Essay On African Americans
Is there something more shameful and immoral than racial discrimination? How does it influence our life and activity? It does not worth mentioning that all people are different. They differ according to their appearance and worldview. Everyone has his own opinion about the material and spiritual values. Finally, everyone has his personal point of view about the people whose appearance is different. On the one hand, people have always treated the representatives of a different ethnicity with apprehension. They have always felt better in the mono-ethnic environment and looked at the strangers from different parts of the world suspiciously. On the other hand, today we live in the completely different world. Its rules and standards are different. We call it the age of globalization. Modern civilization is multicultural and there is hardly a country in the world, which has preserved its mono-ethnic background. The representatives of different cultures and ethnicities work together for their common goals. Consequently, it is hard to understand why racial discrimination still exists. This problem is very urgent and controversial. I will try to analyze its elements in brief.
Everybody knows about the roots of racial discrimination in the USA. When the first European colonists came to America, they wanted to develop these new territories for their own profit. They decided to choose the worst way of making money.
They introduced slavery in America and used free labor of the slaves transported from Africa. With the run of time, slavery disappeared but racial discrimination remained in the mind of the society. The white population of the country required more than a century to understand the idea of equality and tolerance. As a result, it is possible to say that the discrimination of African Americans is more or less defeated. They have the same rights, freedoms, duties and privileges. They are able to receive education, work and develop their personality in the way they want.
Unfortunately, there are still many cases of black discrimination in the USA. To begin with, African Americans and Latinos are arrested more frequently than white people are. Moreover, such people are the targets of police brutality. Very often, police officers apply their excessive force during law enforcement activities against non-white people. There is a stereotype that the majority of African Americans and Latinos are involved into various street gangs and drug trafficking. No wonder, when a non-white person is captured by the police, he/she is treated like a drug dealer. Moreover, non-white people are at the huge risk of being stopped by the police in the street. Finally, African Americans and Latinos are luckier to receive life sentence for the same crimes committed by the whites. In addition, it is possible to speak about segregation. Many effective schools, perspective jobs and ‘safe’ streets are located in the neighborhoods where primarily white people live. As a result, non-white neighborhoods are the centers of unemployment and poor-quality education. Children are brought up in the street and they are often involved into various criminal street gangs. Doubtless, they do not see anything positive in the surrounding areas; therefore, they do not receive motivation for education and self-development. Very few non-black people manage to reach their goal if they come from such neighborhoods.
Nearly everybody knows about black discrimination but very few people speak about the problem of white discrimination.
This type of racial discrimination exists in the areas where white population is minor. Naturally, such people have troubles at school and at their workplace. White children suffer from physical and psychological abuse applied by their non-white mates.
In non-white neighborhoods and countries, it is often unsafe for whites to appear in the street at night. In my opinion, this problem exists everywhere. The definite areas of the USA, the UK, France and Germany suffer from white discrimination and abuse from the side of the non-white population.
The problem of racial discrimination is extremely relevant nowadays. Both white and non-white people have not learnt to treat one another in the proper way. If we want to live in the peaceful and flourishing society, we should learn to respect and support one another in spite of the color of skin, gender or religious views.
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Initially, it’s a jolt to see the names of two old sparring partners together on the same book cover. Guest editor of the first of an annual series of Best African American Essays: 2009, Debra Dickerson is best known for having written the conservative-leaning, black bootstrap-line manifesto, “The End of Blackness.”
The culture critic – and the series editor – Gerald Early resoundingly panned her book in 2004. But here the two are working together. It’s a healthy sign of eclecticism when the two primary forces behind a project can put aside past feuds and, for the sake of a well-rounded collection, agree to disagree.
Early and Dickerson both provide introductory essays to this wide-ranging and thoughtful compendium. They don’t waste space airing their differences – and the beauty of this collection is that they don’t need to.
Instead of cat fighting, Early and Dickerson ponder some of the larger questions surrounding this project.
Who speaks for black America?
Should this be an annual collection of nonfiction exclusively by black writers, or a collection of essays on social issues involving the black American population? And how relevant is a collection of essays that isolates black America – especially at a time when the president of the United States is a biracial man sworn to fairly govern us all?
For Early, the answers lie in appreciating the diversity of opinion that has always characterized dialogue within black communities, even during segregation.
“I cannot remember a time when black folk did not fuss, cuss, quarrel, and remonstrate with one another (and with whites) about their condition, about the world, about why we are here and about what it all means,” he writes.
He also briefly addresses the question, “What is an African American?”
The annual series will use a broad definition, he decides, guided by his personal acknowledgement that, “I have learned over the years as much about African American life from non-African Americans writers as I have from African Americans.”
Dickerson’s case for the necessity of this anthology emphasizes the unique perspectives of minority members living in a country where the majority have historically ruled.“We at the margins hunger for glimpses of ourselves in the cultural viewfinder,” she writes, “for proof we leave footprints in the earth, footprints that will stay visible in the millennia to come.”
In keeping with her belief that the literary essay is, at its best, a personal medium, Dickerson stayed away from essays heavy on polemics. You will not find in this collection the kind of statistically driven dissertations which reduce African-Americans to a sociological problem.
Instead, she writes, “Blacks are human; and all humans are narcissists, enamored of their own existence and frustrated as hell not to be acknowledged as the fascinating creatures we most definitely are.”
From there, the essays take off in a series of fascinating directions. James McBride discusses his problematic relationship with hip-hop culture even as Orlando Patterson decries the injustice of the Jena Six and the incarceration of large swaths of the black male population. Malcolm Gladwell makes a strong case that there is a cultural bias in IQ exams while Kwame
Anthony Appiah suggests that in Africa and the United States the scars of slavery have been passed down from generation to generation.
At the same time, John McWhorter exhorts black Americans to remember their enormous debt to America’s great experiment in democracy, even as Jamaica Kincaid, undistracted by the world of politics and public affairs, tends to her flowers.
(One absence that must, however, be noted: There is no piece by any black American humorist.)
But by the time you finish reading “The Best African American Essays: 2009,” you’ll come to see that a collection this strong and diverse has no need to justify its definition of blackness.
The question is the essence of the book.
Taken together, these essays demonstrate that the issues of black Americans – regardless of the stance that readers may take on them – speak in fascinating terms to a broad readership. The many arguments over black incarceration and unemployment, Afrocentrism vs. American identity, systemic racism vs. personal responsibility – to name a few – are all here.
A new figurehead in Obama
It would, of course, be impossible to talk about this book without mentioning another name: Barack Obama.
If this book had been published five years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X would have still been its symbolic figureheads, and their lives and legacies would be the focus of heated debate and reinterpretation.
But today, it’s Barack Obama who is the subject of two essays and the author of another excerpted from a campaign speech.
African-Americans are not one; they are many. But of the many, it’s Barack Obama whose life – including his rise from fairly humble beginnings to the highest office in the country and his eloquent commentary on identity issues – must encapsulate both the contradictions that vex and the dreams that inspire the African-Americans of 2009.
Darryl Wellington is a poet and freelance writer living in Charleston, S.C.