Race and Religious Rights in America – Sociology Paper
The long history of the rights of people of color is reflected in their choice of tactics in all of their campaigns. Activists organizing against religious rights
attacks must come to understand how racism and sex oppression are connected in their strategy. This is especially important because the struggle to overcome race-based discrimination provides the legal and ideological foundation for liberation of the struggle and for the larger movement to realize the promise of full civil equality for all people. Any attempt to undermine the civil rights gains made by African Americans and other people of color will undermine the ability of all groups to achieve civil equality.
In the history of U.S. racism the struggle for multi-racial democracy in the US is a fight against both interpersonal and institutional forms of discrimination that have deep roots in slavery. Racism in the US, as experienced by all people of color, is largely based on the justification for an institutionalization of slavery. Despite the abolition of slavery and the contributions of African Americans to the establishment of a more democratic society during reconstruction, its legacy persisted both on an interpersonal and institutional level into the 1960’s. The historical effects of slavery continue even now to be critical of American social, cultural, political, and economic life.
Prior to slavery, Native Americans, Africans, Latinos, and Asians were regarded as subhuman based on their religious beliefs. To white Americans and Europeans, the world’s people existed in two categories: Christian and non-Christian. The human worth of any individual was defined according to their relationship to a Christian god. The problem this presented to slaveholders and to those involved in the project of destroying Native American nations is that the nature of Christianity allowed for people of color to find religion. The civil rights movement continued because of the struggle against race-based discrimination. This is rooted in the struggle against slavery and their fight for religious freedom. In the 1960s African Americans led a fight to remove the remainder of slavery from our constitution and from state and local laws. The most horrible among these were Jim Crow laws that required racial segregation.
Jim Crow Laws
Jim Crow laws in U.S. history begin in the 1880s when segregation was legalized between blacks and whites. The Supreme Court ruling in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson, which separated facilities for whites and blacks were constitutional, encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws that wiped out the gains made by blacks during Reconstruction. Railways and streetcars, public waiting rooms, restaurants, boardinghouses, theaters, and public parks were segregated; separate schools, hospitals, and other public institutions, generally of inferior quality, were designated for blacks. A march in Washington D.C. by over 200,000 in 1963 dramatized the movement to end Jim Crow Laws. Southern whites often responded with violence, and federal troops were needed to preserve order and protect blacks, notably at Little Rock, Ark. (1957), Oxford, Miss. (1962), and Selma, Ala. (1965). All they were trying to do is delay the inevitable, because they eventually came out with The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that finally ended the legal sanctions to Jim Crow.
How rich or poor someone or some group may be, all have civil rights and the option of making claims of discrimination and demanding government redress of our grievances. While poverty is frequently the result of discrimination, the presence of poverty is not a test for whether any group may enjoy civil rights. Not all people of color are poor. The proportion of African Americans families with incomes over $50,000 increased over the last two decades from 10.0 to 13.8 percent. While the total number of African American families earning more than $50,000 has increased, the median income for Blacks overall has decreased since the 1970’s. These statistics are indicative of the lack of real civil rights protection and enforcement in the 1970s and ’80s.
Over this period there has been a rapid erosion of the gains of the civil rights movement. The history of racism and the struggle for civil equality of people of color in the United States is far broader and more complex than can be covered in this brief overview. It is critical that we come to understand this history and its impact on contemporary society in order to effectively understand what is going on in society, and as one of the goals a return to the “traditional values” of openly expressed and overtly institutionalized racism. In short, the concept of race in the American context is a socially constructed system for placing people in a hierarchical structure of social and economic relations. There is nothing “innate” or “natural” about “race”. It is simply not enough for us to “honor diversity.” We must recognize that we are the products of a history steeped in racism and sexism. Rather than simply honoring diversity we must build democracy.