African Americans have struggled in the U.S. for 450 years. This paper traces that development and harms done to African Americans and how we feel about living in a terrorist society. The police chased an innocent black man named Prince Jones from Washington, D.C. to his home in Alexandria, Virginia and killed him in front of his girlfriend’s apartment. He did not have to die, but he did die as part of the terrorism that infects the culture of the U.S. According to Mapping Police Violence, the police in America killed 1,147 people in 2017, The of African American community was 25% of those killed even though blacks make up 13% of the population (Mappingpoliceviolence.org). The life of African Americans in the U.S. has always subjected them to terrorism. This condition has existed from 1619 till this day in the present. My four main research objectives to prove this terrorism are,the History of African American lives in the U.S. Starting from the beginning all the way back to Jamestown where the first black slaves were brought. Then talking about Slavery itself in the U.S and what the African American slaves had to go through, I will be ending this point by talking about Reconstruction and how that affected the lives of African Americans. My second objective will be on The Great Migration, the huge move of African Americans leaving the South and coming to the North, in this point I will be talking about why? Why did African Americans leave their homes? Will answer this question by talking about the Lynching of Emmett Till, the number of blacks lynched in the South, and the book The Warmth Of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. I will finish this point by sharing a personal story of someone whose family was personally affected by the Great Migration ( WYNC: The Takeaway). My third objective will be on The Civil Rights Movement, I will speak about the Freedom Riders the story of Goodman, Chaney, Schwerner (American Experience Mississippi Murder). I will talk about the two well-known Civil Rights Activist who were assassinated Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. I will also address the Inequality in healthcare, the difference between how pregnant white women are treated and how pregnant women of color are treated. I will be using the article Why Americans Black Mothers and Babies Are In A Life-or-Death Crisis by The New York times. My final objective will be on Mass Incarceration As A Substitute For Slavery, Starting with the story of Walter McMillian from the book Just Mercy by Bryan Steven and the traumatic experience he had gone through. Then talking about the article Drug Use and Incarceration, by the American Addiction Center connecting race to the number of people addicted and arrested. I will also talk about the recent Starbucks Incident, the arrest of two innocent black men. I will end this point by speaking about the Discrimination In Police Stops, using the UVM report on Discrimination In Police Stops. Talking about the racial disparities in traffic stops in Vermont. I will be concluding my paper by summarizing everything that I learned in this, this that stood out to me, what i enjoyed learning more than anything, and most importantly how having this knowledge about Race and Racism will affect my life in the future.
First Point: The History of African Americans Lives In The U. S
The history of African Americans in the U. S dates back to 1619 when the very first slaves were brought to Jamestown Virginia. “The first Africans brought to an English colony in North America were forcibly landed in Virginia in late August 1619. Tobacco grower John Rolfe wrote that the “20 and odd” Africans came from a Dutch warship” (Jamestown Rediscovery Historic Jamestown). African Americans were faced with slavery for over 400 years, they were beaten, raped, and killed. They were separated from their families, and forced to do hard labor.
In the article What Happened in Virginia in 1619 Mr. Greg writes. The first African slaves were brought to this country in 1619, there were about 20 enslaved Africans brought to the colony of Virginia to work in the Tobacco fields and other labor which include Cotton fields (Greg, What Happened in Virginia in 1916 Enotes.com). The Jamestown slaves were from the Ndongo Kingdom, Angola, in West Central Africa. African slaves increased significantly in the second half of the 17th century (History of Jamestown Historyisfun.org). By 1640 one black person was declared as a slave, that was also the year that slavery was official instituted in Jamestown. Which, caused the population of Africans to rise from 23 black in 1625 to three hundred in 1650 (Africans Arrive in Virginia The Gale Group Inc. Encyclopedia.com).
