Thursday, March 31, 2011

The After-Shocks of Racism in America By: Emily

History helps people understand the present. If history is not studied or understood, it repeats itself in a slightly more modern way. Learning about history informs and explains why cultures are the way they are. As a child I was baffled by the idea that people would be divided based on the color of their skin as I finished watching “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”. My skin color changed when summer finally showed up and then changed again when winter came back with a vengeance; I could not grasp that people would be judged based on an ever changing idea of race. As I grew up I realized it was not just the people today that had these strange beliefs but the people before them, and the people before them. I learned that values and beliefs were based and influenced by beliefs that have existed since the beginning of the United States.

The class watched the video Race: the Color of Illusion a few weeks ago, which described the impact slavery and other forms of oppression have on America’s current society. The fact that housing value decreases when African Americans move into the neighborhood upset me to my core. It is not a matter of new beliefs but remnants of views that existed hundreds of years ago. In the Elk v. Wilkins case of 1884, John Elk was looking to gain citizenship in America. Due to his Native American race, the court decided against him (As excerpted in Rothenberg, 2010, pp.54-541). According to the court documents, though Elk was geographically born in the United States, he did not belong to the white group and therefore was not a citizen based on his place of birth. He would have to have been born white to qualify for citizenship (Rothenberg, 2010). This case example demonstrates a current phenomenon. If a person does not look “American” (i.e. white) then that person will run into the question “Where are you from?” Though the person may have been born here, they are considered to others to be foreign or not American. This microaggression stems back to years of court cases on the subject of citizenship where the courts decided citizenship based on race.

Current issues such as housing depreciation and microaggressions can be traced back to beliefs of ancestors that continue to linger in society. History can help people grasp the reasons why society continues to battle these issues, even if they look slightly different, and also can help formulate remedies to these mind-blowing beliefs.

Elk v. Wilkins. In P. S. Rothenberg (Ed.). Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study (pp. 540-541). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.


  1. Hi Emily!
    I thought you had a very good points when you talked about history repeating itself and how values and beliefs about race and people's rights could be passed down from generation to generation. I was glad to see that you felt the same way as I did when we watched the video Race: Color of Illusion. I was shocked and very upset when I heard that housing values decreased because African Americans were moving into neighborhoods. I couldn't believe that a persons skin color could or would be the cause of a price drop rather than what the actual conditions fo the neighborhood itself were.
    I think you have a good point when saying that individuals should look back and learn from history so we can make changes to prevent the cycle of issues such as housing depreciation and microaggression to occur anymore.
    Great post! Thanks for sharing!
    -Katie Lamirande

  2. I thought you had really good points about how history affects racial relationships today. I also thought your focus on Race: Color of Illusion was interesting. Until watching this movie I had never realized that people were denied citizenship because of their percieved race and I thought that was a really interesting, yet terrible, part of the movie. Because of this I really liked that you focused on the court case involving the Native American man who was denied citizenship. I think the history of race relations in America is horrible and I am glad that you brought attention to it.
    -Amanda Bruemmer

  3. Emily!
    I really like your point about how a person could be born here, be an American citizen and if they do not look or act "white" they will be grilled about their families' country of origin even if they are 4th generation. I have a friend who is Somali decent and she is 3rd generation both her parents are professors at the U of M and she gets asked this question whenever we meet new people. It infuriates me to the point that at times I will do the same to the people who are grilling her about her identity just to prove the point that they are being racist and open up a dialogue so hopefully they do not do that to another person. Thank you for sharing.