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Societal Forces Throughout American History Essay

1633 words - 7 pages

Segregation in America was officially outlawed on July 2, 1964. Looking back, one must consider why segregation occurred, why it continued for such a long period of time after slavery ended, and what actions were taken to oppose it. It was through the writings and beliefs of Martin Luther King on the practice of nonviolence that let to the success of the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout history, societal forces have caused oppression for all societies but have been overcome with individual separation. Though the Civil Rights Act succeeded, societal forces have changed and the oppressed are still oppressed but in a new way.
America's unique history with slavery and the segregation that followed brought into creation a white power structure that serves to maintain the position that whites have as the dominant race. This has been the major oppressive societal force since the United States became its own country. Slaves who were shipped to the United States from Africa were seen as animals and even property because of several different factors. Settlers became extremely frustrated at their own ineptitude; how could the American Indian survive so well even though they were savages while civilized white men with more advanced technology were dying of hunger and exposure? Collective anger led to the whites to show superiority in the only way that they could: violence against the Indians. From all of the torture, killing, crop-burning, and destruction of villages stemmed the idea that indulging in violent acts to suppress races that were deemed inferior was acceptable.
When the settlers finally worked out how to survive, they needed a great deal of labor that they could not get from any source except slaves (Indians could not be enslaved and whites were only indentured servants for a set period of time). Negative connotations in the English language that suggested that blackness was bad or dirty and that white was pure and beautiful translated into the dark skin color of the slaves being seen as less than human. The confusion of the slaves after a harrowing voyage to come to be immersed into a new land, language, and culture made them seem much less intelligent and more fit for menial labour.
Slavery seemed admissible because the Africans were seen as animals to be owned as property, and slavery was even sanctioned by church doctrines. The main reason that early colonists settled in America was to escape the Church of England so that groups such as the Puritans could live in religious freedom. Because of this, religion was a dominant force that governed the lives of early Americans. Slavery being admissible in the eyes of churches made it widely acceptable socially. How the slaves were viewed and the abuse they received in the past developed into the contempt and oppression that is racism, after slavery was abolished, and whites continued to treat blacks as subordinates. (Zinn 9-14)
African Americans were segregated against through the Civil...

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