According to their Article Slavery in America The history.com Staff wrote, Slavery was practiced throughout the 17th and 18th centuries in the American Colonies, African slaves built the new nation through production of lucrative crops such as Tobacco and Cotton. Slavery would later tear the country apart in one of the bloodiest Civil Wars. Though it’s not possible to give accurate figures, historians believe to have stated 6 to 7 million slaves who were being important to the New World during the 18th century. (Slavery in America History.com). African Americans were treated more like possessions than like humans, they would be whipped, hanged, put in various contraptions, and forced to do hard labor for no money. They would be punished every time they, were not working “hard”, trying to runaway, learning to read, or write, doing anything that could suggest that they were human beings (Slave Punishments in the Antebellum American South Historyonthenet.com). Even though the Union would go on to win and free 4 million slaves the legacy of slavery still continues to influence America’s history, today in the present, and tomorrow in the future (Slavery in America History.com).
The Unions win may have freed 4 million slaves, yet the rebuilding process of the South during the Reconstruction period, between 1865 and 1877 created a whole new set of challenges. According to the article Reconstruction American Civil War by History.com, new Southern Legislatures passed a restrictive “Black Codes”. Which controlled the labor of former slaves and of other African Americans, they passed these codes under the administration of President Andrew Jackson (Reconstruction American Civil War History.com). These Black Codes also denied blacks the right to purchase or rent land, this was done to force former slaves to work on plantations. This led to the pass of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the draft of the 14th Amendment that, extends citizenship to African Americans, and that ensures equal protection under the law (Overview of Reconstruction Digital History). By 1873 the Republicans were losing their “enthusiasm” to protect black rights. Despite the presence of federal troops who were sent to protect black voting rights, white democrats continued violent and intimidating campaigns to suppress African Americans. The Democrats disputed election returns to Hayes and in return he agreed to withdraw the 3000 federal troops who were “protecting” the blacks in the south, and this lead to the formal end of the Reconstruction era in 1876 (The End of Reconstruction, 1876 umich.edu).
Second Point: The Great Migration
Moving my second point is on The Great Migration one of the biggest moves in U. S history more than 6 million African Americans moved from the treacherous south to the north to start their lives over. If it wasn’t for the Great migration Michelle Obama would most likely have not been the first black lady in the white house. In result, we wouldn’t have been told by Michelle herself that the white house was built by slaves, in their article The White House Was, in Fact, Built By Slaves Danny Lewis wrote “Up until a few decades ago, little attention was paid to looking into who actually laid the foundations and put up the walls of the White House. But what documentation exists today shows that many of Washington, D.C.’s most iconic government buildings, including the White House, were built by slaves” (Danny Lewis). Being the first black lady in the white house must have been a lot to carry, adding on living in a house that was built by slaves must have been really hard for Michelle because her ancestors were also slaves. African Americans were forced to leave their homes in the south because they were no longer safe there. They were being terrorized by the KKK and other white supremacists, they were in danger of being lynched, they weren’t being paid fairly, and they were being treated like less than human.
What is the actual meaning of Lynching? Well according to Dictionary.com Lynching is when a mob of people kill someone, by hanging (beating, setting on fire, etc) someone for an alleged offense with or without a legal trial (Lynching). The story of 14 year old Emmett Till is gruesomely identical to the definition. Emmett was born in Chicago in 1941, he grew up in a middle “class” black neighborhood. In 1955 Emmett went to visit family in Money Mississippi when Carolyn Bryant accused him of whistling at her, unfortunately this accusation would cost the 14-year old his life. Four day after Carolyn made the accusation her husband Roy and his friend J.W. Milam kidnapped Emmett, beat him, then shot him in the head. In their article about Emmett Till Biography.com wrote “Four days later, at approximately 2:30 a.m. on August 28, 1955, Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband, and his half brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Till from Moses Wright’s home. They then beat the teenager brutally, dragged him to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan and shoved his mutilated body into the water” (Biography.com). Emmett Till’s story is just one of many African Americans who faced similar fates and were lynched for the color of their skin. According to Eji.org, more than 4,000 African Americans were killed in racial terror lynchings between the years 1877 and 1950. 4,000 black people who were killed for the crime of being black, they were declared guilty by people who could never look past the color of their skin and see that they are humans. “In Newman, Georgia, in 1899, at least 2000 whites watched as a white mob mutilated and burned alive a black man named Sam Hose, and then sold pieces of his organs and bones. In 1916, a white mob in Waco, Texas, tortured and lynched a mentally disabled 17-year-old black boy named Jesse Washington in front of city hall, stripping, stabbing, beating, and mutilating him before burning him alive in front of 15,000 white spectators. Charred pieces of his body were dragged through town, and his fingers and fingernails were taken as keepsakes” (History of Racial Injustice: Public Spectacle Lynchings). I don’t understand how someone could watch somebody burned alive, the thought of it makes me sick and if you could do something to stop it then you should.
