This chapter focuses on how power is conveyed the historical consequences of state-sanctioned racism.
The authors argue that these experiences -- slavery, warfare, immigration, and so forth – continue to define communities’ common obstacles and their distinct paths to social, political, economic equality.
Back to Virginia
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Virginia was the most influential of the English colonies in defining British North America socially and culturally.
In 1639 colonial Africans were allowed to carry guns, but only in the case of Indian wars. This reflects the colonial fears surrounding American Indian sovereignty and resistance to white attempts to conquer them.
In the 1660s, Virginia was the first to define a legal system for controlling enslaved workers, causing the legal status of colonial Africans to become ambiguous.
Colonial Africans could no longer gain freedom by converting to Christianity as of 1667.
By 1682 this also applied to Indians in bondage.
Between 1680-1682 the first major slave codes were established.
1705 saw the loss of equal protection under the law for blacks; this initiated a process for stripping them of rights that continued through 1792.
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The status of American Indians deteriorated in the colonies
In the 17th-19th centuries, relationships between the colonies/United States and Indian groups disintegrated as the concept of manifest destiny was embraced.
While the term itself was first used by political writer, John L. O'Sullivan, in 1845, the concept itself is older.
Manifest destiny is the idea that white Americans had a destiny: to tame the lands in what is now the continental United States and to improved them.
In later decades this expansionist worldview extended outside of the United States to Central and South America.
It was justified by white superiority. Today, the term used to describe this worldview is exceptionalism.
One result was a series of wars and broken treaties.
Another result was that portrayals of American Indians as savages and as capturers of whites flourished. This is called a negative stereotype.
This enhanced the concept of Indians as inferior.
For American Indians, then, it was culture, and not race, that was the primary source of their inferiority.
Ironically, a second portrayal of American Indians is an example of a positive stereotype: They were also seen as noble savages.
Because the “problem” was cultural there was a belief that American Indians had the potential to be elevated by Anglo-American acculturation (forced enculturation).
This “Indian uplift” construct gained in popularity in the 1800s as evidenced by the boarding school efforts.
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The status of American Indians deteriorated in the colonies (continued)
As the American government gained control over Indian lands they also began to shuffle the indigenous peoples around.
By 1824 the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) was created to facilitate this governance.
On the BIA website they acknowledge that this organization is “evolving as Federal policies designed to subjugate and assimilate American Indians and Alaska Natives have changed to policies that promote Indian self-determination” (para. 2).
Others would argue for a less benign relationship, one represented by subjugation, abuse, thievery and even death.
In 1871 the Indian Appropriations Act disallowed for American Indian tribes to claim sovereign nations rights.
A set of ‘vanishing policies” were implemented to assimilate American Indians into Anglo-American society. Three widely utilized practices were:
The boarding school policies discussed earlier in the notes.
Construction of reservations.
Land grabs, epitomized by the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887.
It was not that land grabs had not occurred earlier, the Dawes Act was the largest and most systematic of all, though.
Its stated intent was to support the assimilation of American Indians.
Its effect was to steal nearly 2/3 of all Indian land (reduced from 138 million acres in 1887 to only 48 million acres by 1934).
The Dawes Act legitimized the “blood quantum” standard as at least one-half Indian blood (later one-fourth) or you were not legally an American Indian (no women need apply).
A head of household got160 acres (0.65 km2), unmarried adults/orphans 80 acres, and underage persons 40 acres. Each Indian had 4 years to make claim.
All other land was declared as “surplus” and became an important source of land for the Homestead Acts (the first had actually been in 1862, the last was 1975).
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The Texas case
During the 19th century both immigration and westward expansion resulted in new government policies.
Even though Texas was already inhabited by runaway slaves, indigenous peoples and Mexicans of Spanish origin, the United States saw itself as more fit to govern (manifest destiny). Now Anglo-American settlers were a part of the mix as well.
In 1835 Texas became the “Republic of Texas” and by 1845 it was a slave-owning state.
During this 10-year time frame conflicts arose between the United States and Mexico.
The Mexican-American War (1946-1848) erupted; the result was that the United States “annexed” 1.2 million square miles and 80,000 Mexicans lost their nationality.
By the end of the 18th century the United States had expanded to take Puerto Rico, Cuba and other land holdings as a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898. Most remain under American control today.
The West Coast
On the West Coast, the government was concerned with other ethnic groups; in particular, Asian Americans and Asian immigrants.
One reason for increased tensions was the Gold Rush of 1849 which brought groups together in competition: American Indians, Spanish-speaking Mexicans (recently annexed), Anglo-Americans and Asian immigrants looking to get rich.
In 1850 California politicians had implemented the Indenture Act that allowed for enslavement of American Indians, including the selling of children. By 1853 these groups were confined to reservations.
Chinese immigrants were targeted for harsh treatment which culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, segregation into “Chinatowns”, and often death by lynching.
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Immigration laws continue to inform today
There were two important court cases that denied Asian immigrants legal status in the United States:
The first case was “Ozawa v. United States”, a cased linked to Takao Ozawa.
He attempted to gain citizenship under the 1906 Naturalization Act.
This Act stated that persons of “white” or African heritage were eligible.
The Act standardized the naturalization process and created the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (INS).
In 2003, the INS became three new groups in response 9-11, all part of the Department of Homeland Security.
