Residents need to work together to end discrimination
By Gene Kemmeter
When will the world finally be free of discrimination? Nearly every week there are troubling reports of incidents of discrimination involving beatings or killings. Too often, the incidents involve governmental agencies and law enforcement, the very parties responsible for the protection against discrimination.
Ironically, America’s first settlers were seeking protection from religious discrimination. Yet those religions would eventually influence laws that imposed their religious canons on other faiths or unbelievers. That’s the way it has gone throughout history.
Other early settlers came to America for freedom from the European class structure that discriminated against equality. The early settlers prospered but then decided to impose the class structure to limit success for future immigrants.
The British introduced the slave trade to the U.S. and then banned the slave trade in 1807 and slavery in 1883. But slavery continued in the U.S., and factors in the Texas Revolution in 1835-36 were Mexico banned slavery in Texas and prohibited immigrants from the United States to Texas.
The Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 prohibited slavery in rebellious states, but after the Civil War, Southern states imposed states’ rights laws, such as limiting voting instead of following federal laws, and embellished states’ rights as a main reason for the Civil War. Initially, documents issued at the start of the war listed slavery as a main reason.
Lynchings were most frequent between 1890 and the 1920s and continued into the 1960s when Civil Rights legislation brought about more equality, particularly in Southern states.
But racial discrimination hasn’t only been against Blacks. The Irish and other nationalities were treated as second-class citizens for decades. During World War I, an anti-German fervor spread throughout the U.S., with communities changing their names or the names of streets and businesses that reflected German influence. Many German immigrants even changed their last names to Anglicize them.
During World War II, American authorities discriminated against German and Japanese immigrants, claiming they were spies for their native countries. Hmong immigrants who fought with Americans during the Vietnam War experienced discrimination when they settled in central Wisconsin and elsewhere. When Americans elected a Black president in 2008, many citizens used racial expletives to describe him. Just like some refer to poor Americans as white trash.
A poll by NBC/SurveyMonkey last month found 64 percent of Americans believe racism is still “a major problem” in the U.S., while another 30 percent said that racism still exists in American society; however, they didn’t classify it as a major issue. Three percent responded that racism once existed, but no longer is an issue. One percent of respondents said racism was never a major issue.
Prejudice that breeds and feeds racism and discrimination is a difficult opinion to overcome. People need to look at people as individuals, consider all sides of issues, avoid generalizations and develop friendships with minorities to learn about each other. Making people aware of the situation and working together may finally make centuries of racism and discrimination go away.