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Racism in the United States has been a major issue since the colonial era. Historically, the country has been dominated by Whites. The heaviest burdens of racism in the country have fallen upon Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, American Jews, Irish Americans and some other immigrant groups and their descendants.

Major racially structured institutions include slavery, Native American reservations, segregation, residential schools (for Native Americans), internment camps,[1] and affirmative action. Racial stratification has occurred in employment, housing, education and government. Formal racial discrimination was largely banned in the mid-20th century, and it came to be perceived as socially unacceptable and/or morally repugnant as well, yet racial politics remain a major phenomenon.

Racist attitudes, or prejudice, are held by a substantial portion of the U.S. population.[2][3] Discrimination against African Americans, Latin Americans, and Muslims is widely acknowledged.[4] Members of every American ethnic group have perceived racism in their dealings with other groups.[5][6]


History by targeted racial group

Racism against Native Americans

Members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma around 1877. Notice the European and African ancestry members. The Creek were originally from the Alabama region.

Native Americans, who have lived on the North America continent for at least 20,000 years,[7] had an enormously complex impact on American history and racial relations. During the colonial and independent periods, a long series of conflicts were waged, with the primary objective of obtaining resources of Native Americans. Through wars, massacres, forced displacement (such as in the Trail of Tears), and the imposition of treaties, land was taken and numerous hardships imposed. In 1540 AD, the first racial strife was with Spaniard Hernando de Soto's expedition who enslaved and murdered in many New World communities. In the early 1700s, the English had enslaved nearly 800 Choctaws.[8] After the creation of the United States, the idea of Indian removal gained momentum. However, some Native Americans choose, or were allowed to remain and avoided removal whereafter they were subjected to racist institutions in their ancestral homeland. The Choctaws in Mississippi described their situation in 1849, "we have had our habitations torn down and burned, our fences destroyed, cattle turned into our fields and we ourselves have been scourged, manacled, fettered and otherwise personally abused, until by such treatment some of our best men have died."[9] Joseph B. Cobb, who moved to Mississippi from Georgia, described Choctaws as having "no nobility or virtue at all, and in some respect he found blacks, especially native Africans, more interesting and admirable, the red man's superior in every way. The Choctaw and Chickasaw, the tribes he knew best, were beneath contempt, that is, even worse than black slaves."[10]

Ideological expansionist justification (Manifest Destiny) included stereotyped perceptions of all Native Americans as "merciless Indian savages" (as described in the United States Declaration of Independence) despite successful American efforts at civilization as proven with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, and Choctaw. An egregious attempt occurred with the California gold rush, the first two years of which saw the deaths of thousands of Native Americans. Under Mexican rule in California, Indians were subjected to de facto enslavement under a system of peonage. While in 1850, California formally entered the Union as a free state, with respect to the issue of slavery, the practice of Indian indentured servitude was not outlawed by the California Legislature until 1863.[11]

Military and civil resistance by Native Americans has been a constant feature of American history. So too have a variety of debates around issues of sovereignty, the upholding of treaty provisions, and the civil rights of Native Americans under U.S. law.

Discrimination, marginalization

Once their territories were incorporated into the United States, surviving Native Americans were denied equality before the law and often treated as wards of the state.[12] Many Native Americans were relegated to reservations—constituting just 4% of U.S. territory—and the treaties signed with them violated. Tens of thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives were forced to attend a residential school system which sought to reeducate them in white settler American values, culture and economy, to "kill the Indian, save[ing] the man."[13]

Further dispossession continued through concessions for industries such as oil, mining and timber and through division of land through legislation such as the Allotment Act. These concessions have raised problems of consent, exploitation of low royalty rates, environmental injustice, and gross mismanagement of funds held in trust, resulting in the loss of $10–40 billion.[14] The Worldwatch Institute notes that 317 reservations are threatened by environmental hazards, while Western Shoshone land has been subjected to more than 1,000 nuclear explosions.[15]

Native American owned slaves

Before removal and "under white influence", some Southern Native American tribes owned African American slaves. The Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw were known to have had slaves. Just as they adopted European American culture (Christianity, yeoman farming techniques, and educational institutions), they also adopted slavery. However, "unlike while slaveholders, they encouraged the young black slaves to attend the schools opened for the Indian children. The children they had with black women were raised in practical equality with their full blooded offspring." [16] Unlike the United States before Emancipation, African Americans (and European Americans) were allowed to become citizens of their respective Native American nations; however, it was rare for African Americans to become citizens of Native American nations. For example, a small number of "Free People of Color" lived in many Native American nations as Cherokee, Choctaw, or Creek citizens.[17]

Assimilation efforts into American society

Benjamin Hawkins, seen here on his plantation, teaches Creek Native Americans how to use European technology. Painted in 1805.

George Washington and Henry Knox believed that Native Americans were equals but that their society was inferior. The government appointed agents, like Benjamin Hawkins, to live among the Native Americans and to teach them, through example and instruction, how to live like whites.[18] Washington formulated a policy to encourage the "civilizing" process.[19] Washington had a six-point plan for civilization which included,

1. impartial justice toward Native Americans
2. regulated buying of Native American lands
3. promotion of commerce
4. promotion of experiments to civilize or improve Native American society
5. presidential authority to give presents
6. punishing those who violated Native American rights.[20]

The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 granted U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans. Prior to the passage of the act, nearly two-thirds of Native Americans were already U.S. citizens.[21] The earliest recorded date of Native Americans becoming U.S. citizens was in 1831 when the Mississippi Choctaw became citizens after the United States Legislature ratified the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Under article XIV of that treaty, any Choctaw who elected not to move to Native American Territory could become an American citizen when he registered and if he stayed on designated lands for five years after treaty ratification. Citizenship could also be obtained by:

1. Treaty Provision (as with the Mississippi Choctaw)
2. Allotment under the Act of February 8, 1887
3. Issuance of Patent in Fee Simple
4. Adopting Habits of Civilized Life
5. Minor Children
6. Citizenship by Birth
7. Becoming Soldiers and Sailors in the U.S. Armed Forces
8. Marriage
9. Special Act of Congress.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all noncitizen Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided, That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Native American to tribal or other property.

