still being in power does not allow them to grow, and if they do it is very hard. It seems the most powerful today (government) focus on them and use incarceration as a way of segregation. This discouraging the minority as of children and young adults in society. It does not allow for any opportunities, and discourages the young minority from trying. As well as bringing them into a society that allows them to view violence and crime among their community as the only way to live.

America started as a western civilized culture. A culture that values money, wealth and power, using violence and taking advantage of minorities to maintain that power. “Survival of the fittest” seems to be the strategy they used to do so. Bringing slaves and minorities to America to use towards their advantage set a class and racial difference. Among the differences maintains the idea that minorities are inferior to whites. As time went on, and minorities began to see more freedom, the mindset that had been placed way back then, still is there in some way. Based on the fact that slavery ended not to long ago, leads an obvious role in the class and racial structure that still exists today, allowing the rich and powerful to maintain power in an unethical way, while slowing down the progress and opportunities of the minorities whom their ancestors had made that way. The sense of superior to inferior based off of biases is still relevant in our society.

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GradesFixer. "The History of Racial Segregation." GradesFixer, 27 Sep. 2018,
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