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Dealing with Diversity in America During Reconstruction

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The issue of diversity has been present for a very long time and it has been subject to many debates with various leaders taking a different position regarding the matter. The world today as it was many decades ago is a diverse place with people coming from diverse backgrounds in terms of their culture, political and religious views, race and ethnicity and diversity of thoughts among others. Several strides have been made over the years in trying to promote diversity. However, the issue was a big problem especially during the period of slavery and the decades after the Civil War. The period 1865 to 1920 perhaps presented some of the biggest challenges in managing diversity. The period after the Civil War saw former slaves attained some form of freedom and renewed opportunities of interacting with other members of the society but the freedom were short-lived as some laws were later enacted to curtail or reduce such freedoms. Unfortunately, it came with a lot of prejudices especially among people who felt that they were superior to others. That period also saw large numbers of immigrants coming from Europe and Asia despite facing a lot of social and political restrictions. Although there are laws that tried to encourage diversity, several deliberate efforts were made in terms of coming up with laws and policies meant at discouraging and dealing with the issue of diversity. It is therefore important to note that the political policies in the period from 1865 to the 1920s generally tried to hinder or restrict diversity and the “melting pot”, in part because of widespread prejudices.

Three Examples

One example worth mentioning is the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. During that period of time, the U.S saw an influx of immigrants into the country. On its onset, many of the immigrants were welcomed although the Asians were not. Asians were especially resented because they were seen as coming from an alien culture. They were also not welcomed because of the mentality that they seemed ready and willing to work in harsh conditions with meager pay, therefore, they were destroying the wages paid to workers by offering cheap labor. The Act was passed by Congress in 1882 after more anti-Chinese agitation sentiments intensified in California and the west. The Act placed a ban of ten years for Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S. The other legislation related to the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 19th and 20th century that hindered and restricted diversity was the Jim Crow laws. Towards the end of the 1870s saw many African Americans lose many civil rights that they had received during the reconstruction period. The rights became subject to racial discrimination was there was an increase in cases of increased racist violence and lynching. In practice the law allowed racial segregation to be practiced in public institutions and facilities form 1870sn to 1880s. The law was upheld by the U.S Supreme court in 1896 under the “separate but equal” legal doctrine. Public facilities such as schools, public transport, medical care, housing, and employment were segregated by race. The separate but equal doctrine made racial segregation to appear not to violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution that guaranteed all people “equal protection” in the eyes of the law. However, in practice, there was no equality because the services offered to African Americans and people of color were usually below standards, inferior and poorly funded compared to those offered to the white Americans.

This could be seen from the bank’s lending practices, employment preference discrimination, and labor union practices. The Jim Crow laws trampled own the gains that had been made during the reconstruction era where legalized slavery had ended allowing citizenship for former slaves. However, the laws made African Americans to become second-class citizens. The period from 1863 to 1877 with President Lincoln setting up the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1865 to assist former slaves receive better healthcare, get education and employment. The thirteenth amendment brought to end slavery. Most radicals at the time tried to impose some more legal restrictions that would deny the former rebels voting rights and the opportunity of holding elective positions. While this was happening, there was a conflict between some Indian tribes and the miners, settlers, and ranchers. The government decided to force American Indians to be assimilated to the general society or be assigned reservations and be forcefully kept there. In 1887 the Dawes Act was enacted in a bid to integrate the American Indians to the mainstream and be absorbed to the American society. The ones that refused to be assimilated and were left to languish in poverty on the reservations where they were supported using federal food, medicine, and education. The Dawes Act was clearly a political policy that aimed at dictating the means by which different ethnicities could be accepted within the American mainstream society and given land to farm. It thus hindered and or restricted diversity as a result of the widespread prejudice that the American Indians. It, therefore, means that the political leaders of the time had the power to determine whoever received certain services through the laws that they were enacting.

Another legislation during that period that seemed to suggest that the political policies of the time played a key role in hindering or restricting diversity and the “melting pot” largely in part as a result of the widespread prejudices. One such policy was the Immigration act of 1924 passed by Congress. The period immediately after the civil war saw several people migrating to the U.S from different countries and continents in search of better living and plenty of opportunity in terms of jobs and farming land. The law was passed in response to a large number of immigrants that were coming from places considered by the policymakers of that time to be unwanted to the Anglo-Saxon. The country had received growing sentiments from the public who were against unrestricted immigration. The Act introduced quotas by restricting the number of immigrants coming from certain countries. For instance, immigrants coming from southern and eastern Europe and Asia was restricted to less than 2% of the total number of population of people living in America at that time. This can be seen in the context that the leadership at the time was wary of the future racial composition of America. Persching a close ally to the president at the time was present during the signing of the bill a clear indication that he was in support for it and the views of the policymakers. The immigration lawn became selective because the number allocated to each country every year took into account a proportion of the number of nationalities that were present in the U.S by 1920.