—-Indian Citizenship Act of 1924

While formal equality has been legally granted, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders remain among the most economically disadvantaged groups in the country, and according to National mental health studies, American Indians as a group tend to suffer from high levels of alcoholism, depression and suicide.[22]

Racism against African Americans

Slavery and emancipation

In colonial America, before slavery became completely based on racial lines, thousands of African slaves served European colonists, alongside other Europeans serving a term of indentured servitude.[23] In some cases for African slaves, a term of service meant freedom and a land grant afterward, but these were rarely awarded, and few former slaves became landowners this way.[citation needed] In a precursor to the American Revolution, Nathaniel Bacon led a revolt in 1676 against the Governor of Virginia and the system of exploitation he represented: exploitation of poorer colonists by the increasingly wealthy landowners where poorer people, regardless of skin color, fought side by side. However, Bacon died, probably of dysentery; hundreds of participants in the revolt were lured to disarm by a promised amnesty; and the revolt lost steam.[24]

Slaves were primarily used for agricultural labor, notably in the production of cotton and tobacco. Black slavery in the Northeast was common until the early 19th century, when many Northeastern states abolished slavery. Slaves were used as a labor force in agricultural production, shipyards, docks, and as domestic servants. In both regions, only the wealthiest Americans owned slaves.[citation needed] In contrast, poor whites recognized that slavery devalued their own labor. The social rift along color lines soon became ingrained in every aspect of colonial American culture.[citation needed] Approximately one Southern family in four held slaves prior to war. According to the 1860 U.S. census, there were about 385,000 slaveowners out of approximately 1.5 million white families.[25]

Although the Constitution had banned the importation of new African slaves in 1808, and in 1820 slave trade was equated with piracy, punishable by death,[26] the practice of chattel slavery still existed for the next half century. All slaves in only the areas of the Confederate States of America that were not under direct control of the United States government were declared free by the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued on January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.[27] It should be noted that the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to areas loyal to, or controlled by, the Union, thus the document only freed slaves where the Union still had not regained the legitimacy to do so. Slavery was not actually abolished in the United States until the passage of the 13th Amendment which was declared ratified on December 6, 1865.[28]

About 4 million black slaves were freed in 1865. Ninety-five percent of blacks lived in the South, comprising one third of the population there as opposed to one percent of the population of the North. Consequently, fears of eventual emancipation were much greater in the South than in the North.[29] Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the civil war, including 6% in the North and an extraordinary 18% in the South.[30] Despite this, post-emancipation America was not free from racism; discriminatory practices continued in the United States with the existence of Jim Crow laws, educational disparities and widespread criminal acts against people of color.[citation needed]

Nadir of American race relations

The mob-style lynching of Will James, Cairo, Illinois, 1909.

The new century saw a hardening of institutionalized racism and legal discrimination against citizens of African descent in the United States. Although technically able to vote, poll taxes, acts of terror (often perpetuated by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, founded in the Reconstruction South), and discriminatory laws such as grandfather clauses kept black Americans disenfranchised particularly in the South but also nationwide following the Hayes election at the end of the Reconstruction era in 1877. In response to de jure racism, protest and lobbyist groups emerged, most notably, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1909.

This time period is sometimes referred to as the nadir of American race relations because racism in the United States was worse during this time than at any period before or since. Segregation, racial discrimination, and expressions of white supremacy all increased. So did anti-black violence, including lynchings and race riots.

In addition, racism which had been viewed primarily as a problem in the Southern states, burst onto the national consciousness following the Great Migration, the relocation of millions of African Americans from their roots in the Southern states to the industrial centers of the North after World War I, particularly in cities such as Boston, Chicago, and New York (Harlem). In northern cities, racial tensions exploded, most violently in Chicago, and lynchings--mob-directed hangings, usually racially motivated—increased dramatically in the 1920s.

American Civil Rights movement

Civil Rights marchers at the Lincoln Memorial

Prominent African American politicians, entertainers and activists pushed for civil rights throughout the twentieth century, quite noticeably during the 1930s and 1940s with noted allies including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who facilitated singer Marian Anderson's famous 1939 Easter concert when segregated venues would not accommodate her.[31]

Activists, particularly A. Philip Randolph agitated for civil rights throughout the Great Depression and World War II years, organizing protest marches and seeking government concessions. The efforts of civil rights activists began to bear fruit with the issuance of wartime Executive Order 8802, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1941 to prohibit racial discrimination in the national defense industry.[32] This was followed by Executive Order 9981 by President Harry S. Truman in July 1948, which banned racial segregation in the American armed forces, and the creation of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1957. The 1950s and 1960s saw the peaking of the American Civil Rights Movement and the desegregation of schools under the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board and the organizing of widespread protests across the nation under a younger generation of leaders.[33]

The pastor and activist Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. was the catalyst for many nonviolent protests in the 1960s which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[34] This signified a change in the social acceptance of legislative racism in America and a profound increase in the number of opportunities available for people of color in the United States.[34] While substantial gains were made in the succeeding decades through middle class advancement and public employment, black poverty and lack of education[35] deepened in the context of de-industrialization.[33]

Many cite the 2008 United States presidential election as a step forward in race relations: White Americans played a role in electing Barack Obama, the country's first black president.[36] However, according to exit polls, over sixty percent of white Americans voted for McCain. Racial divisions persisted throughout the election; wide margins of Black voters gave Obama an edge during the presidential primary, where 8 out of 10 Afican-Americans voted for him in the primaries, and an MSNBC poll showed that race was a key factor in whether a candidate was perceived as being ready for office. In South Carolina, for instance,"Whites were far likelier to name Clinton than Obama as being most qualified to be commander in chief, likeliest to unite the country and most apt to capture the White House in November. Blacks named Obama over Clinton by even stronger margins — two- and three-to one — in all three areas." [3]. Barack Obama receives over thirty death threats a day, higher than Bush or Clinton, which has led some to question tolerance in white America.

