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Racism: In The Past And Today

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What actually is racism? Racism, as defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is the discrimination against a person, or a group of people, by the color of their skin. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I have a dream that one day my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King Jr. said this during the civil rights movement. African American people, also known as “blacks”, were being segregated and discriminated against from the whites due to their skin color. They could not sit in the same waiting rooms, they could not use the same water fountain, they could not even use the same bathroom! Although racism is not as prominent as it used to be, it is still very prominent in the United States, and it affects people every day.

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Slavery was started back in the 1400’s. Christopher Columbus sailed to America from Europe, landed and took over the Native Americans’ territory trying to search for gold for the Queen. The European people did not want to search for it themselves, so they made the Native Americans do it for them, thus making the Native Americans slaves to the European men. The Native Americans tried to reason with them and teach the European men how to grow new foods, but the European men were selfish and still wanted to keep them as slaves. The European men ended up giving the Native Americans blankets that were infested with smallpox to kill them off so they could have the land for themselves. There is not an exact number of Native Americans that died, but according to John Koster, somewhere in between 17,00 and 150,000 died from the smallpox blankets. Native Americans were discriminated against by the Europeans because the Europeans thought their race was superior to the Native Americans (Smallpox in the blankets). Eventually the Native Americans were released from slavery, but centuries later, the now called Americans, started kidnapping people from Africa and bringing them back to the United States to become slaves. “My father was Ruben Turner; before date he was a Slade and many other names too, for he was sold lots of times” (42) said Mollie Barber, a former slave from Muskogee, Oklahoma.

When they would kidnap the African people, they would rename them, or give them “white people” names, and auction them off like pieces of property. Although slavery was abolished in 1865 (13th Amendment), segregation and discrimination due to a person’s skin color still existed. Due to segregation, riots were held by the whites while the minorities suffered. One of the biggest riots held was the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. People called the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, a holocaust America wanted to forget.

The Tulsa Race Riot started with a group of African Americans trying to keep a young black man from being lynched, but it was the whites who rampaged for two days. Frederick Burgerson said, “The Tulsa Race Riot took place on May 31st through June 1st of 1921, and has been called the bloodiest race riot in the country’s history”. After the Tulsa Race Riot, half of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was either in flames or ashes. Roughly 3,000 African Americans died during that time fighting for equal rights. African Americans and other minority ethnicities are still experiencing discrimination today according to the “What Has Changed Since OKC Black Lives Matter Rally 2016.” Discrimination and racism are still around today. It has been almost a century since the Tulsa Race Riot, and although a lot of progress had been made since the 1960’s, most people are still very close minded. Some people today are even still as close minded as those back in 1921. I have personally seen and experienced discrimination and racism due to my skin color. My ethnicity is Native American; my tribes are Cherokee and Seminole. A quality about me is I tan very well. When I was 10 years old, my mom went out of town for work, so my grandmother was supposed to take me out for dinner. She came to my house to pick me up and then told me, “We cannot go tonight. You are too dark for me to be seen in public with you. We can try again in a month or two.” At the time I was upset because I thought it was something I could control. I thought I could control how tan i got by not going outside as much in the summer months. I now know, after taking biology, that my body produces more melanin and that is why I appear darker complected than the rest of my family who are white.

There are still race rallies and riots happening today. There has been so much police brutality against the blacks that the African Americans created a group called “Black Lives Matter”. This group marches to be treated equally, and to not be stereotyped into “thugs;” Black Lives Matter rallied in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 2016 to stop police brutality against unarmed-black men. “Mothers hesitate to allow our children, teens and adults to go out to play, work or to the store,” said Dickerson. “We breathe a sigh of relief simply when they return alive. It’s disheartening on many levels”. It is sad that mothers and fathers cannot be at peace of mind knowing that their child is hanging out with his friends, because instead of the police being there to protect their child, they stereotype them by their skin color and categorize them as “hoodlums” or “thugs.”

Even though racism is not as noticed as it was in the past, it still happens today to many Americans. Racism originated back in the 1400’s when they started using Native Americans as slaves. Racism got worse once people started selling Africans and viewing them as pieces of property. Even after slavery was viewed as wrong, and was abolished, people still discriminated against others by the amount of melanin their body produces every day. The Tulsa Race Riot was the bloodiest riot in United States history. Although it had been almost a century since the riot, not a lot had changed so people kept holding these riots and rallies. People hope to see more changes start happening soon. As Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Racism is a man’s gravest threat to man- the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason”.

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