Racism and discrimination against black

Racism and discrimination against blacks

I took my information from:
    "Martin Luther King - The Peaceful Warrior" (Ed Clayton) "Why We Can’t Wait" (M.L.K.) "Black Like Me" (John Howard Griffin) "To Kill a Mockingbird" (Nelle Harper Lee) "The Fire Next Time" (James Baldwin) "Microsoft Encarta 99 Enzyklop├Ądie" Internet

History of discrimination against blacks:

In their motherland Africa black people lived together in tribes with the families staying together in the village and leading a life according to strong morals. Each tribe had developed a culture and often an own language, and the people either prayed to their own. But in the eyes of most Europeans, all Africans were ignorant, pagan savages who needed to be introduced to Christianity and Western civilization. And when America was discovered in 1492, Europeans soon realized that Africans were more able to work in the hot sun than the native Americans (because of the color of their skin and because of their natural build). So Africans were brought to the new world and the slave - trade quickly became one of the most flourishing businesses. Only about 7 000 000 Africans survived the slave - trade, which was financed by European males, while more than 50 % of the kidnapped Africans died during the journey. For instance in 1592 the slave - trader Gomez Royal imported 38 250 slaves, every 5thhad to die in the course of the journey to the US. Africans were kidnapped, treated like animals, and brought in chains to the "promised land", which offered the formerly free human beings a life in slavery and fear. In the US, blacks were a minority, making 10 to 20 % of the population. Because of the inhuman circumstances some revolts took place: In 1633 a revolt in Virginia failed, in 1822 Denmark Vesev, an ex - slave, leads thousands of slaves in a revolt in Virginia and later get hanged, and in 1839 Africans mutiny on the slave - ship "Amistad".
While whites could look back in history and be proud of themselves, their country, and their achievements, the identity of the African - Americans was denied; they were forbidden to practice their culture, language, religion or even music in order to prevent a revolution. Instead, whites called Africa a jungle full of ignorant savages, living together in uncivilized tribes. Black slaves had to deny their Gods and take on a white religion, praying to a white God, and being supposed to live according to the Bible. The slavemasters didn't regard their slaves as human - beings, so slaves weren't supposed to have an own will, needs or feelings. The constitutions which promised that "all men are created equal" was only made for whites: the first article called slaves three - fifth of a person, and the Dred Scott Decision of 1857 finally confirmed that slaves were no citizens, but objects.
In this period of time the so - called "Underground Railroad" was founded. It was a secret organization for helping slaves to escape to the Northern States or Canada. From 1830 to 1860 about 50 000 slaves were able to escape to freedom by making use of the "Underground Railroad". The "passengers" were black slaves, who traveled only at night and used the North Star to guide them. During the day they could sleep at the homes of blacks or whites who were against slavery. Those who guided the "passengers" were called "conductors", the most famous one was Harriet Tubman, who was never caught by the police although slave - holders offered a reward of 40 000$ for information that would help them to capture her.
After the Civil War and the Emancipation Declaration which abolished slavery, everything at first seemed to change. But the so - called Reconstruction period failed: although blacks were now called "citizens", they still had no civil rights. Many whites from the South saw themselves suddenly being poor after the end of slavery and the lost war. They now had to cope with poverty and. It was hard to believe that ex - slaves now should be citizens and therefore equal to the former slave masters. Hate developed, because whites wanted to keep their supremacy, and so blacks became the scapegoats for the misery of the whites. The "Ku Klux Klan", the "White Citizens Council" and many other racist organizations were founded to keep the black man "in his place" using threats, burnings and lynchings to reach this aim.
But there were also new laws made in the South - the Black Codes were introduced, which limited the movement and rights of the freedmen and tried to establish the old master - and slave relationship. To keep blacks from registering to vote, poll taxes were raised, comprehension tests were held and the grandfather - clause was put into practice. The "Separate but equal" decision of 1896 confirmed the segregation in the South and soon everything was being segregated - the churches, schools, even the toilets.
At the start of the twentieth century public discrimination was still supported by law in the South, and the situation was worse than ever. The "Ku Klux Klan" still existed and did everything to make sure that blacks kept their inferior social status and place in society. Only a few African - Americans were able to form a middle - class, but most continued to live in poverty and found the only place to forget their troubles in the church (M. L. King was a priest like the father of Malcolm X was, and also James Baldwin talks about his relationship to the church, which was the only help and guide for him), which gave them hope and helped them to cope with the racist society. Many tried to escape the segregation in the South by migrating to the Northern urban areas, from 1910 to 1930 1 500 000 blacks moved to the North, especially to Detroit, Chicago and New York. Life - mostly in the ghettos of the big industrialized cities - was characterized by social discrimination segregation again. The only institution where African - Americans could develop some power were mostly religious organizations. Many of these were founded in the 1920s and 1930s, like the "Nation of Islam", or Marcus Garvey's "UNIA" ("United Negro Improvement Association"). These organizations refused everything which had to do with "white society", and therefore often rejected Christianity.
Great efforts were made by African - Americans to improve their situation in America, and many protest - marches (e.g. the March on Washington), boycotts (like the bus - boycott after the Rosa Parks - case) and parades were organized by the "NAACP" ("National Organization for the Advancement of Colored People"), "CORE" ("Congress of Racial Equality")and other organizations.
As concerns the fight of Blacks for equality of right, a human life and against discrimination there are three important persons who try to reach their aim with the help of different tactics: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the so - called "Black Muslims". Within the next paragraphs I’ll try to present these key - figures.

