Race Relations

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The Europeans who explored and settled in North America had no doubt as to the relation between their white race and all other people, whether native to North America or from elsewhere around the globe. The white race, in their minds, was entirely superior and was destined to rule over all other races.

With respect to the Indians, the Europeans felt no obligation to them except to teach them European ways which they could practice on the unwanted land that could be set aside for them until they, as was assumed, died out. No notion of ownership of the land by the natives was given any credence. Even the "civilized tribes" were removed from land they had possessed for generations because they had no title conferred by a European authority.

Blacks were imported from Africa to work as slaves from the 17th century until the Civil War. It was their blackness that qualified them for slavery, and blackness prevented their every assuming full rights even if freed. At the time of the outbreak of the Civil War, free blacks in the North still could not generally vote.

Chinese were imported for work in California and on railroads in the West, providing the required labor for hard, dangerous work. When the work was done, however, the Chinese became unwelcome. Many were massacred and Chinese were excluded from further immigration to America.

An influx of Japanese into the Pacific states had been proceeding for decades, with Japanese immigrants blending into society and economy, but when World War II broke out, it was the Japanese on the West coast who were interned, while no similar action was taken with regard to the Germans on the East Coast.

Legalized racism took the form of Jim Crow laws in the South and obstacles to mixed race marriage were created in most states, although often ignored. An increasing emphasis on the "equal protection" provisions of the Constitution since the middle of the 20th century have largely eliminated legalized racial discrimination.

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Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality by Richard Kluger.
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