How the Racial History of the US Shaped Racial Relations in Societies Today


Racism in the United States of America is common between white Americans and Africa-Americans. Many cases of racism are reported daily in America especially in high schools and colleges. Racism has been rampant in the United States since the colonial era. During colonial period, legally and socially accredited rights and privileges were given to the whites but denied to other races. Unlike other ethnic groups, the white Americans enjoyed exclusive privileges in matters immigration, education, land acquisition, voting rights, citizenship, and criminal procedures over an extended period (Wiecek 2). Due to the racial injustice that occurred during the colonial era, American leaders like Martin Luther King Jnr indulged in the peaceful resistance ways to fight against racism. Through his letter from Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King Jnr revealed the racial injustices in Birmingham and urged people to engage in nonviolent direct actions in order create tension and prompt the American leaders of the time to act on the racism issue. More than 50years after that, America has had a significant transformation on matters of racism as other races have also acquired equal legal and social rights and privileges just like the whites Today, people from different races have the right to vote, segregation is diminishing and intermarriages are happening unlike it was during the colonial era. Despite these improvements, there is still some element of racism in America, which is hard to detect. This paper explains how the racial history of the United States has shaped ethnic relations in the society today.

During the colonial period, African Americans could not engage in politics, voting process and other important government activities. In his letter to from Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King Jnr. Condemned the unjust laws that would prevent people from other races from participating in politics yet any bill passed would be imposed on them even though they did not participate in its formation. According to Martin Luther King Jnr, it was wrong for America to drag towards giving other races their political independence yet Africa and Asia had already attained it (Wiecek 2).  Many years down the line after fighting against political segregation, the blacks in American society today have the right to vote and even be elected as leaders and are also given positions in the criminal justice system.

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Initially, there were segregation laws, which refrained blacks from cafes, hotels, parks, playgrounds, and restaurants. In his letter, Martin Luther King Jnr says how hard it was for non-white parents to explain to their children the reason why they could not go to the amusement parks advertised on television (Wiecek 2). He also talks of how the blacks would be forced to sleep on their cars because no motel would give them a room just because of their race. According to him, this segregation from the blacks led to the feelings of bitterness, resentments, and perception of ‘nobodiness.’ With time, however, this kind of discrimination has diminished as the blacks and whites have better racial relations today than it was in the colonial era (Wiecek 4). Today, people from all sorts of races including the blacks can freely go to any café, restaurant, motel or even a park of their choice and be given a room without any discrimination.

Another positive transformation in America’s racial relations is intermarriage. In the colonial era, the Mississippi Black Code (1865) would arrest any blacks found to be having sexual relations with the whites (Ponds 22). Due to this, it was challenging to have interracial marriages in America during the colonial era. However, in the American society today, this opposition against interracial marriages has been put aside, and it is now lawful to marry from any race.

Other than that, police brutality was also a significant cause of concern in the American’s racial history. According to Martin Luther King Jnr’s letter, the police are said to have ill-treated the Negros in prison. They would push and curse the old Negro women, slap the Negro men and even deny them food. Many years later, the way the police treat the blacks in prison is claimed to be better than it was in the colonial period.

Even though there have been significant improvements in our current racial relations, racism in America are still alive and have since increased with Trumps presidency. Since Trump was elected, president, the level of prejudice and racial hatred has risen since (Eisenstein 4). Studies show that blacks are treated relatively well in the court systems, their dealings with the police, at their workplaces and when applying for loans and mortgages. Blacks with higher education are said to be at high risk of facing discrimination both from colleges and when seeking jobs.

Another research conducted shows that the white Americans believe that there is discrimination against the whites and that the blacks have more opportunities than they are in their own country (Wiecek 2). With the assertion that racism has moved from the non-whites to the whites, the nature of racism today tends to differ with that of the past.

To conclude, the solution to racial inequality in the US requires both commitment and participation of every American citizen regardless of gender and cultural origin. Race equality and equity are achievable if only the federal government will support people from grassroots to the national level to work together against racism. Racism history does not need to define today’s relations between the white and black Americans.

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  1. Eisenstein, Zillah. Hatreds: Racialized and sexualized conflicts in the 21st century. Rutledge, 2014.
  2. Ponds, Kenneth T. “The trauma of racism: America’s original sin.” Reclaiming Children and Youth 22.2 (2013): 22.
  3. Trepagnier, Barbara. Silent racism: How well-meaning white people perpetuate the racial divide. Routledge, 2017.
  4. Wiecek, William M. “Structural Racism and the Law in America Today: An Introduction.” Ky.  LJ 100 (2011): 1.
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