The Enduring US Legacies of Discrimination and Intolerance

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice,
you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
-Desmond Tutu

It is amazing to glance over US History and review the fine words that were proclaimed by the major figures of the American Revolution about “the rights of man and the pursuit of happiness” and so on. Then, in contrast to this, to look out at the real world of our present society and observe whether these concepts have taken root and are actually being practiced by the majority of people. In addition to these lofty words that were uttered repeatedly by the leaders of the US

A new ordinance in Nebraska legalizes the harassment of Latinos in order to force them out of town

A new ordinance in Nebraska legalizes the harassment of Latinos in order to force them out of town

Revolution, and which were actually concepts that were borrowed from the work of English philosopher John Locke and other writers of the Enlightenment, were the noble pronunciations about liberty, freedom and human rights that were made during the Civil War and the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement of a later period. Many people who believe in the idea of progress thought that with the passage of time and the expansion of education and progressive ideas within our society that the backward outlook and practice of intolerance and discrimination would have waned and dissipated and eventually survive today only among small and isolated bands of frustrated hatemongers. Instead, in 2014 we still have a legal ban against the use of bilingual education and Spanish in California which is an infringement on the right to free speech, a ban of Mexican-American Studies and related books by the state of Arizona and the discriminatory harassment of undocumented Latinos within that state. Also, legislation was recently approved in Arizona to allow discrimination of gay persons at public facilities based upon religious preference, however, this proposed law was eventually vetoed by the governor for economic reasons. State officials in Alabama have condoned laws in the past that allowed systematic harassment of Latino families who are presumed to be undocumented in order to drive them out of that state. Other states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia and South Carolina have previously proposed legislation to persecute and drive Latinos out of those states. Recently, voters in Fremont, Nebraska approved a restrictive ordinance that prevents Latinos from renting a home along with other extensive measures of harassment. Meanwhile, politicians in Texas still publicly use the term ‘wetbacks’ to refer to Mexican-Americans in that state and New York Congressman Peter King consistently blurts out derogatory racial terms to describe immigrants while other fellow politicians utter insults and make jokes about the
The right-wing campaign in Arizona and other states to ban books continues

The right-wing campaign in Arizona and other states to ban books continues

rights of women. Thus, intolerance and discrimination are now accepted as part of the mainstream public discourse. On the positive side, lawsuits and resistance by civil rights groups have defeated some of this surge in discriminatory racial practices and these courageous organizations continue to fight on in a tireless manner. This present-day type of systematic ethnic intolerance and governmental restrictions on specific sectors within our society are becoming somewhat reminiscent of a similar trend in 1930’s fascist Germany. During that period discriminatory laws identified Jews by having patches placed on their clothing and encouraged German authorities to harass and force them out of neighborhoods and cities with repressive laws that restricted their movements and economic and social rights.

Intolerance in practice leads to racial profiling and discrimination
It is unfortunate that in 2014 religious fanaticism and dogmatic legislative proposals that are intended to control people’s lives, manipulate educational curriculum, curtail academic freedom and limit women’s rights are all on the increase due to organized campaigns by well-funded and extremist conservative groups. Such scapegoating and hate mongering is being expanded from the bigoted pronouncements of white supremacist street thugs to being voiced publicly by politicians and codified into law. Adding to this cancerous political trend is the rise and use of discriminatory laws that racially profile and harm

Racial profiling and other unjust measures against minority youth need to be resisted

Racial profiling and
other unjust measures
against minority youth need to be resisted

minority youth as exemplified by the past shootings of Trayvon Martin and others due to existing “Stand and defend” laws which objectively encourage the pro-active use of guns against African-American and Latino males. Coupled with this are discriminatory “stop and frisk” policies which condone the racial profiling and police harassment of young minority men. Documented evidence has also shown that minority youths who are convicted of non-violent minor drug offenses consistently receive harsher prison sentences from the courts than do white youths for the same offenses. This growing trend of a double standard in the application of the law and discriminatory legal behavior flows from a traditional ideological world outlook of extreme intolerance which is over 400 years-old, but which still continues to plague our present society. This outlook and behavior is currently thriving due to the fact that many of these practices of social exclusion and bigotry are also financially profitable to certain business sectors of our society and to the elected political lackeys who promote them.

Different types of discrimination are determined by socio-economic factors
The intolerance and resulting discrimination that is spreading throughout our society does not just accidentally happen as these tendencies have a material economic basis that creates them. Economic inequality within our society determines class differences and world outlooks as the wealthier social classes generally possess an outlook of superiority and discrimination toward the financially weaker social classes below them. Ideologically, white supremacy, and specifically white male supremacy, advocates for a system of segregation and political power in society that is dominated by white men and which

Right-wing campaigns in numerous states which support ethnic cleansing are on the increase