Discrimination and racism against Asian-Americans

A Sinophobic cartoon called "Yellow terror" appearing in the United States in 1899

In the Pacific States, racism was primarily directed against the resident Asian immigrants. Several immigration laws discriminated against the Asians, and at different points the ethnic Chinese or other groups were banned from entering the United States.[37] Nonwhites were prohibited from testifying against whites, a prohibition extended to the Chinese by People v. Hall.[38] The Chinese were often subject to harder labor on the First Transcontinental Railroad and often performed the more dangerous tasks such as using dynamite to make pathways through the mountains.[39] The San Francisco Vigilance Movement, although ostensibly a response to crime and corruption, also systematically victimized Irish immigrants, and later this was transformed into mob violence against Chinese immigrants.[citation needed] Legal discrimination of Asian minorities was furthered with the passages of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned the entrance of virtually all ethnic Chinese immigrants into the United States until 1943.

During World War II, the United States created internment camps for Japanese American citizens in fear that they would be used as spies for the Japanese.[40]

Discrimination against Latin Americans

Americans of Latin American ancestry (often categorized as "Hispanic") come from a wide variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Latinos are not all distinguishable as a racial minority.

After the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), the U.S. annexed much of the current Southwestern region from Mexico. Mexicans residing in that territory found themselves subject to discrimination. It is estimated that at least 597 Mexicans were lynched between 1848 and 1928 (this is a conservative estimate due to lack of records in many reported lynchings). Mexicans were lynched at a rate of 27.4 per 100,000 of population between 1880 and 1930. This statistic is second only to that of the African American community during that period, which suffered an average of 37.1 per 100,000 population.[41] Between 1848 to 1879, Mexicans were lynched at an unprecedented rate of 473 per 100,000 of population.[42]

During The Great Depression, the U.S. government sponsored a Mexican Repatriation program which was intended to encourage Mexican immigrants to voluntarily return to Mexico, however, many were forcibly removed against their will. In total, up to one million persons of Mexican ancestry were deported, approximately 60 percent those individuals were actually U.S. citizens.[43]

The Zoot Suit Riots were vivid incidents of racial violence against Latinos (e.g. Mexican-Americans) in Los Angeles in 1943. Naval servicemen stationed in a Latino neighborhood conflicted with youth in the dense neighborhood. Frequent confrontations between small groups and individuals had intensified into several days of non-stop rioting. Large mobs of servicemen would enter civilian quarters looking to attack Mexican American youths, some of whom were wearing zoot suits, a distinctive exaggerated fashion popular among that group.[44] The disturbances continued unchecked, and even assisted, by the local police for several days before based commanders declared downtown Los Angeles and Mexican American neighborhoods off-limits to servicemen.[45]

Many public institutions, businesses, and homeowners associations had official policies to exclude Mexican Americans. School children of Mexican American descent were subject to racial segregation in the public school system. In many counties, Mexican Americans were excluded from serving as jurors in court cases, especially in those that involved a Mexican American defendant. In many areas across the Southwest, they lived in separate residential areas, due to laws and real estate company policies.[46][47][48][49]

During the 1960s, Mexican American youth rallied behind civil rights causes and launched the Chicano Movement.


Antisemitism has also played a role in America. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, hundreds of thousands of Ashkenazi Jews were escaping the pogroms of Russia and Eastern Europe. They boarded boats from ports on the Baltic Sea and in Northern Germany, and largely arrived at Ellis Island, New York.[50]

It is thought by Leo Rosten, in his book, 'The Joys of Yiddish', that as soon as they left the boat, they were subject to racism from the port immigration authorities. The derogatory term 'kike' was adopted when referring to Jews (because they often could not write so they may have signed their immigration papers with circles - or kikel in Yiddish).[51]

From the 1910s, the Southern Jewish communities were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan, who objected to Jewish immigration, and often used 'The Jewish Banker' in their propaganda. In 1915, Texas-born, New York Jew Leo Frank was lynched by the newly re-formed Klan, after being convicted of rape and sentenced to death (his punishment was commuted to life imprisonment).[52]

The events in Nazi Germany also attracted attention from America. Jewish lobbying for intervention in Europe drew opposition from the isolationists, amongst whom was Father Charles Coughlin, a well known radio priest, who was known to be critical of Jews, believing that they were leading America into the war.[53] He preached in weekly, overtly anti-Semitic sermons and, from 1936, began publication of a newspaper, Social Justice, in which he printed anti-Semitic accusations such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.[53]

A number of Jewish organizations, Christian organizations, Muslim organizations, and academics consider the Nation of Islam to be anti-Semitic. Specifically, they claim that the Nation of Islam has engaged in revisionist and antisemitic interpretations of the Holocaust and exaggerates the role of Jews in the African slave trade.[54] The Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) alleges that NOI Health Minister, Abdul Alim Muhammad, has accused Jewish doctors of injecting blacks with the AIDS virus,[55] an allegation that Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad has denied.

Anti-European immigrant racism

Various non-Jewish European-American immigrant groups have been subject to discrimination either on the basis of their immigrant status (known as "Nativism") or on the basis of their ethnicities (country of origin).

New York Times, 1854 ad, reading "No Irish need apply."

In the 19th century, this was particularly anti-Irish racism, which was partly anti-Catholic sentiment, partly anti-Irish as an ethnicity or race (notably accused of drunkenness), an example being the Philadelphia Nativist Riots.

