By Moses Kamuiru
What is Racism?
Racism is the belief that the physical traits and characteristics of a person or group determine their capabilities and the one group is naturally superior to other groups. Throughout history, racism has been a major factor in society in the United States. Racial segregation has been central to the development of American laws, basically legalizing white dominance over other races.
From One generation to the other
The historical plight of African Americans presents a typical example of what happens when a group becomes defined as weaker and less intelligent and overall, less value bestowed to them. As time passes, those prejudices become long-lasting behavior patterns that are carried over from one generation to the next. They became highly resistant to challenge by social and civil rights movements and even new laws banning discrimination against the minority. Discrimination means one group enjoys an undeserved advantage over another group with the same capabilities. For instance, some groups may freely attend certain prestigious schools or obtain better-paying jobs while others are not. In the 21st century, African Americans are still recovering from centuries of prejudice against them. Injustices in the present have strong roots in the past.
The British Empire in America
Racism was prominent during the colonial period in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the North American colonies were a part of the worldwide British Empire. Britons had traditionally associated dark skin color with negative behavioral traits such as evil and filth. Colonists brought this prejudice with them to North America when they crossed the ocean to settle in the seventeenth century. Throughout the 1700s, The British people and their colonists were convinced that slavery was a critical element to national prosperity and world power. To justify slave trade, black Africans were dehumanized, often referred to as black cattle. The racist attitudes held by the colonists focused on what they considered the uncivilized and un-Christian nature of the black Africans. They held a widespread belief reinforced by popular writings and religious sermons that Africans were naturally inferior to white Europeans.
Slavery and the Long History
By the late 17th century, race became the basis of slavery. Blacks did not come to the United States by choice but were brought to North America through an international slave trade. Forced into a life of slavery, they were captured by European slave traders and shipped to the New World in trade for sugar, rum, and various goods that were then shipped back to Europe. The colonists had severe labor shortages and an immediate and pressing need to clear the forests of the Eastern Seaboard from Georgia north through New England and plant crops. The Africans provided an important and free labor pool. They also provided a social group that to which the predominately white western European colonists could feel superior. Whites could gain social status by becoming planters and slave owners. The prejudice shaped colonial laws that banned intermarriage and considered slaves not as humans, but as property with no rights. Any child of mixed blood (one white parent, one black) was found to be black and forced to live as a slave, among slaves with few exceptions.
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