The Warmth of Other Suns
The Warmth of Others Suns is the epic story of the American Migration known as the Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson tells a highly acclaimed historical study about the Migration. In her book Wilkerson talks about the stories of George Swanson Starling, Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, and Ida Mae Brandon Gladney. She talks through how, why, and where all the characters will be ending up in their journey of the Great Migration, their stories can teach us all about how it feels to be the “other” in America. Starlings story starts with him boarding a train out of Egypt Town, Eustis, to New York to start fresh. His reason for leaving he and two of his coworkers stirred up some trouble with the grove owners, and he was in danger of being lynched (Wilkerson 5, 185). Gladney’s story begins with her family and herself driving in a pickup truck towards the train depot in Oklahoma, why were they leaving? Her husband did not want his family the mercurial thumb of Mississippi, and now all of them will be heading off to Milwaukee to be with Gladney’s sister’s family (Wilkerson 184). Pershing Foster’s story is the one that really got to me the most, he served and protected his country as a doctor in the military, and he was treated so bad when he got back to the U.S. The St. Francis Hospital wouldn’t let him work there at all why? Because of the color of his skin, it didn’t matter that he had served in the U.S being black meant being less. So Dr. Fosters got in car and started his great journey to California. Now why was his story so heartbreaking to me? Well driving all day and night will result in exhausting so it’s understandable that Dr. Foster would like to sleep in a bed for a night, yet a lot of the area’s he was driving through were still segregated, and there was not really any colored hotels for him to stay in. Every time he would drive up to a hotel they would either blatantly say they didn’t serve colored people, or lie about not having any free rooms. The part of his story that really hit me was when Dr. Foster finally got to California saw another colored person and asked them where he could stay for the night. “Pardon me, where can you find a colored hotel?” asked Dr.foster the man answered by saying “What do you mean colored hotel… I could tell you where a hotel is. There’s a hotel right there.” Yet Dr. Foster was still persistent on finding a colored hotel “No I don’t want that, just tell me where most of the colored folk stay” and this whole time Dr. Foster was thinking “I could not… The thought of it was overwhelming, of me being turned down again. I couldn’t do that.” which is reasonable the poor man had been through hell, trying to find a safe place to rest, it’s no surprise that he didn’t want to risk going to any hotel but a colored one. All of these stories have one factor in common, African American people leaving their own homes because their lives are in danger. Or the fact that they can’t make a good living because no one will hire them, or they get paid less than everyone else in result of the color of their skin.
My Great Migration Story
Celeste Headlee tells the story of her Grandfathers migration in her article My Great Migration story Celeste’s great-grandmother was the child of a black slave and a Scottish-Irish plantation owner, the product of many rapes had given her great -grandmother 6 children. She says in her article “I didn’t learn any of this from my grandfather. He also didn’t talk about being called a “nigger” on the streets of Little Rock, or what it had been like to live in a black neighborhood, go to a school for black kids, and go to a black college. He also didn’t talk about why his mother fled Mississippi with her infant son, that his father was murdered by white men who were enraged by the idea of a successful black businessman in their community. I didn’t learn these stories until years after my grandfather had passed away” (Headlee). Celeste’s grandfather had left the south because like millions of other African Americans who too part in the Migration, he wanted his full rights to citizenship in the U.S. For some people leaving the south was a risk the Southern states passed laws that prohibited blacks from leaving, if they were caught trying to leave they would be fines up to $25,000 (“My Great Migration Story” Celeste Headlee). Yet many still took that risked because it was safer and probably easier to live in the north than it was to live in the south, and after everything blacks had been through its understandable why they would risk leaving. They had to get away from the fear, and the constant danger, and they took the chance to leave whenever they could.