The 20th century saw racism against immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe (notably Italian-Americans and Polish Americans), partly from anti-Catholic sentiment (as against Irish-Americans), and partly from Nordicism, which considered Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans inferior – see Nordicism in the USA.

Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves successfully. With other races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides.

—Future US president Calvin Coolidge, 1921.[56]

Nordicism lead to the reduction in Southern European and Eastern European immigrants in the National Origins Formula of the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924, whose goal was to maintain the status quo distribution of ethnicity by limiting immigration in proportion to existing populations. This reduced the inflow from the average prior to 1921 of 176,983 from Northern and Western Europe, and 685,531 for other countries, principally Southern and Eastern Europe, to a 1924 level of 140,999 for Northern and Western Europe, and 21,847 for other countries, principally Southern and Eastern Europe (from a 1:3.9 ratio to a 6.4:1 ratio).

There was also racism against German-Americans and Italian-Americans due to these being enemy countries in World War I (Germany) and World War II (Germany and Italy). This resulted in a sharp decrease in German-American ethnic identity and a sharp decrease in the use of German in the United States following WWI, which had hitherto been significant, and to German American internment and Italian American internment during WWII; see also World War I anti-German sentiment.

Specific European-American ethnicities significantly diminished as a political issue in the 1930s, being replaced by a bi-racialism of Black/White, as described and predicted by Lothrop Stoddard, due to numerous causes. The National Origins Formula significantly reduced inflows of non-Nordic ethnicities; the Great Migration (of African-Americans out of the South) displaced anti-White immigrant racism with anti-Black racism; and the Great Depression brought economic concerns to the fore.

Anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment remained evident in the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, who nevertheless went on to become the US's first Catholic (and indeed non-Protestant) president.

Anti-White racism

In addition to racism against European-American immigrants on the basis of their immigrant status or country of origin, there has also been racism against White Americans on the basis of their ethnicity, regardless of country of origin. A general anti-White slur is "honky".

Affirmative action is sometimes called "reverse racism" by its opponents; some sociologists argue that the term "racism" can only be applied to structured systems of racial supremacy, and that opponents would more correctly call affirmative action "reverse discrimination."[57]

In Hawai‘i, there is a tradition dating at least to the 1950s of the last day of school being "Kill Haole Day", "Haole" originally referring to foreigners, and more generally to white people. There is a custom, reported in Cleveland, Ohio in 2003, of May Day (May 1) being "Beat Up a White Kid Day".

White subgroups

Certain subgroups of White Americans, while not identifying as separate races (often identifying as having "American ethnicity"), have distinct heritages and experience discrimination and low socio-economic status as an ethnicity.

Notably, poor, predominantly Southern and rural, whites, particularly in Appalachia and the Ozarks, are referred to by a number of slurs, notably white trash, trailer trash, cracker, redneck, and hillbilly (this latter having more mixed usage), with connotations of stupid, uncultured, and uneducated. Ethnically, these groups are largely referred to as Scotch-Irish American, though the ethnic groups of Appalachia are more accurately described as being primarily (90%) from the Anglo-Scottish border country, most, but not all, via the Plantation of Ulster in Northern Ireland; they are also of German and Welsh ancestry.

The status of poor rural whites has often been compared to that of African-Americans, being also seen as suffering from slavery (because unable to compete with the free labor of slaves). Such descriptions date to the 19th century, as is Uncle Tom's Cabin, and poor rural whites continue to lag on numerous socio-economic indicators (health, income, and the like) – see social and economic stratification in Appalachia.

Anti-White crimes

One series of unprovoked crimes that specifically targeted White Americans is the Zebra murders that occurred in San Francisco between 1973 and 1974. The Zebra murders were carried out by a group known as Death Angels (a radical splinter group of the Nation of Islam) that intended to kill whites to spread terror and earn favor and status within their sect. The final death count varies depending on which killings are included, but it is believed to account for more than 71 murders in addition to numerous rapes and attempted murders.[citation needed]

Another series of crimes that specifically targeted whites is the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks which planned to kill six whites a day for 30 days,[58] and resulted in 10 deaths and 3 critical injuries. One of the snipers Lee Boyd Malvo testified that John Allen Muhammad was driven by hatred of America because of its "slavery, hypocrisy and foreign policy" and his belief that "the white man is the devil."

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, national anti-white hate groups that are currently active include Nation of Islam and New Black Panther Party.

According to FBI statistics from 1995–2002, Whites are the second most targeted group for racially motivated hate crime in New York City.[59]

Racism against Middle Easterners

An Assyrian church vandalized in Detroit (2007). Assyrians, although not Arabs and mostly Christians, often face backlash in the US for their Middle Eastern background.[60]

Racism against Arab Americans[61] may rise concomitantly with tensions between the American government and the Arab world. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, discrimination and racialized violence has markedly increased against Arab Americans and many other religious and cultural groups.[62]

Iraqis in particular were demonized which led to hatred towards Arabs and Iranians living in the United States and elsewhere in the western world.[63][64] There have been attacks against Arabs not only on the basis of their religion (Islam), but also on the basis of their ethnicity; numerous Christian Arabs have been attacked based on their appearances.[65] In addition, non-Arabs who are mistaken for Arabs because of perceived "similarities in appearance" have been collateral victims of anti-Arabism.

Iranian people (who constitute a different ethnicity than Arabs), as well as South Asians of different ethnic/religious backgrounds (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs) have been stereotyped as "Arabs". The case of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh who was murdered at a Phoenix gas station by a white supremacist for "looking like an Arab terrorist" (because of the turban that is a requirement of Sikhism), as well as that of Hindus being attacked for "being Muslims" have achieved prominence and criticism following the September 11 attacks.[66][67]

Racism against Iranians

A man holding a sign that reads "deport all Iranians" and "get the hell out of my country" during a protest of the Iran hostage crisis in Washington, D.C. in 1979.

