By: Dani Langevin – Jan. 2022
I will be presenting you with historical facts and data. You can glean from it what you will. The question is: does systemic racism exist in the US? Here is a timeline of some fun facts.
Let’s start with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1871. Here’s the History Channel’s explanation of the act was:
“The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. Many Americans on the West Coast attributed declining wages and economic ills to Chinese workers. Although the Chinese composed only .002 percent of the nation’s population, Congress passed the exclusion act to placate worker demands and assuage prevalent concerns about maintaining white “racial purity.”
“…Placate worker demands and assuage prevalent concerns about maintaining white “racial Purity.” Let that settle. This had nothing to do with real concerns of safety. .002% is not a threatening number. So, what did this act entail? It meant that no person of Chinese descent could emigrate to the US for at least 10 years. It actually lasted 61 years. They could not become naturalized citizens and could not testify in court. Chinese workers were charged a foreign miner’s tax of $3-$5 a month creating a revenue of over $5 million for California yet, they did not protect the Chinese people from discrimination in everyday life and in court. If a white woman married a Chinese man, she could and often would lose her citizenship. Negative images of Asian people only solidified the negative feelings toward this group.
Slavery existed in the United States for over 300 years. We even went to war over it. Slavery: “the buying, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.” In other words, human trafficking. They were kidnapped, thrown into ships, and sold for the sheer profit of their “human” owners. They were bought and sold at whim like a dozen eggs or box of nails. They were bred like cattle, raped, beaten, starved, denied of any human decency or the respect of being able to govern their own lives or be masters of their own destiny. This is also during the time that ONLY white, landowning men could vote. White, landowning men-ONLY!
The Indian Removal Act passed by Andrew Jackson in 1830 was when, “more than 46,000 Native Americans were forced to abandon their homes and relocate to “Indian Territory” that eventually became the state of Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died on the journey—of disease, starvation, and exposure to extreme weather.” Although many resisted, the US government was successful in “relocating” many Native American tribes from the lands they occupied for centuries into a ridiculously small parcel of land. And when the Osage discovered oil on the land given to them, the US government found ways to either remove them from that land or gain control of the profits from that oil leaving many in poverty.
Jim Crow laws came into existence when many freedmen were elected into office. Many former slaves’ owners in the south found it as a personal affront that they would be governed by a black official. So, laws started to change to prevent this from happening. Poll taxes were passed. Most freedmen and women had no money, had never handled money, and didn’t know now it worked. Literacy tests were instituted. It had been illegal to teach the enslaved to read and write. How could they vote? Teachers were beaten or worse for teaching black children to read during the post-Civil War. Separate but equal made it clear who was considered inferior and superior. Interracial marriages were illegal. Whites and blacks couldn’t live in the same homes. Black freedmen couldn’t travel to a new town unless they had proof of employment. How can they get it if they can’t travel there in the first place?
What about the Tuskegee Study when they mistreated and lied to over 600 black men about the effects of syphilis? These men were told that they were being treated for “bad blood.” Their medical expenses were paid for, transportation, meals and medication provided. The truth is, they weren’t being treated for anything. The US was studying the effects of untreated syphilis on black men. The plan was to watch and monitor these men until death and then perform autopsies. Brings a whole new meaning until death do us part.
Have you heard of the Upstairs Lounge fire? It was a gay bar in New Orleans where 32 gay men and women perished. In the aftermath, the authorities left the body of a gay minister visible in the window for four hours. Many of the bodies were not claimed because of the shame families had that someone they loved were gay. One man was not claimed until 40 years later. Churches refused to hold services for the dead because they were gay. Those that did were met with harassment and even violence. Not to mention that homosexuality was considered a mental illness until the mid-1970’s. Earlier than that was the Lavender Scare; a spin off from the Red Scare. The US was so concerned about the ability of homosexuals to keep secrets that they went after them systematically. The fear was, if a homosexual worked for the US government, a foreign country could blackmail them for government secrets by threatening to expose their sexuality. The LGBTQ community brought up two points: 1. Our whole lives are secrets, we won’t spill. 2. Let us live openly and we won’t be subject to blackmail. The government decided, “Nah, it’s easier to fire thousands of you.” AND, they published their names, numbers, and addresses in the papers for added abuse.
World War II, a time of great nationalism and racism. While our boys were off fighting, the US was busy recruiting Mexican workers through the Bracero program. It was an agreement between the US and Mexico to bring field workers into our country to pick up the work shortage. Many Americans resented their presence, and this resentment came to explosive heads during the Zoot Suit riots, Porvenir Massacre, and others. Look them up. Once the war was over, the US was done with these workers and wanted them out. The methods to remove them were not as friendly as those to recruit them. Many of those deported were naturalized citizens having been born in the US. At the same time, the GI bill was introduced to help the men returning from the war get back on their feet. When all was said and done, only 2% of black veterans received any benefits while 98% went toward white veterans.
Also, during WWII, we had our Japanese Internment camps. This is when the United States believed that Japanese Americans were a threat to our national security and rounded them all up, placing them in camps without the ovens. These families lost everything because of their bloodline. They were born and raised in America. They were US citizens to be covered by the same constitutional protections of every American citizen or that is what we were told to believe. And yet, when fear and hysteria take over with absolutely no factual evidence to support them, our government and citizens do inhumane things. Like telling a whole culture they are no longer welcome in their own country.
I could go on and on. This isn’t scratching the surface. It’s barely blowing the dust off the first volume. America is a great and wonderful country. We have liberties beyond comparison, opportunities beyond imagination and promise beyond belief. Our past cannot be denied. Should not be ignored and cannot be rewritten.
Teaching our children the beautiful and ugly truth about the history of our country is essential to preserving Nationalism. Personally, I’m really angry at our educational system for whitewashing history and lying to me and my own children for so long. To love something or someone is to love their faults and virtues.
How can you love something you know so little? Being American is being triumphant but also humble. Embracing what our country has endured, perpetrated, and celebrated is all a part of what a true American is. Why wouldn’t you want our children to know it all? Why wouldn’t you want them to see the ugliness that we had to experience to peel the layers away to see the beauty and promise of what this country was built on?
What, exactly, are you afraid of if history is taught honestly?◊