Third Point: The Civil Rights Movement
My third point The Civil Rights movement was a struggle for social justice during the 1950s and 1960s for blacks to have equal rights under the law in the U.S. During the Civil Rights movement many African Americans who were fighting for their equality were murdered and assassinated. Groups like CORE and NAACP worked hard to get the rights they deserved, with other activist like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and many more. Who fought, and fought to be treated equal and frankly to be treated like human beings.
The Freedom Riders
The story of Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, and Michael Henry Schwerner was privately in the Civil Right Movement. Goodman, Chaney, Schwerner were volunteers for voter registration, they also worked for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), on June 21, 1964 the three of them disappeared near the town of Philadelphia Mississippi. The three men work was not only important but it was also very dangerous for them, the Ku Klux Klan was soaring in Mississippi 1964, and they were not afraid to fight the Civil Rights Movement. June 23, that same here investigators found the CORE station wagon the Goodman, Chaney, Schwerner were driving this shifted the focus from rescuing the men to recovering their bodies. The only reason why the case was drawing so much attention was because of Schwerner and Goodman were white Northerners. In the article is says “ Throughout July, investigators combed the woods, fields, swamps, and rivers of Mississippi, ultimately finding the remains of eight African American men. Two were identified as Henry Dee and Charles Moore, college students who had been kidnapped, beaten, and murdered in May 1964. Another corpse was wearing a CORE t-shirt. Even less information was recorded about the five other bodies discovered.” it was only six after of searching that the FBI found the bodies of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney on August 4th 1964. The worst part of this case was that “Prosecutors brought the charges before a federal grand jury, which indicted 18 men in January 1965. The following month, presiding judge William Harold Cox dismissed the charges against the majority of the defendants, maintaining that the law applied only to law enforcement” so in the end most of the people who were responsible for their deaths got a pass, and that just proved that even though the FBI investigated nothing had really changed at least not in the South.
MLK & Malcolm X Assassination
Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were well-known Civil Rights activist, they were public figures, but they were also not popular. In their article Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination History.com says “Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, an event that sent shock waves reverberating around the world. His assassination led to an outpouring of anger among black Americans, as well as a period of national mourning that helped speed the way for an equal housing bill that would be the last significant legislative achievement of the civil rights era” (Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination History.com). Many mourned his death but I’m sure that they’re people who fine with him being gone, in 1966 there was Gallup poll. The poll showed that almost two-thirds of America did not like Dr. King, yet a third of people in America did like Dr. King (Most Americans Didn’t Approve of Martin Luther King Jr. Before His Death, Poll Shows Beatrice Dupuy). As for Malcolm X he was assassinated on February 21st, 1965, who was Malcolm X according to their article What Really Happened to Malcolm X? Zaheer Ali writes “ Malcolm X was an uncompromising advocate for the urban poor and working-class black America . Instead of advocating integration, he called for self-determination; instead of nonviolence in the face of violent anti-black attacks, he called for self-defense” (Zaheer Ali). Malcolm didn’t believe in integration he didn’t really believe that white Americans would ever willing gove African American equality, when MLK gave his famous speech “I Have a Dream” Malcolm called it the “Farce on Washington”(7 Things You May Not Know About Malcolm X Jesse Greenspan). It was obvious that Malcolm and Dr. King had different ways of activating for equality, Dr. King was all about peaceful protests and getting along with each other. However, Malcolm was okay with violent protests he didn’t believe that white people and black people could live together peacefully, he was willing to do anything to get equality for black people.