The November 1979 Iranian hostage crisis of the U.S. embassy in Tehran precipitated a wave of anti-Iranian sentiment in the United States, directed both against the new Islamic regime and Iranian nationals and immigrants. Even though such sentiments gradually declined after the release of the hostages at the start of 1981, they sometimes flare up. In response, some Iranian immigrants to the U.S. have distanced themselves from their nationality and instead identify primarily on the basis of their ethnic or religious affiliations.[68]

Ann Coulter called Iranians "ragheads."[69] Brent Scowcroft called the Iranian people "rug merchants."[70]

Since the 1980s and especially since the 1990s Hollywood's depiction of Iranians has gradually shown signs of vilifying Iranians.[71] Hollywood network productions such as 24 [72], John Doe, On Wings of Eagles (1986)[73], Escape From Iran: The Canadian Caper (1981)[74], and JAG almost regularly host Persian speaking villains in their storylines. On May 9, 1997, CBS aired an episode of JAG in which several Hamas terrorists take a Washington hospital under siege. According to the film, they spoke in fluent "Persian", not "Arabic".[citation needed]

Some of Hollywood's "stereotypical"[75] and anti-Iranian movies include: The Peacemaker (in which a character, apparently without any context, says "fuck Iran"), The Hitman (in which several mobs join together to demolish an Iranian mob operating in Canada), MadHouse (partially centering upon a wealthy Iranian who is in the process of divorcing his American wife. In one scene, the wife, speaking to her Iranian husband utters "you goddamn towel heads, sand rats"), The Naked Gun, Under Siege, The Delta Force, Into the Night, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Threads, The Final Options, and Silver Bears.

History by region

In the popular imagination, racism is particularly associated with the American South, with its legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. However, all regions of the United States have exhibited racism in various forms and at various times. For example, the Great Migration of African Americans (1910–1930) from the South to the Northeast, Midwest, and West, led to increased Black/White contact, racism, and segregation in the destinations.

West Coast racism

The Pacific and Western states were often portrayed to those on the East Coast as more liberal in terms of race relations in the 1960s and 1970s, but California legally allowed racial segregation of public facilities until the 1950s and other forms of racism were felt there as well.

A variety of laws were enacted to prevent African American migration to the Pacific Northwest. While slavery was criminalized in the Oregon Territory in 1844, a so-called "lash law" subjected blacks found guilty of violating the law to whippings—no less than 20 and no more than 39 strokes of the lash—every six months "until he or she shall quit the territory." An exclusion law, barring African Americans from entering the territory was passed in 1847, repealed in 1854, and added to the new Oregon state constitution in 1857. While African Americans have been present at some level since 1805, the demographic reverberations of these laws remain today.[76]

Racism as a factor in U.S. foreign policy

The earliest decades of expansionist United States foreign policy making was often accompanied by racialist ideological justifications. While pursuing a series of expansionist wars (see "Racism against Native Americans" above), American leaders embraced and ideology of white racial supremacy. George Washington predicted at the end of the U.S. Revolutionary War, “The gradual extension of our settlements will as certainly cause the savage, as the wolf, to retire; both being beasts of prey, tho' they differ in shape."[77] The successful slave revolution in Haiti alarmed the United States leadership, and the country refused diplomatic recognition for decades. The United States conquest of Florida and the Seminole Wars were fought in part to confront the danger of "mingled hordes of lawless Indians and negroes," in the words of President John Quincy Adams.[78]

Early 20th-century President Theodore Roosevelt declared, "The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages" and openly spoke of cementing the rule of "dominant world races."[78] In line with the concepts of the "Manifest Destiny" of white Anglo-Americans to conquer lands inhabited by "inferior" races of Native Americans and Mexicans, and the "White Man's Burden" of Europeans' obligation to introduce civilization to the "primitive" people of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, American foreign policy in the early 20th century had racial overtones of a "superior" race destined to rule the world.

Critics such as Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky have suggested that racism has played a significant role in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and its treatment of the Arabs. Various critics have suggested that racism along with strategic and financial interests motivated the Bush Administration to attack Iraq even though the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction nor had any ties to Al Qaida.[79][80][81] On the other hand, some scholars believe that the United States has softened racial restrictions based on foreign policy concerns. For example, Congress eliminated racial bars on Asian immigration during World War II and the Vietnam War to recognize American allies.[82] When the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, the government argued that the Supreme Court should rule against racial segregation to counter Communist propaganda and improve America's image overseas.[83]

Conflicts between racial and ethnic minorities

Argument against minority-minority racism

Minority racism is sometimes considered controversial because of theories of power in society. Some theories of racism insist that racism can only exist in the context of social power to impose it upon others.[84]

African and Mexican American gang violence

There has been ongoing violence between African American and Mexican American gangs, particularly in Los Angeles, California.[85][86][87][88] There have been reports of racially motivated attacks against African Americans who have moved into neighborhoods occupied mostly by Mexican Americans, and vice versa.[89][90] According to gang experts and law enforcement agents, a longstanding race war between the Mexican Mafia and the Black Guerilla Family, a rival African American prison gang, has generated such intense racial hatred among Mexican Mafia leaders, or shot callers, that they have issued a "green light" on all blacks. This amounts to a standing authorization for Latino gang members to prove their mettle by terrorizing or even murdering any blacks sighted in a neighborhood claimed by a gang loyal to the Mexican Mafia.[4] There have been several significant riots in California prisons where Mexican American inmates and African Americans have targeted each other particularly, based on racial reasons.[91][92]

New Immigrant Africans and African Americans

The rapid growth in African immigrants has come into conflict with American blacks. Interaction and cooperation between african immigrants and american blacks is, ironically,debatable. One can argue that racial discrimination and cooperation is not ordinarily based on color of skin but more on shared common, cutural experiences and believes.[93][94]

Strife, conflict and reconcilation

The U.S. has long had experienced conflict and reconciliation between ethnic minority groups.