Elijah Muhammad and the "Black Muslims":

In 1933 Elijah Muhammad founded the "Black Muslim", a very conservative, Islamic and Afro - American organization which is also called "American Muslim Mission" or "Lost - Found Nation of Islam in North - America"; the members of the "Black Muslim" are called "Bilalilas". Considering the fact that I read "The Fire Next Time", a book written by James Baldwin, it has to be said that the author writes about his confrontation and discussions with Muhammad and his (rather critical) attitude towards his organization.
In the sixties Malcolm X, the former press - speaker of Muhammad, was the most famous member of this organization, but later left it because of various disagreements. After the death of E. Muhammad, Wallace D. Muhammad, his son, became leader of the "Black Muslims": under his guide this group became less extreme, even white men could join it.
Nowadays the "Black Muslims" posses a popular magazine called "Muslim World News) and schools in over 45 different cities; it has about 100 000 members.

Martin - Luther King Jr.:

Martin Luther King Senior was born in 1899 in Atlanta, Georgia. At the age of 6 he was witness to a confrontation between blacks and whites, 10 people were killed. King Sen., who later became a Baptist priest, grew up in a big, poor family, his mother was beaten by her husband and his father even once tried to shoot him. In 1924 his mother died, two years later he married Alberta Williams, called "Bunch", in 1927 their first child, Christine, was born. In 1929 Martin Luther King Jr. saw the light of day; first he was mistaken for a stillbirth, but the doctors could save his life. King’s last sibling, Alfred Daniel, was born in 1930 and was mysteriously drowned in his own swimming - pool in 1969.
King Jr. himself was an intelligent, calm and sensible guy who, after the death of his beloved grandmother, jumped out of a window in order to commit suicide. As an adolescent he was interested in religion and freedom, he was fascinated by Mahatma Gandhi and his peaceful fight against psychical force. As an adult he worked at a Baptist church like his father did and he obtained over 300 doctor’s titles, Diplomas and awards.
The first protest organized by King Jr. took place in 1955: A black woman called Rosa Parks got on a bus in the segregated southern city of Montgomery. According to the instructions she sat down at the very back of the bus but later refused to stand up when white people and the bus driver ordered her to give up her seat. Mrs. Parks was arrested and was sentenced to a fine of 10 dollars and the payment of legal costs. King and some of his friends of the so - called "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" (NAACP) organized the notorious bus - boycott. Martin Luther King became more and more famous, thousands of people listened to his speeches, Switzerland, Japan and parts of the USA supported his actions - and they had the desired effect: The Montgomery bus - company suffered losses of 65 percent and had to yield to his demands.
King’s popularity increased, he was invited to hold speeches in Ghana, Geneva, Paris and London and to an audience with the Pope; he rose to the position of a comic - hero, in 1957 he held 208 speeches, traveled 780 000 miles and organized a protest against President Eisenhower, 37 000 people joined the demonstration.
After another assassination attempt he started so - called "sit - ins": Black people just sat down in restaurants where segregation still existed, sang songs like "we shall overcome" and demonstrated peacefully. Once 80 demonstrating people were arrested, another time King himself was sentenced to forced labor in a prison called "Reidsville", which was called a stronghold of the Ku - Klux - Klan. The former presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, a fighter for the equality of rights for blacks and whites, spoke up for the black "criminal" with success and won the elections a few weeks later with a lead of 100 000 votes - 85 percent of black men voted for him.
In a protest on the third of march in 1963 King made use of the unintended help of the former president of the FBI, "Bull" Connor, who gave order to put water cannons into action - a cruel action which was even shown on TV - and who also gave order to arrest 959 children. A storm of indignation broke out, Connor was deposed by the Supreme Court.
Martin Luther King jr. started his most famous and biggest protest on the 28thAugust in 1963: The "March on Washington". Over 250 000 people peacefully walked from the Washington - to the Lincoln - monument, King held his deeply moving speech "I had a dream".
On the 22ndNovember in 1963 John F. Kennedy, who always spoke up for the equality of rights, was killed in Dallas, but his death wasn’t that surprising: He engaged himself too much for social justice.
In 1964 the magazine "Time" honored King with the title "man of the year", had another conversation with the pope, he got the Nobel price for peace, but he also got criticized by J. Edgar Hoover and threatened by the FBI. The next year King organized a last big demonstration, 50 000 people, among them Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis Jun., joined his protest.
Memphis, fourth April 1968: Martin Luther King Jr. gets shot on the porch of a cheap hotel, where he wanted to organize another demonstration. King dies a little later hospital. Famous people offer their condolences in public, e.g. President Johnson, Harry Belafonte and Edward Kennedy; In 130 American cities mass - riots take place, 39 people get killed and 150 000 people come to pay their last respects. King’s murderer, James Earl Ray, was sentenced to life imprisonment and died one year ago, only some weeks before his retrial.
King’s birthday was declared to be a national holiday in the USA and is celebrated on the third Monday of January.
King Jr. wrote various books, the most famous (and the one I read) is called "Why We Can’t Wait". In this book Martin Luther King junior doesn’t only write down a kind of autobiography or an accumulation of facts or historical occurrences, but he also tries to interpret the events he talks about. "Why We Can’t Wait" neither is a normal autobiography nor just a philosophic or psychic study about racism and the reasons why people hate, torture or even kill members of the other race, but rather a combination of these possibilities.