They are the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), & U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Ozawa argued that persons of Japanese descent should be considered as Caucasian. He lost to an unanimous vote of no.
By the 1940s, this distrust of the ‘yellow peril” culminated in the establishment of Japanese internment camps (Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 where 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants were rounded up and fenced off from the rest of America).
The second case was “United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind” in the same year as the Ozawa ruling.
He too argued that he was Caucasian, but the Supreme Court called his claims “scientific manipulation”.
It was as personal defeat, but also impacted previously naturalized Asian Indians who were now subjected to the California Alien Land Laws.
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Immigration laws continue to inform today (continued)
While it targeted the Japanese, it also affected other persons of Asian heritage.
California Alien Land Law (1920)
Reaffirmed the 1913 law and ‘patched up’ some of the loopholes in the original bill.
Among the loopholes: land leasing no longer allowed and the owning stock in agricultural companies banned.
In both 1923 (by the United States Supreme Court) and again in 1946 (the California Supreme Court) these laws were upheld.
In 1952 there were struck down by the California Supreme Court.
The Asiatic Barred Zone Act, also known as the Immigration Act of 1917, prevented immigration from British-led colonies to the U.S.
Most Indian Asians left the country.
By 1940 only 2,405 persons remained (about ½ the original population).
Korematsu v. United States (1944) challenged the internment of Japanese citizens; he lost.
The policies of exclusion continued until 1954.
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Separate but equal is challenged in court
Plessy v. Ferguson 1896 established the concept that ethnic groups could be separate but equal.
This Supreme Court decision supported state rights to create/implement racial segregation laws.
The argument against the segregation laws was that they violated the 14th Amendment which included provisions for expanded citizenship rights, due process that protects citizen rights to life, liberty, and property and the equal protections clause that requires the states to equally protect all citizens.
It was the equal protections clause that has been the basis of many anti-segregation lawsuits, including Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka).
A series of acts gives African Americans more equality.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 gives the right of citizenship, but not the right to vote.
The 14th Amendment we discuss above.
But it is the 15th Amendment that gives the right to vote to African American men.
The Civil Rights Act of 1875 allows African Americans equal rights in pubic places and allows them to serve on juries (all lost with Plessy v. Ferguson 1896).
It is the Jim Crow laws that have the strongest impact on African Americans between the 1880s-1960s (see table on bottom of p. 70, top of p. 71).
Starting after the Civil War, a series of Black Codes were introduced at the state and local levels to curtail the social and political power of the newly freed slaves.
These formed the basis of the Jim Crow laws.
The term “Jim Crow” is based on a stage play from 1828, one in which black men are stereotyped.
The play was among the first in which ‘black face” was incorporated, where whites would paint their faces with burnt cork to mimic blacks in minstrel shows.
Click on this link to learn more about these stereotypes in American history.
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Highlight only a few of the timeline entries (continued)
New government programs have exclusions.
The Social Security Act of 1935 created a financial buffer for the elderly, the disabled and survivors of a spouse/parent death. It excluded agricultural workers and domestics (who were primarily not white).
G.I. Bill of Rights (1944) establishes for veterans monies to buy houses, start business, and to go to college. Many minorities find it hard to access these resources, even though not legally excluded.
Learning Jim Crow (Jonathan Odell)
Odell tells the story of his childhood where he learned to live segregation.
He also reveals when he realized that the Civil Rights movement not just a story of black America, it applies to him also.
Colorblindness (Ian F. Haney López)
López examines the 14th Amendment and how it is interpreted as it relates to race; he concludes that the equal protections clause disfavors any governmental use of race (aka, colorblindness).
He states that there is a difference between colorblindness as an idea and as a current practice.
From emancipatory to reactionary
López argues that during the 20th century that colorblindness shifted from emancipatory to reactionary and uses Thurgood Marshall as his example.
Marshall tried to use the concept of colorblindness to end subjugation, but López suggests Marshall understood that racial distinctions were a precursor for racial subordination.
By the mind-1960s, as colorblindness stance failed to remedy the issues, civil rights lawyers shifted to a race-consciousness stance in a new effort to change race relations.
Ironically, it was the opponents of integration who became the new champions of colorblindness.
Colorblindness construct was now being used to deny race-conscious integration (it became part of the reactionary views of race relations).
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Colorblindness (Ian F. Haney López)
Colorblindness and courts in a democratic system
In the 1990s the make-up of the US Supreme Court shifted to more conservative stance on race issues.
Essentially, cases that attempted to introduce race-conscious remedies were mostly negated. Colorblind logic was the basis of their decisions.
Colorblindness policies are well recognized as anti-affirmative action, but another effect is to define what is NOT racism by the very act of defining racism.
Any government action not EXPRESSLY based on race is not racism.
This denies the effects of institutional racism.
The reality of institutional racism is that individuals may not be acting in a racist manner, but the social institution itself is based on racist policies/history.
The case of McClesky v. Kemp where it was shown that in Georgia 22 times the number of blacks were executed as compared to whites.
The cultural politics of colorblindness
Colorblindness is not a core value in the United States.
It is primarily expressed in the context of skin color: “everyone is the same under the skin”.
While this is a noble attempt to recognize our shared humanity it is also harmful.
First it fails to acknowledge the racism remain part of our society. Second, it is a latent expression of the idea that differences are somehow bad. It negates embracing diversity.