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The third aspect at play that hindered diversity was the Anti-miscegenation laws. The laws outlawed marriages between whites and non-whites. In practice, the laws mainly targeted the marriage between whites and blacks. Other states also passed laws that outlawed marriages between the whites and Native Americans or Asians. A case in point is Utah’s 1899 marriage and anti-miscegenation law outlawing marriage between whites and anybody that was considered to be a Negro, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Mongolian and Malay race while it remained silent on the marriage between people that were not “white persons”. Outlawing marriage between people from different backgrounds meant that the policies were supposed to ensure that there was no cultural exchange and that people who were considered as minority continued being marginalized and remained in poverty. This was yet another clear indication that the policies were meant to further segregate people and prevent inter-marriages that could promote diversity within the nation. Even in the armed forces, the units were segregated where black soldiers received poor training and equipment yet they were usually put on the frontline when in battles.

Dealing With the Opposing View

But while it is evident that the political leadership at the time did a lot to ensure that huddles were placed on diversification, there are others that may disagree with my thesis and argue that political policies in the period from 1865 to the 1920s generally tried to promote diversity and “the melting pot” despite the strong prejudices from the few. The policies during that period support the notion that the leadership was afraid of or unwilling to accept a diverse nation. Legislations such as the Jim Crow Act is a clear pointer to this fact. According to that law, sort to promote racial segregation in public facilities. The whites had better schools, better healthcare, and better recreational facilities and were employed ion plum jobs. On the other hand the African Americans, Asians and people of color lived in poor housing, their schools had fewer facilities with teachers that were not properly trained, poor health facilities and they were considered second-class citizens with the introduction of the “separate but equal” doctrine that served to make the Jim Crow Act not appear to contravene the fourteenth amendment that guaranteed all citizens equal protection within the law. These laws were an affront to the freedom and diversity that could help integrate people from different backgrounds to live peacefully with one another.

The Chinese Exclusion Act also banned the Chinese for ten years from migrating to the U.S for they were considered to be of a different culture and they were ready to work in harsh conduction in exchange of small wages, therefore, providing cheap labor. The Chinese whom were mostly brought in the north to work on the railroads were unwanted by the community because they were seen as having taken up the job opportunities present by offering cheap labor under some of the harshest conditions. The number of other Asians entering the U.S was also restricted to 2% of the total number of their population in the U.S by 1920. The Dawes Act put a condition for the American Indians being able to win farming lands where they were forced to be assimilated to the mainstream American society or remain enclosed in reservations where they would be left to languish in poverty. These tactics were hindering racial diversity among the population in the U.S during that period of time. Women were also disadvantaged as they were not allowed to vote because of the prejudice that they were not yet ready to make the right decisions regarding the political leadership of the nation until after several demonstrations and agitation by the women suffrage before they could be allowed to exercise their democratic right of choosing their political leaders and taking part in the elections. These are some of the political tactics used by the political leaders at the time to hinder diversity in part by their widespread prejudices.

Legacy Today and Conclusion

The issue of diversity continues to play a big role in the world today especially in the workplace and in different professions. The diversity as covered over the decades has helped to shape the rules and regulations that revolve around hiring in the workplace. Deliberate efforts have been made over time to make sure that the workforce is as diverse as possible. Many organizations have policies touching on diversity at the workplace where employers are required as a matter of law to make sure that their workforce does not consist of people from one ethnic background. Diversity has also promoted cohesion because working with people from different backgrounds promotes cultural exchange and understanding of how different cultures behaves. Perhaps the most important role that diversity has played is the fact that a person can work anywhere in the world provided they are competent and they have the qualifications that are needed for the job. It has also promoted inter-marriages between people from different cultural backgrounds thereby making the world a global; the village where people can live, work and interact with one another from any part of the world. The laws ensure that there is a fair share that anybody that is qualified can be employed based on their qualifications and not factors such as race and ethnicity. Laws were also enacted to ensure that the issue of equality is upheld and that all citizens are equal before the law and are supposed to receive the important services form the government of state without being discriminated against or segregated in schools, hospitals, houses and or recreational facilities. One can get an education in different countries and even get employed theirs without the fear of being victimized as was the case during those years.

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Dealing with Diversity in America During Reconstruction. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/dealing-with-diversity-in-america-during-reconstruction/
“Dealing with Diversity in America During Reconstruction.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/dealing-with-diversity-in-america-during-reconstruction/
Dealing with Diversity in America During Reconstruction. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/dealing-with-diversity-in-america-during-reconstruction/> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2022].
Dealing with Diversity in America During Reconstruction [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2022 Dec 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/dealing-with-diversity-in-america-during-reconstruction/
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