Inequality In Healthcare
In her article Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis Linda Villarosa wrote that in 1850 the reported black infant mortality rate was 340 per 1,000 and the white infant mortality was 217 per 1,000. There is a huge difference on how black pregnant women are treated and how white pregnant women are treated, and that differences is dangerous not only for the baby but also for their mother. In America black babies are more than twice as likely to die as white babies (11.3 per 1,000 black babies, 4.9 per 1,000 white babies), the sad thing about this is that a woman of color with an advanced degree is more likely to lose her baby than an eighth-grade educator who is a white woman. This says that doctors and others in the medical professions have a racist bias, they would take a white woman who says she worried about her baby more serious than a black woman who says the exact same things and that is not acceptable. This is something that is still happening today, and the fact that this carelessness for black pregnant women isn’t just affecting the women but it is also resulting in the death of their baby.
Fourth Point: Mass Incarceration As a Substitute For Slavery
My fourth and last point, everyone knows whether its consciously or subconsciously that there is a huge difference between white people in prison and people of color in prison. Being that there are way more people of color in prison for petty crimes than there are white people. What does the Constitution say? Trial by jury. No unfair punishment. 13th amendment. White people in America are most likely to use illegal drugs than Black people are, yet black people are more than likely to go to prison for a drug offense. In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population. African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.
Bryan Stevenson “Just Mercy”
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson was honestly one of the best books I have ever read. It was so honest, and passionate this story told you about the darkness in African Americans lives. Just Mercy is focused around the story of Walter McMillian, an African American man who is falsely accused of killing a white women by the name of Ronda Morrison, now this might sound a lot similar to the many stories of black men being falsely. However, Walters story is different because, the sheriff and his deputies go through hell to make sure that Walter gets on death row for this murder. They not only blackmail another black man to say that he say Walters truck at the crime scene during the time of the murder “Hooks eagerly told investigators that he had driven by Jackson cleaners near the time of the crime and had seen a truck tear away.” (Stevenson 50). They also threatened another man to come up with a bullshit story about how Walter killed Morrison. “Here’s Myers’s account of the murder of Ronda Morrison:day of the murder, Myers was getting gas when Walter McMillian saw him at the gas station and forced him at gunpoint to get in Walter’s truck and drive to Monroeville. Myers didn’t really know Walter before that day Once in the truck, Walter told Myers he needed him to drive because Walter’s arm was hurt. Myers protested but had no choice. Walter directed Myers to drive him to Jackson Cleaners indowntown Monroeville and instructed him to wait in the truck while McMillian went inside alone. After waiting a long time, Myers drove’ down the street to a grocery store to buy cigarettes. He returned ten minutes later. After another long wait, Myers finally saw McMillian emerge from the store and return to the truck. Upon entering the truck, he admitted that he had killed the store clerk. Myers then drove McMillian back to the gas station so that Myers could retrieve his vehicle. Before Myers left, Walter threatened to kill him if he ever told anyone what he had seen or done” The fact that anyone believed this story is so shocking to me, I mean come on why would anyone tell someone that they just committed a murder then let them go and expect them to say anything the whole story is crazy. Yet all those judges that ruled Walter as guilty did believe it, they might not have believed the story but what they did believe was that Walter is a black man being accused of a white woman’s murder so yes he has to be guilty. That’s the part of this book that really got to me how people are willing to ruin someone’s life because they have a different skin color then you’re own, that’s not only sick but that makes you the worst person in the world. We need to stop judging people based on their race and start judge people based on their character and their actions, leave race out of it.
Drug use & Incarceration
Black people are more likely to go to prison for a drug related offense than white people are, according to a survey in 2011 from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that nearly 20 percent of white people have used cocaine, compared to the 10 percent of black & latinos who have used cocaine. Yet black people are arrested for drugs more than three times as often as whites are, in 2011 225,242 people were serving time in state prison for drug related crimes and blacks made up 45 percent and whites just 30 percent (When It Comes To Illegal Drug Use, White America Does The Crime, Black America Gets The Time, Saki Knafo). According to Drug War Facts “On December 31, 2014, black males had higher imprisonment rates than prisoners of other races or Hispanic origin within every age group. Imprisonment rates for black males were 3.8 to 10.5 times greater at each age group than white males and 1.4 to 3.1 times greater than rates for Hispanic males” (Race & Prison Drug War Facts). The fact is that more black people go to prison than white people do who have commited the same crime, and this injustice needs to stop.
