There are two original sins in US history – the virtual elimination of Native Americans from the continent and the enslavement of millions of Africans. The former is largely invisible and unacknowledged in our daily lives. The latter, racism against African-Americans, continues to be pervasively present in many ways into the present. Neither is acknowledged in a truly meaningful way. Racism was present from the very earliest foundations of the country and continues to this day in a multitude of manifestations.
Only liberal whites could ever think that we had entered a post-racial phase with the election of President Obama. Most whites continue to deny the existence of racism or are active racists. And even in using this word “white” we encounter the shifting sands of racism in American history. Just a hundred years ago many of the people who now identify as white were not considered white by the ruling white elite. People of Irish, Italian, Greek, Slavic and other European backgrounds not from the preferred northern European countries were excluded.1
The focus here is on racism and African Americans with particular attention to the creation of segregated America from the 1930s forward.
- see Jacobson, Matthew Frye. Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race. New York: ACLS History E-Book Project, 2005. [↩]