Right-wing campaigns in numerous states which support ethnic cleansing are on the increase

is accompanied by a discriminatory policy that attempts to keep minorities in a subordinate position. Political power is a natural outgrowth of concentrated economic power and such expanding political control into fewer hands within our society creates an attitude of superiority and dominance that narrowly benefits the interests of the economic elite who wish to maintain their position. Such a backward outlook and policies also support a bias toward women who constitute more than half of the population. This view maintains that females are not the equal of men and this results in the creation of economic policies that discriminate against them in regard to job opportunities and wages. Another potential source of intolerance within the country is the growing influence of extremely dogmatic and politically activist religious groups. Most religions have dogmas that profess their beliefs to be the only true ones and this is their right to believe so. However, in many instances these beliefs and extreme sectarianism are being transformed into bigoted behavior within the arena of public affairs. Religion and church dogma need to be practiced privately and kept separate from secular national issues. Lastly, people are not born intolerant and discriminatory, but take on this type of thinking and behavior due to their class standing in society, racial background, gender and religious interpretation of the world.

Intolerance and discrimination are based upon four traditional legacies
The ideological basis of our society was founded upon the four legacies of white supremacy, male dominance, class bias and religious sectarianism. The narrow world outlook of intolerance and resulting discriminatory behavior that is presently flaring up within our society is still strongly influenced by these traditional beliefs. These ideological legacies have been embedded within our society since its inception and were imported to our shores from a medieval and biased Europe by white male settlers. These divisive principles were even codified within the new US Constitution which limited voting rights to well-to-do white men and stipulated that black persons only constituted three/fifths of a human being. In the world view of

During the 1700's, slave owner Benjamin Hawkins attempted to Europeanize Native-Americans

During the 1700’s, slave owner Benjamin Hawkins attempted to Europeanize Native-Americans

dominant white males at that time women and Native-Americans were not considered as full human beings. Also, urban and rural white workers who did not own property along with economically-bound indentured servants were also categorized as socially inferior and legally disenfranchised. Violence against females by fathers, husbands and the authorities was socially and legally acceptable and these intolerant attitudes and practices still plague us today. A lack of universal education and a reliance upon religious doctrine perpetuated this country’s growth of a traditional ideological foundation of intolerance, discrimination and outright racism. The aggressive actions and annexations motivated by “Manifest Destiny” brought additional captive peoples into the expanding US multinational state as the number of socially despised and discriminated groups began to increase. More Native-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Hawaiians, Aleuts, Asian-Americans, European immigrants and a flow of African slaves up until the Civil War were added to the discriminated category of social untouchables. In essence, a majority of the US population was controlled economically and politically by a minority of wealthy white males who rationalized their system of domination through the use of an ideology of white male supremacy which was combined with a legalized system of segregation and institutional intolerance.

This growing trend of bigotry and prejudice needs to be countered
The worst aspects of these four traditional legacies and their harmful practices have been overcome over time due to the struggles of mass social and political movements which have fought for justice and social equality. Yet, the corrosive influence of these poisonous legacies still persists and is now being widely propagated on a weekly basis by politicians who openly spout harmful racial and gender policies and propose their enactment into law. Presently, many people may shake their heads in disgust at the resurgence of intolerant statements, actions and hate-filled scapegoating by politicians and extreme right-wing groups. However, mere head shaking and the ignoring of these individuals and the cancerous social environment that they create will not resolve this problem and make these bigots

What is unjust and unequal needs to be countered by what is just and fair.

What is unjust and unequal needs to be countered by what is just and fair.

automatically disappear into the trash bin of history. Hateful ideas and statements by people and groups such as these ultimately cross the line to commit actions which physically harm their weaker victims. This upsurge in ethnic hatred and divisive behavior needs to be actively confronted and not avoided nor shrugged off. Hiding our heads in the sand instead of standing up and speaking out for correct principles and norms of mutual respect and behavior only encourages these hate-spewing bullies. Also, to counter this growing ideological ignorance and right-wing trend and protect our youth from being infected by it will require strong support and investment for our public education system. This also includes the strengthening and expansion of ethnic studies programs which are presently under siege as these courses will assist in expanding the public’s level of education and hopefully transform more people into socially conscious members of our society. Linked to these tasks is the urgent necessity to strengthen laws that prohibit discrimination and which defend equality of opportunity for all persons within the economic, political and educational spheres of our society. An attack by these well-funded extremist bullies on anyone is an attack on us all as their targets for discrimination range from minorities and the poor, to women and labor. As the old saying goes, ‘no person is an island entire of itself’. So, if we don’t respond to harmful statements and ignorant actions that negatively affect our communities and society, then, these backward elements will eventually impact our families with their uncivilized behavior. In essence, we have to stand up, speak out and take action to repel this vile trend of intolerance and discrimination. Our ultimate goal should be to create a society where the majority of people respect the history, experiences and tribulations of all ethnic groups who have contributed to the building of our society. And lastly, everyone needs to accept the social reality that we are now a diverse society and we will no longer accept the existence of a backward enclave of white male domination.

Copyright: Jimmy Franco Sr., 2014

Facebook: follow at: Jimmy Latinopov

Twitter: @xicanomc

Author: Jimmy Franco Sr.

Jimmy Franco Sr. is the moderator and writer of the blog site: "A Latino Point of View in Today's World"

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