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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

Racism: The Inheritance of Slavery

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

The most powerful and richest country on the planet is still arguably the poorest in moral values and social and racial equality. It is suffering a shock to its democratic system. The days when black people in the southern states of America had to use special seats in the back of buses, go to separate drinking fountains and restaurants, their children forced to go to separate schools and churches and live lives segregated from white people, may be over. That great civil rights movement and the march on Washington led by Martin Luther King in August 1963 did not end racism in America. The attitudes still persist and maybe worse than ever. President Joe Biden has a mighty challenge ahead of him.

Racism has many facets and causes much hurt, suffering, anger and hatred and social unrest. It is when one group discriminates, oppresses and dominates another because of the color of their skin- be it black, brown or olive- or their facial features. In America, those that discriminate and reject people of color as having equal rights are known as white supremacists. At the behest of President Trump, their champion, they invaded and briefly took over the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. They are not a minority in America and consider themselves racially superior to black or brown-skinned people. Racism is exclusion, it exists in the minds and hearts, beliefs and attitudes of a single dominating group that treats the other group as inferior, even less than fully human, because they are of different skin color. Racism perpetuates itself everywhere when social and economic and cultural equality is absent. Racism and discrimination oppress another segment of society because of their economic weakness, poverty, lack of opportunity and skin color. The dominant group considers the other as an inferior race and denies them opportunity of equality and education to rise out of poverty. It is a vicious circle of the oppressed. Institutional racism denies almost all opportunities to the people of different skin color and they will always remain poor and disadvantaged and blamed because they are considered racially inferior.

When the Black American community did prosper and proved them wrong, they were annihilated by the white supremacist groups. Asuch is what happened in the thriving, prosperous black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, whose members were well off and owned property, banks and businesses and had a superior school system for higher education. Some rich families owned their own airplanes. In 1921, racial violence broke out. The community was attacked by jealous white supremacists. They bombed 35 city blocks, killed 300 black people, seriously injured 800 and 900 were made homeless and the white supremacists looted and burnt everything to the ground.

The dominant racist group need not be in the majority as was the case in apartheid South Africa where a small minority of white people of European descent ruled the nation and segregated the Black majority. This was reversed by the anti-apartheid movement led by Nelson Mandela with the help of the international community that imposed sanctions.

In the Philippines, the indigenous people of different ethnic heritage and darker skin color, such as the Aeta or Manobo people, suffer racial discrimination and racial slurs and bullying. the Manobo people. Most of them remain in poverty. In Myanmar, the ethnic group of Rohyngya has been so discriminated against that accusations of genocide are leveled against the Myanmar ruling class who forced them to flee their villages to Bangladesh where they make up the largest single refugee camp in the world.

European conquering nations colonialized the people of the world and robbed their wealth while millions of natives died and more were enslaved and impoverished as many of the native Americans today. Slavery became the basis of the colonialist’s economic prosperity. The American native population were corralled into reservations. The colonialists imported captured people from Africa to North and South America. In a period of 300 years, 13 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in slave ships built to purpose. The black descendents of these slaves are the victims of institutional racism. It is this culture of exclusion, discrimination and racial bias that is the open wound in America today. While many white people support the rights and dignity of African-American people, many do not.

Nowhere else is the racial inequality more apparent than in the relations of the black community with law enforcement. Poverty, inequality and non-education of many Black youth that suffer broken homes and dysfunctional families drive the youth to join the drug culture. This is a source of income and escapism from the frustration, pain and hopelessness of high unemployment and uselessness of life. US law enforcement is predominantly white, male and a culture of racism prevails. Last July 2020, a research paper published in the proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences found that one Black boy or man in every thousand are likely to be killed by police sometime in their lifetime and that Black males are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of police shootings than white males. It found that the leading cause of death among young Black men is violence by police. Here are some shocking statistics from the survey.

1 in 11 Black adults are currently under correctional control (in prison or on parole/probation)

1 in 230 Black youth are detained in juvenile facilities

1 in 3 Black families have zero or negative wealth

1 in 2.5 Black adults were unemployed or temporarily furloughed on April 2020

1 in 2.5 Black women will die within five years of diagnosis of endometrial cancer

1 in 1,350 Black Americans have died of COVID-19

1 in 13 Black Americans of voting age are disenfranchised

8 in 10 Black adults with at least some college experience report having experienced racial discrimination.

It is this and much more with the killing of many Black people by police that the Black Lives Matter movement that has grown and spread around the world. We can only hope that President Joe Biden will do all he can to bring justice and equality to the lives of the 414 million African American community.


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