Racial and Gender Discrimination

In the Past

A. Gender Discrimination in the US before 1877

– Male’s Dominance in Workforce and Rights

Traditionally, the Western society is considered to be patriarchal “to the degree that it promotes male privilege by being male dominated, male identified, and male centered” being also “organized around an obsession with control” and involving, “as one of its key aspects, the oppression of women” (Johnson 5). The issue of men and women’s rights became especially acute in the 19th century as at that time women started fighting inequality in terms of their rights. In 1776, Abigail Adams asked her husband John working together with other men on the Declaration of Independence to “Remember the Ladies”, yet the Declaration specified that “all men are equal” (Barber). At that time, women possessed little rights and were treated like the property by men as female rights were incorporated into her husband’s ones as soon as she married according to the then American law grounded on the principles of English common law and the doctrine of coverture. Legally, only men could vote, manage property, and enjoy other social benefits from which women were strictly excluded. Thus, men represented the ruling class in the American society of the 19th century. Religion and established social norms supported male dominance as the stereotype of an ideal family proves: men were breadwinners while women were supposed to stay at home, take care of children, and look after the household.

Labor market was male-dominated as well, because males were granted the best jobs with the highest wages. At the time when the Department of Labor was established, i.e. in the 1870s, only “a small minority of married women, between 2 and 3 percent, were in the job market” (Licht 21). Such an unequal employment situation was influenced by the male dominance in the education field among other factors as all major educational institutions had been meant for men until 1821 when the first school for girls was founded by Emma Hart Willard (Barber).

– Female’s Roles and Rights, Women’s Rights Movement

Females were immensely discriminated in the 19th century and prior to that. For instance, the antebellum USA deprived married women of the following legal rights: control over property that they owned before marriage; control over earned wages; acquisition of property; right to file a lawsuit; right to vote, etc. (Civil War Women Blog). Women were underrepresented in the labor force as they were stereotypically expected to marry a man, raise children, and take care of the family. If they entered any profession, it was mainly traditionally female, concerned nurturing, and was somehow connected with the image of an ideal woman.

Women’s rights movement started in the middle of the 19th century and was aimed at the eradication of gender inequality in the American society. In 1848, Seneca Falls in New York became the holding place of the first women’s rights convention. The result was the signing of the Declaration of Sentiments by 68 women and 32 men that consisted of 12 resolutions advocating for the equal treatment of both genders and for allowing women to vote (The Prism). Since 1850 till 1860, the annual National Women’s Rights Convention was held with the first taking place in Worcester and being attended by 1000 participants (The Prism). In 1869, the National Suffrage Association was established by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who set the goal of passing a constitutional amendment allowing women to vote. In November, the American Woman Suffrage Association was formed and proclaimed the similar agenda. The first success of these associations was evident in December of the same year when Wyoming passed the first women’s suffrage law (The Prism). The women’s rights movement was marked with a great number of significant events that testified to the women’s resolution to be acknowledged in the society as equals to males, for instance, female activists founded various social organizations, published newspapers, and organized national movements. Thus, in 1866 the Congress passed the 14th Amendment defining citizens and voters in the Constitution not as specifically male (The Prism). In 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified stating that women were not forbidden to vote (The Prism).

In terms of employment, women also fought for equality and elimination of gender discrimination. Thus, the National Labor Union supported the legal provision that would guarantee equal pay for equal work in the 1860s. In 1872, Belva Lockwood managed to persuade the Congress to pass a law that would provide female federal employees with equal pay for equal work. However, gender inequality and female’s discrimination was still apparent at that time as, for instance, the ruling of the Supreme Court of 1873 in the case Bradwell v. Illinois declared that states could “restrict women from the practice of any profession to uphold the law of the Creator” (The Prism).

B. Discrimination in the US before 1877 to Civil War

– Black People – slaves, workforce

The phenomenon of slavery was bred by the capitalism and the heavy need of developed countries to allocate cheap or preferably even free labor force, which was represented by black slaves forcefully evicted from their native land and brought overseas. The numbers of slaves sold in America were staggering: “Between 9.4 and 12 million Africans were kidnapped, sold and sent to the Americas as slaves” (Revolution). Besides, about 2 million died during the shipping process and even more were killed while being captured. Slaves represented a valuable commodity delivered into America by European companies at a high cost that was then spent on the purchase of some unique goods. The circumstances in which slaves were kept prior to being sold to a new master were horrific and anti-sanitary, which caused the spread of various diseases and deaths: “Once in the Americas, slaves were sent to ‘seasoning camps’ to ‘break’ them – where an estimated 1/3 of the Africans died in that first hellish year” (Revolution).

