Race And Ethnicity In America Essay, Research Paper
Race and Ethnicity in America – The Melting Pot
In 1492 Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue. Everyone knows the story of Christopher Columbus; they are taught it in grade school if not before then. When he landed in America by accident, he had no idea that he would be creating the world’s largest Melting Pot. This “melting pot” provided means for a new country, made from a mixture of many cultures and beliefs, thus creating a new country with a new and ever-changing culture. One complication with a Melting Pot is that you cannot put people of different race and ethnicity together without conflict.
Conflict defined by dictionary.com as: “A state of disharmony between incompatible or antithetical persons, ideas, or interests; a clash.” Humanity has been enduring an ongoing battle for centuries: the strained relations among the races. Despite efforts to put the past behind, signs remain at nearly every juncture that there still exists a strong sense of racial dissension.
This conflict started when the Columnists landed in America. At first they wanted to be friends with Indians but soon felt a need to change their way of life. The Columnists started pushing their religious and spiritual views on to them. A short while later they felt the need to take land from the Indians that were native to that area. Then when they ran out of room what did they do? They just took more and more land until they were satisfied. The Indians that had been there for centuries, as far as we know it, were being forced off the land that was rightfully theirs.
This battle between the Columnists and Indians went on for many years. The Indians were being forced off the land that they have lived on for generations. Many Battles were fought over land and rights to natural resources. Victories were won on both sides, but at the cost of many lives and the destruction of the land, which did not bring any sort of resolution for years to come.
It started out that the Columnists were working and farming the land, which they stole, on their own. As the years passed they soon realized that why do it our selves when we can have someone else to do it. They began to ship slaves over from Africa. Hundreds of slaves were crowded onto large ships and brought to a foreign land, only to be enslaved by a foreign race of people.
The hands of other races formed America. The foundation of this country was based upon racial tension and conflict. This strain continued even after slavery had been abolished. People would lash out at other races in order to make them-selves feel better. Phrases like “hate crimes” were suddenly popping up.
Throughout the early twentieth century, African-Americans were considered to be inferior to the Caucasian race. There were designated areas for “white” and “colored” people. “Colored” people were not allowed to eat in certain restaurants. They were not even allowed to drink from the same water fountains. Most of the time the “colored” fountain were just faucets sticking out of the wall. Segregation, as this separation of the races became known as, was legal by the laws of this country. The Supreme Court in the landmark decision of Plessy vs. Fregussun brought legality to the United States for segregation. “A statue which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races – a distinction which is founded in the color of the two races, has no tendency to destroy the legal equality the two races” (Justice Henry Brown). This ruling established the doctrine of separate but equal. Therefore anytime that the races were to be separated, so long as the facilities were equal, which never were, it was perfectly legal. This doctrine survived for many years until it was finally rectified by another Supreme Court decision. Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas struck down the separate but equal doctrine once and for all. “We come then to the question presented: Does the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other ‘tangible’ factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does” (Chief Justice Earl Warren). It removed the legal status that segregation had enjoyed up until then. This ruling was instrumental in making this country into the “melting pot” that it is today. Nonetheless the United States had a long way yet to go to being were we are now, and further still to being the ideal “melting pot” that the United States has been referred to as.
In fact when the United States is referred to, as being a “melting pot” the truth of matter is that it is more a blend of culture and ideals of Europe. Even though there are huge numbers of African American and Hispanic people living here today, not nearly, as much of their native culture has become part of the overall culture of the United States as have some of the major European cultures, such as Great Britain, France or Germany. The language spoken and values held resemble those of Europe than Africa or even Asia.
These all brings us up to more modern times. Times in which we live. The decisions of Brown vs. Board and other efforts of race equality have begun to make an impact. More and more there is racial and ethnic interaction. Growing populations of minorities in the United States who are truly proud of their ethnic heritage are having a profound impact. In years past many people coming to America tried to hide their heritage. For an example, how many people are there in America with the last name Miller? Many of the American “Miller’s” are from Germans who came to the United State with the name Mueller. They chose to change there given family name so that they would seem less German and more American. In stark contrast it’s not at all unusual to drive through a street in Southern Texas, Arizona, New Mexico or California and seeing the flag of Mexico, proudly proclaiming the heritage of the residents.
Even in the Deep South, where many people cite the most racism exists today in the United States. Places where the Ku Klux Klan still thrives or places where “hate crimes” are still very much a reality, there is progress being made. Since the times of the Civil War, Georgia has proudly displayed on their state flag a symbol of racism, the Confederate Flag. Many Georgians claimed that this was simply part of their heritage and important to them, while having nothing to do with racism. Nonetheless when legislation came up nothing short of a compromise would satisfy Georgia. Complete removal of the Confederate symbol was not an option that garnered much support. “‘I’m not 100 percent thrilled about [the compromise] myself, but we had to throw that in to give the rural white legislatures a sense of victory,’ Representative Tyrone Brooks, Democrat in Atlanta” (Firestone).
In a similar situation, South Carolina, which was one of leading states in the Confederacy and one of the first states to succeed from the United States, was the place of a larger controversy and a place of more heated arguments. This place can be the held up as an example of where race and ethnic relations are in the United States. Only after strong pressure from action groups and from all over the United States was the Confederate flag removed from the Capitol building. However into this I have a unique insight, a family friend there stated that the real reason that the people fought so hard to keep the flag was not “heritage” but rather that racism really still exists very much.
To further illustrate how race and ethnic relations are in the United States, I interviewed an Asian student on campus. His name is David Eikenberry, however he was born in South Korea and was adopted to this country as a baby. Therefore he is every bit as American as you or I, but with the exception that he isn’t Caucasian. The point of my interview was what was race and ethnicity like growing up in the United States, especially because he attended a nearly all-Caucasian high school. He stated several things that were very interesting. For one he said that he believes very much that racism is much a part of many people, especially in more rural areas. In fact his younger brother, who is also of Asian origins, was forced to leave the high school where David attended due to increased racial tensions. “People who I went to school with from kindergarten on up discriminated and insulted peoples of all races including my own until the day that I graduated and left that place. Hearing all kinds of racial slurs became common place and while I escaped more easily than my brother, physical confrontations and harassment was a way of life for him” (Eikenberry).
In my views race and ethnicity in America has changed dramatically. Ethnicity in many ways has become something to be proud of in some places and race has made many strides towards equality. However in many other ways racism still exists and complete integration into a “melting pot” is still far off. I do believe though that race isn’t even the largest source of hate and discrimination today. Now that it isn’t nearly as acceptable or legal to hate a race or an ethnicity, it has become customary to hate other groups, often within one’s own race and ethnic distinction. Matthew Shepard is just one such example. “A recent survey, in fact, revealed that 69% of lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender students report profound experiences with verbal, physical, and sexual harassment and assault in school” (www.gleson.org). I see therefore that instead of a person hating a race, instead people try to find someone to hate so that they can feel superior. So for America to truly leave race and ethnicity behind, they must move past new excuses to hate and move beyond hate it self, because only then can unity thrive and we truly be a “melting pot.”
“Discussing Mathew Shepard.” Gleson. 12 October 1999.
Eikenberry, David. Personal Interview. 15 February 2001.
Firestone, David. “Redesigned Georgia Flag is Advanced by House.” New York Times. 25
January 2001: Unknown.
United States Supreme Court. Plessy vs. Ferguson. Washington: 1896.
United States Supreme Court. Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. Washington: