How did racism overtake the United States of America? Essay
How did racism overtake the United States of America?, 497 words essay example
Jim Crow Laws Era
Although it is evident that racism is still prevalent in the United States of America, it was much more obvious when the Jim Crow laws were being enforced. During this one hundred year time period, harsh laws demanded the segregation of African-American people from white people.
So, how did racism overtake the United States of America on such a large scale that the white citizens felt the need to enact laws of segregation? To best answer this question, I would first like to answer what racism actually is. According to the Oxford Dictionary racism can be defined as "prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior." Racial tensions predate modern history books, so it is safe to assume that racism has been an anticipated response for centuries. The white people of the United States in 1810, according to Emmet Till, thought of African-Americans as "slaves, workers, and animals."
According to Ronald Davis, during this time period, some whites tried to use segregation to demoralize blacks. This was made evident with signs comparing African-American people with dogs. One sign posted at the entrance of a public park read "Negroes and Dogs Not Allowed." This sign is just one of many ways white people used segregation to mistreat black people.
Another large scale demoralizing act that many white people participated in during this time period was lynching. Lynching was a killing for an alleged offense with or without legal trial. According to Lynching and the Law, from 1882-1968, 4743 recorded lynchings occurred in the United States-72.7% of which were African-American people. One example of a lynching is Luther Holbert and his wife (1904). Luther Holbert was accused of murder. He heard of the accusation and knowing a mob was soon to come, he tried to run away with his wife. He and his wife were caught and tied to a tree. Both he and his wife were punished by having each of their fingers and ears chopped off and given to the cheering crowd of approximately six hundred as souvenirs. The mob then beat Holbert so badly that his skull was fractured and one of his eyes was hanging out of his socket. As if that was not bad enough they then jabbed a corkscrew into Holbert and his wife. After being tortured they were then set on fire while still alive to be burned to death. Although many of these lynchings occurred without formal court hearings, many racial disputes were attempted to be settled in court.
With the recent segregation laws being enacted, court cases were inevitable. One well known case that emerged during this time period was Plessy vs. Ferguson. In the court case, Plessy went against the laws segregating railroad passengers by race. Plessy lost after the Supreme Court ruled the railroad's facilities which were being used by the blacks were equal to the ones used by whites-i.e., separate but equal rights.