Historians point out after a period of conflict, ethnic and racial groups can band together in solidarity. For example, the competing Irish-American and Italian-American groups once held animosity against each other in the early 20th century, would later merge and also with Polish-Americans, German-Americans and French-Canadians in the U.S. because of the commonality as "ethnics" and Roman Catholics in a primarily Protestant Anglo America by the 1940s and '50s. The modern American consciousness on race will consider descendants of European ethnic groups assimilated to become part of the larger "White American" group.

In the 1960s & '70s, African-American and Puerto Rican political activism banded together to battle the common problems of racial discrimination, poverty and underpresentation in many urban areas across the US like in New York City. Also to note there was substantial intermarriage between the newly-arrived Indian American, later came the Filipino and Hispanic communities in California under similar working conditions and shared cultural values in the 1920s (see Punjabi Mexican American).

The current-day social melange of "minorities" and "people of color" echoes the previous experience of European ethnic groups' sense of "otherness" about 2 or 3 generations ago.

Stereotypes and prejudice

This racist postcard from the 1900s shows the casual denigration of black women. It states "I know you're not particular to a fault / Though I'm not sure you'll never be sued for assault / You're so fond of women that even a wench / Attracts your gross fancy despite her strong stench"

Stereotypical images in the entertainment media

Popular culture (songs, theater) for European-American audiences in the nineteenth century created and perpetuated negative stereotypes of African-Americans. One key symbol of racism against African Americans was the use of blackface. Directly related to this was the institution of minstrelsy. Other stereotypes of African Americans included the fat, dark-skinned "mammy" and the irrational, hypersexual male "buck".

Other stereotypes include the portrayal of East Asians as very small people with huge front teeth and the portrayal of Native Americans as dangerous savages.

Contemporary images and protests

Increasing numbers of African-American activists have asserted that rap music videos utilize African-American performers commonly enacting tropes of scantily clothed women and men as thugs or pimps. Church organized groups have protested outside the residence of Phillipe Dauman (Upper East Side (New York, NY)) (president and chief executive officer of Viacom) and the residence of Debra L. Lee (Northwest Washington DC) (chairman and chief executive of Black Entertainment Television, a unit of Viacom). Rev. Donald Coates, leader of a protest organization formed around the issue of the videos, "Enough is Enough!" said, “In the wake of the Imus affair, I began to think that the African-American community must be consistent in its outrage.” The Clifton, Maryland ministered has also said, “Why are these corporations making these images normative and mainstream?” ... “I can talk about this in the church until I am blue in the face, but we need to take it outside.” The NAACP and the National Congress of Black Women also have called for the reform of images on videos and on television. Julian Bond said that in a segregated society, people get their impressions of other groups from what they see in videos and what they hear in music.[95][96][97][98]

In a similar vein, activists protested against the BET show, Hot Ghetto Mess, which satirizes the culture of working-class African-Americans. The protests resulted in the change of the television show name to We Got to Do Better.[95]

Congressional hearing

In September, 2007 Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) initiated a Congressional hearing on African-American images in the media, “From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images.”[95]

Segregation and integration


The Jim Crow Laws were state and local laws enacted in the Southern and border states of the United States and enforced between 1876 and 1965. They mandated "separate but equal" status for black Americans. In reality, this led to treatment and accommodations that were almost always inferior to those provided to white Americans. The most important laws required that public schools, public places and public transportation, like trains and buses, have separate facilities for whites and blacks. (These Jim Crow Laws were separate from the 1800-66 Black Codes, which had restricted the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans.) State-sponsored school segregation was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education. Generally, the remaining Jim Crow laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act; none were in effect at the end of the 1960s.

Segregation continued even after the demise of the Jim Crow laws. Data on house prices and attitudes toward integration from suggest that in the mid-twentieth century, segregation was a product of collective actions taken by whites to exclude blacks from their neighborhoods.[99] Segregation also took the form of redlining, the practice of denying or increasing the cost of services, such as banking, insurance, access to jobs,[100] access to health care,[101] or even supermarkets[102] to residents in certain, often racially determined,[103] areas. Although in the United States informal discrimination and segregation have always existed, the practice called "redlining" began with the National Housing Act of 1934, which established the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The practice was fought first through passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (which prevents redlining when the criteria for redlining are based on race, religion, gender, familial status, disability, or ethnic origin), and later through the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which requires banks to apply the same lending criteria in all communities.[104] Although redlining is illegal some argue that it continues to exist in other forms.

Contemporary issues

Black-White segregation is declining fairly consistently for most metropolitan areas and cities. Despite these pervasive patterns, many changes for individual areas are small.[105] Thirty years after the civil rights era, the United States remains a residentially segregated society in which Blacks and Whites inhabit different neighborhoods of vastly different quality.[106][107]

Some researchers suggest that racial segregation may lead to disparities in health and mortality. Thomas LaVeist (1989; 1993) tested the hypothesis that segregation would aid in explaining race differences in infant mortality rates across cities. Analyzing 176 large and midsized cities, LaVeist found support for the hypothesis. Since LaVeist's studies, segregation has received increased attention as a determinant of race disparities in mortality.[108] Studies have shown that mortality rates for male and female African Americans are lower in areas with lower levels of residential segregation. Mortality for male and female Whites was not associated in either direction with residential segregation.[109]