Malcolm X:

James Earl Little was born in 1925 in Omaha and later worked as a Baptist minister, who lived in Nebraska with his second wife, M. Louise Little, and his children and who headed the Omaha branch of Marcus Garvey's UNIA. Her fourth and Earl's seventh child, Malcolm, was born in May 1925. Malcolm's childhood was characterized by the teachings of his father, who stressed black nationalism and black pride at the UNIA meetings, but also by the violence committed against the black minority. Earl Little, who was able to build up his own house and an own business, often had trouble with the Ku Klux Klan, who burned down his house in 1929. When Malcolm was six years old, his father was murdered by the Black Legion, a group of white racists belonging to the KKK. Louise Little was sent to a mental institution in 1937, and the children were given to several families.
After a visit at the home of his half - sister Ella in Roxbury, where he found himself being a member of a mass of black people for the first time in his life, he had difficulties to accept his own situation. He was a teenager without parental support and role - models, living in a detention home run by whites and attending a white school, where no one showed respect for his humanity. He realized that identity was the key problem of blacks - he was not white, but isolated from the black masses. The encounter with his English teacher, marked a turning point in Malcolm's life. The white teacher told Malcolm to become a carpenter instead of a lawyer, because, the teacher said, he had to be "realistic about being a nigger." Malcolm was totally disillusioned and dropped out of school after finishing the eighth grade, and went to Boston to live with his sister. There he could identify with the black masses and was soon fully accepted in the black underclass.
His first girlfriend was a black girl from the Boston middle - class, but he left her soon when he met a white woman, whom he called Sophia.. He began to do bad - paid jobs, learned how to survive in the ghetto, so he continued selling reefers and became himself a hustler. Malcolm's nickname on the streets was "Detroit Red", because of his reddish hair and his light complexion. When he got into trouble with some hustlers, he went back to Boston, where he organized a burglary ring and finally was caught and convicted. Although he was a first offender, Malcolm was sentenced to ten years in prison and was sent down in1946. Life on the streets had made him an atheist and so his fellow inmates soon started calling him "Satan". But while in prison his brothers introduced him to a quasi - religious, black nationalist organization called "The Lost - found Nation of Islam in the Wilderness of North - America", which later became known as the "Black Muslims". After the imprisonment Malcolm Little joined the "Black Muslims" and called himself Malcolm X (X should be a symbol for the unknown name of his African ancestors), but in 1963 he was criticized by the "Black Muslims" because of his very own attitude towards the murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In the course of the next year Malcolm X found a black, nationalistic group called "Organization of Afro - American Unity" (OAAU). After a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964 and some journeys to Africa and Europe he changed his radical attitude toward whites and also his name: now he wanted to be called El - Hajj Malik El - Shabazz.
Malcolm X was murdered in February of 1965 while having a talk in front of the OAAU; it’s not for granted that his murderers really have been the three members of a the "Black Muslims" which where arrested some time later (they were sentenced to life imprisonment), or if the FBI managed to kill the "shining black prince".