Last month in April 12th, 2018, two African American men were arrested at Starbucks, they decided to so while they wait for their business friend before ordering anything. Within minutes of their arrival, a starbucks manager called the police after the men declined to leave the cafe because they were waiting for an acquaintance. The men were arrested but not charged of any crime but the incident sparked national conversation about racial profiling, in result 8,000 company owned Starbucks stores are closing on may 29th, 2018 to educate employees about racial bias (Yon Pomrenze and Darran Simon, CNN Black Men Arrested at Philadelphia Starbucks Reach Agreement). In our class discussion with the student from Mount Abe, when we talked about the Starbucks incident a lot of people a lot to say, the one thing that stood out to me was that I ask the teacher If it was two white men who had been waiting for a friend and haven’t purchased anything would they have had the cops called on them would they have gotten arrested, and her answer was had it ever happened before. Her answer was so spot on that I kept telling myself of not, of course they wouldn’t have gotten arrested as well that’s not how it works black people are “dangerous” and white people are not. This incident may have sparked national attention but the real question is how long will it be before people forget, that happened until it happens again.
Discrimination in Police Stops
The University of Vermont recently did a study on racial disparities in traffic stop, and searches in Vermont. In 2017, it was more likely for black and Hispanic drivers in Vermont to be stopped, and searched than it was for a white driver, yet they were also less likely to be found with contraband. Another study they did show that blacks were 2.7 to 3.9 times more likely to be stopped, and Hispanics were 2.5 to 3 times more likely to be stopped. When it comes to finding drugs, in 2016 white drivers were stopped 398 times yet black and Hispanics drivers were only stopped 38 times. This just proves that white people assume that people of color are all drug dealers, or are in a gang this study shows that being black or brown does not make you criminal (New Study Confirms Racial Disparities in Vermont Traffic Stops, Searches UVM).
In conclusion what i learned about is that being a POC in the U. S automatically means that you are at a greater risk of being put in prison, being a dropout, selling drugs, selling your body, or most importantly being a threat to white people. As an African american male there is a greater chance of me getting pulled over by the police, getting arrested no matter how small my “crime”, and scarier than that being killed for the crime of being black. Take Prince Jones for example, he was followed all the way from Washington D. C to his home in Virginia by a police officer who then went on to shoot him to death in the front yard of his home. I’ve learned about the history of African Americans in the U. S history I needed to learn so that I would know how to protect myself from facing the same fate as the very first slave did. Yet do I really know what race is? John A. Powell once said “race is a little like gravity. Experienced by all understood by few” (Opening the Question of Race to the Question of Belonging, On Being, John A. Powell). You can’t understand race if you haven’t experienced discrimination against because of your race, you can not understand race if your people haven’t been terrorized for years and still are terrorized today. Race is something we as humans created because we like to put ourselves into groups so that we feel like we belong, that we are not different, that we are not “the other. However, a very brilliant teacher once told me that there is no other, at the end of the day we all bleed red, we all need food to survive, and we all are humans the color of our skins should not change that. Taking Examining Race & Racism has taught me the history of America, it has taught me about our present, and it has taught me what my future will probably involve. As an African transgender male who happened to be gay there are many things that make me “the other”, many things people could single me out for, many reasons for me to be afraid of being different. Yet this class as only taught me to embrace my differences, to embrace the history of blacks because no matter what was thrown at African American in the past they have rebelled and pushed through, they fought and never gave up and that’s how I know that i’ll be okay too. As long as I continue to fight, no one will be able to bring me down, no one will make me despise being black, or trans, or gay, no one will get me to quit because quitting means letting the haters win, and that is not something I am going to let happen.