Researchers Sharon A. Jackson, Roger T. Anderson, Norman J. Johnson and Paul D. Sorlie found that, after adjustment for family income, mortality risk increased with increasing minority residential segregation among Blacks aged 25 to 44 years and non-Blacks aged 45 to 64 years. In most age/race/gender groups, the highest and lowest mortality risks occurred in the highest and lowest categories of residential segregation, respectively. These results suggest that minority residential segregation may influence mortality risk and underscore the traditional emphasis on the social underpinnings of disease and death.[110] Rates of heart disease among African Americans are associated with the segregation patterns in the neighborhoods where they live (Fang et al. 1998). Stephanie A. Bond Huie writes that neighborhoods affect health and mortality outcomes primarily in an indirect fashion through environmental factors such as smoking, diet, exercise, stress, and access to health insurance and medical providers.[111] Moreover, segregation strongly influences premature mortality in the US.[112]

Laws regarding race

Court cases regarding race

Institutional racism

Institutional racism is the theory that aspects of the structure, pervasive attitudes, and established institutions of society disadvantage some racial groups, although not by an overtly discriminatory mechanism.[113] There are several factors that play into institutional racism, including but not limited to: accumulated wealth/benefits from racial groups that have benefited from past discrimination, educational and occupational disadvantages faced by non-native English speakers in the United States, ingrained stereotypical images that still remain in the society (e.g. black men are likely to be criminals).[114]


Access to United States citizenship was restricted by race, beginning with the Naturalization Act of 1790 which refused naturalization to "non-whites." Many in the modern United States forget the institutionalized prejudice against white followers of Roman Catholicism who immigrated from countries such as Ireland, Germany, Italy and France.[115] Other efforts include the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the 1924 National Origins Act.[116][117] The Immigration Act of 1924 was aimed at further restricting the Southern and Eastern Europeans who had begun to enter the country in large numbers beginning in the 1890s. While officially prohibited, U.S. officials continue to differentially apply laws on illegal immigration depending on national origin (essentially declining to enforce immigration laws against citizens of rich countries who overstay their visas) and personal economy (differentially awarding visas to foreign nationals based on bank accounts, properties and so on).

Wealth creation

Massive racial differentials in account of wealth remain in the United States: between whites and African Americans, the gap is a factor of ten.[118] An analyst of the phenomenon, Thomas Shapiro, professor of law and social policy at Brandeis University argues, “The wealth gap is not just a story of merit and achievement, it’s also a story of the historical legacy of race in the United States.”[119] Differentials applied to the Social Security Act (which excluded agricultural workers, a sector that then included most black workers), rewards to military officers, and the educational benefits offered returning soldiers after World War II. Pre-existing disparities in wealth are exacerbated by tax policies that reward investment over waged income, subsidize mortgages, and subsidize private sector developers.[120]

Impact on health

In the US racial differences in health and quality of life often persist even at equivalent socioeconomics levels. Individual and institutional discrimination, along with the stigma of inferiority, can adversely affect health. Residence in poor neighborhoods, racial bias in medical care, the stress of experiences of discrimination and the acceptance of the societal stigma of inferiority can have deleterious consequences for health.[121] Using The Schedule of Racist Events (SRE), an 18-item self-report inventory that assesses the frequency of racist discrimination. Hope Landrine and Elizabeth A. Klonoff found that racist discrimination is rampant in the lives of African Americans and is strongly related to psychiatric symptoms.[122] A study on racist events in the lives of African American women found that lifetime experiences of racism were positively related to lifetime history of both physical disease and frequency of recent common colds. These relationships were largely unaccounted for by other variables. Demographic variables such as income and education were not related to experiences of racism. The results suggest that racism can be detrimental to African American's well being.[123] The physiological stress caused by racism has been documented in studies by Claude Steele, Joshua Aronson, and Steven Spencer on what they term "stereotype threat."[124] Kennedy et al. found that both measures of collective disrespect were strongly correlated with black mortality (r = 0.53 to 0.56), as well as with white mortality (r = 0.48 to 0.54). These data suggest that racism, measured as an ecologic characteristic, is associated with higher mortality in both blacks and whites.[125]

Health care inequality

They are major racial differences in access to health care and in the quality of health care provided. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health estimated that: "over 886,000 deaths could have been prevented from 1991 to 2000 if African Americans had received the same care as whites." The key differences they cited were lack of insurance, inadequate insurance, poor service, and reluctance to seek care.[126] A history of government-sponsored experimentation, such as the notorious Tuskegee Syphilis Study has left of legacy of African American distrust of the medical system.[127]

Inequalities in health care may also reflect a systemic bias in the way medical procedures and treatments are prescribed for different ethnic groups. Raj Bhopal writes that the history of racism in science and medicine shows that people and institutions behave according to the ethos of their times and warns of dangers to avoid in the future.[128] Nancy Krieger contended that much modern research supported the assumptions needed to justify racism. Racism she writes underlies unexplained inequities in health care, including treatment for heart disease,[129] renal failure,[130] bladder cancer,[131] and pneumonia.[132] Raj Bhopal writes that these inequalities have been documented in numerous studies. The consistent and repeated findings that black Americans receive less health care than white Americans—particularly where this involves expensive new technology.[133]

Political issues

Affirmative action

Affirmative action is a policy or program intended to promote access to education or employment for minority groups and women. Motivation for affirmative action policies is to redress the effects of past discrimination and to encourage public institutions such as universities, hospitals, and police forces to be more representative of the population.