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

...are two of the most charismatic, famous and extreme fighters for peace and the rights of blacks, and nevertheless they are quite different as regards their world - view and their political and religious opinions. Although many whites often say that they were "like oil and water", they had the same goal: They wanted to end exploitation, discrimination and racism. Both had been deeply influenced by their fathers, especially by their religion and attitude towards whites. Malcolm emerged from the black underclass in the northern ghettos to a spokesman for the poor blacks, following the teachings of Islam and holding on to black nationalism.
Martin Luther King Jr., who had been raised in a middle - class family of the South, had gone to college, and became active in the civil rights movement like his father. As a Baptist minister, his major emphasis was on love and non - violence. To gain full rights, he advocated non - violent direct action and was an upholder of passive resistance, but not of self - defense like Malcolm.
Both were ministers, who held on to the Bible, and both had experienced a transforming personal vision of God, when they found themselves at a point, where they had to decide which way they should take for the future. For Malcolm, this happened in his prison cell, and Martin had his vision in a night of total despair shortly after the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott. Malcolm never stopped criticizing Christianity and calling it a "master of suspicion" for not practicing what it thought and preached. Although King Jr. was a Baptist minister, he wasn't afraid of heavy critique and named racism the chief moral dilemma of American Christianity.
Malcolm X didn't only criticize the black man’s dependency on whites, but also the wish to integrate into the mainstream of American society. He wanted blacks to love themselves, so that they could unite and control their own communities. He knew that if they weren't able to change the minds of white people, they had to change their own minds first and stop diminishing themselves. In the last years of his life, King Jr. agreed with Malcolm X on this point. He also regarded temporary separation as the road to his ultimate goal of integration. Both underwent a continuous progress of changes, and were able of self - criticism and humility. They met only once, at the US Senate's debate of the Civil Rights Bill in March 1964, but towards the end of their lives they moved closer together. Martin Luther King had always avoided to appear in a radio or TV show with Malcolm X, because he had feared his debating skills. But Malcolm X often had invited King Jr. to speak at meetings, and he also was the one to ask for a meeting with him. Unfortunately, he was assassinated on the Sunday before the scheduled meeting on Tuesday. King Jr. and Malcolm X fought against second - class citizenship.
Both traveled through Europe and Africa, establishing important links between the African people and the African - Americans. While Martin Luther King Jr. was more liked in Europe because of his moderation, Malcolm was famous in Africa, where many nations reached their independence through bloody revolutions and saw in Malcolm an American revolutionary. And this was exactly the reason why Europe was scared of Malcolm. So when he came to France in 1965, he wasn't allowed entry. The attitude of the European countries toward King Jr. also changed when he started criticizing poverty and the activities of the US in Vietnam.
Towards the end of their life, both found themselves deserted by many followers - Malcolm, because he became too moderate and not active enough, Martin, because he became too radical. Both became opposed to the capitalist system of the US and therefore were put under close surveillance by the FBI.
Today African - Americans regard both, King and Malcolm X, as martyrs who died for their people in the fight for equality, a fight that hasn't stopped until this day. Martin has often been called a "Dreamer" and Ossie Davis named Malcolm a "shining black prince". Although they never joined together to fight for the rights of the non - white and the poor people, they achieved a lot, and especially became role - models for the African - American youth.

Anyway, in the long and difficult fight between blacks and whites there haven’t only been persons like King Jr., Malcolm X or Elijah Muhammad who spoke out and fought for their rights, but of course also persons who and organizations which sometimes spoke out, but mostly fought against blacks and the black movement. Apart from - according to Cornel West, who is a black Professor of Religion, Director of Afro - American Studies at Princeton University, Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Harvard University and the author of various books like "Race Matters" or "Keeping Faith" - mostly conservative politics like Ronald Reagan, who didn’t totally support equality of rights for blacks, there has been and still exists one notorious group which fights against blacks with all its might: The

Ku - Klux - Klan:

The "Ku - Klux - Klan" is a racist organization which was founded in the time of the "Civil War" and the "Reconstruction" - the first Klan was founded in Tennessee in 1865. The name comes from the Greek word "kyklos" and means "circle". The members of the Klan, who traditionally wear white robes, shirts and pointed hoods, think that blacks are subservient to whites and therefor don’t have the right to vote, to get in contact with white women - to live in America. In order to reach their extreme aims they burn crosses in front of white men’s houses, terrorize blacks, beat them up, whip or even kill them.
The structure of the "Ku - Klux - Klan is a hierarchic one: The Klan, which is called "Invisible Empire" is lead by the "Grand Wizard of the Empire". The ladder can make use of the help of ten "Genii" and some other persons like "the Grand Dragon of the Realm" or "the Grand Titan of the Dominion".
The Klan was broken up for the first time in 1869; the former "Grand Wizard", General Nathan B. Forrest lost control over the different local parts ("Klaverns"). In 1871 President Grant asked the members of the Klan to give up their illegal fight against blacks, hundreds of members were arrested. In 1915 a new sub - organization called "Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku - Klux - Klan" was founded by Williams Simmons. This group, which had three million members in 1924, didn’t only attack blacks, but also the Catholic church and partly was in contact with National Socialist groups of the Hitler - Regime. In 1944 this organization was broken up because of enormous debts.
Nevertheless the Klan still exists: In 1965 the "Ku - Klux - Klan" had 40 000 members, in the 70ies about 5000; In 1989 a former "Grand Wizard", David Duke, was voted as a member of the House of Representatives. Since 1995 the Klan fights against the black church, in 1996 160 arson - attacks against churches took place.


Today, nearly 30 years after the end of the Civil Rights Movement, some things have changed. A strong black middle - class has emerged, and some African - Americans have been able to get into leading positions in economics or politics. In several big cities with a majority of black citizens, black mayors are in office. Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X have become American heroes - King is a national hero who has an own holiday, and Malcolm is a hero of the non - white people, but especially of the African - Americans, whose search for an own identity is still their key problem. So both have become role models for the American youth. America's young people grow up under circumstances which offer them a chance to accomplish what they want - if they have enough money.
Today not only African - Americans, but also many immigrants from Latin or South America live in poverty, and the underclass continues to grow. The situation in the ghettos is worse than 30 years ago: Overcrowded apartments, a lack of recreational facilities and the decay of the school system lead to an increasing rate of high school drop - outs, unemployment, drug - abuse, welfare dependency and finally to frustration, alienation and a sense of hopelessness and pessimism. Children who live in these circumstances are underprivileged by birth. Growing up in these neighborhoods leads thousands of black males to juvenile delinquency and joining street - gangs which promise them a kind of brotherhood and a lot of money through dealing with drugs.
Today there are more blacks in prison than in college, and homicide is the leading cause of death for African - American males between the ages of 15 and 34. The people in the ghettos think they have nothing to lose and therefore live only for the moment, but not for their future. They try to escape their daily nightmare either through becoming very - even radically - religious and joining a church, through drug - abuse or leading a "fast life", which is responsible for the increasing number of illegitimate births especially among teenagers and for the high percentage of AIDS cases. America's poor have lost their faith in the government and especially in the police, whose growing brutality has set off a wave of riots in the inner cities in the past few years.
Although organizations like the "NAACP", the "SCLC" or the "NOI" still exist and are very influential, most people who are poor and live in the ghetto don't become active and join them. They don't see the necessity for community control and still believe in the "American dream" which they daily get presented on TV. But there are people who dare criticizing their own people and the government. They compare the ghettos to modern - day colonies and charge the US government for committing cultural genocide against the African - American people and charge African - Americans for committing genocide against themselves by remaining inactive.
In 1989 one percent of the population owned 37 percent of the wealth, and nowadays one out of five black children in the USA lives in poverty. To stop America's social crisis, the underclass - people have to do something for themselves. But only the American society can abolish de - facto - segregation which still exists today by changing its moral values and behavior towards minorities. And of course the US government has to change its politics, because massive political, social and economic support is needed more than ever. We can start today by changing ourselves - our behavior and our attitude towards others - to prevent further crisis and violence.

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