Affirmative action programs may include targeted recruitment efforts, preferential treatment given to applicants from historically disadvantaged groups, and in some cases the use of quotas. Most American universities and some employers practice affirmative action.[citation needed]

Some opponents of affirmative action view the greater access by women and minority groups to be at the expense of groups considered dominant (typically white men). In their view, these policies demonstrate an overt preference for applicants from particular backgrounds over better-qualified (or equally-qualified) candidates from other backgrounds. Some opponents of affirmative action believe the only consideration in choosing between applicants should be merit. Some also criticize affirmative action because they believe it perpetuates racial division instead of minimizing the importance of race in American society.[134]

Supporters of affirmative action believe that the perceived injustice to the dominant group is not supported by facts. They point to statistics that suggest that affirmative action has not resulted in fewer opportunities for white people. For example, white enrollment in universities has increased along with minority enrollment. In 1973, 30% of white high school graduates attended universities; in 1993, after widespread implementation of affirmative action policies, that number had risen to 42%.[135] Some supporters of affirmative action point out that, even in the absence of affirmative action, college admissions rarely are purely merit-based: athletes, musicians, and legacy students (children of alumni) have always been given preferential treatment. For example, Harvard University admits 35-40% of legacy applicants, and a rejected white applicant is more likely to have been displaced by a legacy student than by one who benefited from affirmative action.[citation needed]

Hate crimes

Most hate crimes in the United States target victims on the basis of race or ethnicity (for Federal purposes, crimes targeting Hispanics based on that identity are considered based on ethnicity). Leading forms of bias cited in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, based on law enforcement agency filings are: anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-white, anti-homosexual, and anti-Hispanic bias in that order in both 2004 and 2005.[136] There are more hate crimes against whites than against Hispanics, Asians, American-Indians and multiple-race groups - a statistically expected trend given that there far more whites than other ethnic groups put together. By contrast, the National Criminal Victimization Survey, finds that per capita rates of hate crime victimization varied little by race or ethnicity, and the differences are not statistically significant.[137]

The New Century Foundation, a white nationalist organization founded by Jared Taylor, argues that blacks are more likely than whites to commit hate crimes, and that FBI figures inflate the number of hate crimes committed by whites by counting Hispanics as "white".[138] Other analysts are sharply critical of the NCF's findings, referring to the criminological mainstream view that "Racial and ethnic data must be treated with caution. ... Existing research on crime has generally shown that racial or ethnic identity is not predictive of criminal behavior with data which has been controlled for social and economic factors."[139] NCF's methodology and statistics are further sharply criticized as flawed and deceptive by anti-racist activists Tim Wise and the Southern Poverty Law Center.[140][141]

The first post-Jim Crow era hate crime to make sensational media attention was the beating death of Vincent Chin, an Asian American of Chinese descent in 1982. He was attacked by a mob of white assailants who were recently laid off from a Detroit area auto factory job and blamed the Japanese for their individual unemployment. Chin was not of Japanese descent but the assailants testified at the criminal court case that he "looked like a Jap", an ethnic slur used to describe Japanese and other Asians, and that they were angry enough to beat him to death. They served no jail time and were acquitted of all charges.[citation needed]

Current hate groups

Supremacist, separatist, racist, and hate groups still operate in the United States. The Ku Klux Klan, the National Alliance, National Socialist Movement (United States), Aryan Nations, Westboro Baptist Church, Nation of Islam, League of the South, New Black Panther Party, Nation of Aztlán, Nation of Yahweh, Jewish Task Force, the Jewish Defense League, and the White Order of Thule are among the institutions most commonly identified in this way.


Counter-racist organizations


Further reading

  • Cedric Robinson: Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theater and Film Before World War II, University of North Carolina Press, 2007, ISBN 0807858412

See also

External links


  1. ^ Internment camps are particularly associated with World War II, but also occurred during World War I. Most significant was the Japanese American internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during WWII. There was also internment of almost 11,000 German Americans in German American internment during WWII, and some Italian American internment.
  2. ^ Babington, Charles (September 22, 2008). "Poll: Views still differ sharply by race".,4670,APYahooPollRaceinAmerica,00.html. Retrieved January 16, 2010. "[A] new Associated Press-Yahoo News poll, conducted with Stanford University, shows ... that a substantial portion of white Americans still harbor negative feelings toward blacks." 
  3. ^ In a summary of sociological research on the topic, Lincoln Quillian's annual review article concludes"Aside from a small share of principled racists, most white Americans support the principle of equal treatment regardless of race and repudiate the practice of discrimination. At the same time, white respondents endorse many stereotypical beliefs, doubt the existence of significant racial discrimination, and show low levels of support for efforts to achieve racial equality through government intervention." Quillian, Lincoln (2006). "New Approaches to Understanding Racial Prejudice and Discrimination". Annual Review of Sociology 32 (1): 299–328. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.32.061604.123132. ISSN 0360-0572. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  4. ^ In a 2009 survey, 52% agreed there is "a lot of discrimination" against Hispanics; 49% agreed when asked the same question about Blacks; 58% when asked about Muslims. Pew Center for People and the Press, "Muslims Widely Seen As Facing Discrimination," September 9, 2009.
  5. ^ AFP: US minorities don't trust each other
  6. ^ Deep Divisions, Shared Destiny - A Poll of Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans on Race Relations
  7. ^ Mann, Charles C., 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Vintage Books, 2006, c.2005, p. 18
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  9. ^ Walter, Williams. "Three Efforts at Development among the Choctaws of Mississippi". Southeastern Indians: Since the Removal Era. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press. 
  10. ^ Hudson, Charles. "The Ante-Bellum Elite". Red, White, and Black; Symposium on Indians in the Old South. University of Georgia Press. p. 80. SBN 820303089. 
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  90. ^ The Hutchinson Report: Thanks to Latino Gangs, There’s a Zone in L.A. Where Blacks Risk Death if They Enter
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  92. ^ Racial segregation continues in California prisons
  93. ^ African immigrants face bias from blacks
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  104. ^ Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival By Paul S. Grogan, Tony Proscio. ISBN 0813339529. Published 2002. Page 114.

    The goal was not to relax lending restrictions but rather to get banks to apply the same criteria in the inner-city as in the suburbs.

  105. ^ Inequality and Segregation R Sethi, R Somanathan - Journal of Political Economy, 2004
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