Despite a relative decline in the slavery trade at the end of the 18th century, it again became a thriving business in the 1800s, especially in the Southern states of the USA. The driving force of such a reinvigoration of human beings’ trade was the invention and popularization of the cotton gin that required extensive workforce. Although, the invention of the machine made the manufacturing process a bit easier, “still growing cotton was very labor intensive, and cotton growers needed a large supply of workforce to tend the fields”, which explained the flourishing of slavery in the Southern states (Library of Congress). Besides, slavery was exploited in other agriculture branches like growing corn, tobacco, and rising livestock. In the cities, slaves were used as all kinds of workers according to their master’s wish, yet they had more opportunities than the plantation ones to save enough money to buy their freedom. All slaves worked under harsh and constant supervision and were severely punished if they disobeyed. Black females were often used as kitchen workers or nannies while men were predominantly obliged to work in the fields. Slaves’ entire lives consisted of hard work and constant humiliation and deprivations. Nonetheless, “slaves were not just powerless victims of their owners and the slave system” as they formed their own communities with unique cultures, values, and beliefs (Library of Congress).

– Civil Rights Movement, such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X

Civil Rights Movement was a prominent social movement in the middle of the 20th century aimed at eliminating discrimination and establishing equality among all citizens of the USA. Since the end of the Civil War, there were founded various organizations that were actively participating in the Movement. Some of them like CORE, SCLS, and NAACP advocated for peaceful methods of resolving the social conflict while other groups like the Black Nationalist Movement, the Black Panthers, and the Nation of Islam “advocated retaliatory violence and a separation of the races” (University of Virginia).

Dr. Martin Luther King was one of the most influential and best-known leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. He was the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Council. King believed that their goal could have been achieved through non-violent and ethical methods. This outstanding personality was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis (University of Virginia). Malcolm X or Malcolm Little was at first the member of the Nation of Islam after his release from prison where he quickly became influential and occupied a high rank. This organization was convinced that the white race is evil and that racial equality could have been gained only through complete separation. Once Malcolm X began suspecting his leader in some monetary gains, he started his own group called the Organization of Afro-American Unity that proclaimed to strive for the promotion of “greater harmony among all nationalities and races” (University of Virginia). He received countless warnings in terms of his plotted assassination, which he ignored, and he was shot while making a speech in the Harlem Ballroom on February 22, 1965.

– Black People with Education

Although education is another sphere in which African Americans have been immensely discriminated, there have been numerous outstanding personalities of black origin with education who managed to achieve tremendous success and public recognition. One of the first African Americans who emphasized the importance of education was W. E. B. Du Bois who supposed that “the liberation of African Americans required liberal education and not vocational training” (Aptheker). The first local effected black official was John Mercer Langston in 1855 in Brownhelm Township (Brunner). The first black male federal judge was William Henry Hastie in 1946 while Constance Baker Motley became the first female black federal judge in 1966 (Brunner). The first black US diplomat was Ebenezer D. Basset in 1869 (Brunner). The first black patent holder was Thomas L. Jennings in 1821 for a dry-cleaning process. There have been plenty of famous educated black people in all domains of public life. The majority of them have also been social activists advocating for the elimination of discrimination and for the establishment of racial and gender equality.

At Present

A. Gender Discrimination

– Male and Female Rights, Roles, and Workforce

Nowadays, it is often claimed that the gender equality in the US society is almost eliminated and that women are granted the same rights as their male counterparts. Women are free to pursue any career they wish, yet the gender gap still exists, which is obvious while looking at the statistics concerning division in the workforce and family roles. Women have become more independent, self-confident and successful. They dominate in the small and middle businesses starting their own companies and achieving success in the circumstances of economic crisis. However, the percentage of female CEOs in large enterprises is still low as it is extremely difficult for women to obtain top positions: “When Fortune 500 compiled a list of the world’s top-performing companies in 2009, they attributed only 13 (2.6 percent) CEOs to be women” (Zhou). Moreover, women top executives are more scrutinized and are more prone to be judged in a much harsher way, yet at the same time women are more likely to receive higher wages. Women dominate in service businesses while men are representative of such industries as engineering, politics, and manual work. In terms of home roles, the gender gap still exists as women have to do a lot of household chores, look after children, and work at the same time while men only work and rarely help their wives at home. According to the new American Time Use Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 83% of females and 65% of males “spent some time doing household activities such as housework, cooking, lawn care or financial and other household management” (Bureau of Labor Statistics). In terms of rights, both genders are equal in the contemporary US society according to the law.

– Homosexual Discrimination – Gay, Lesbian

Currently, homosexual discrimination is evident all over the world, though gays and lesbians actively fight against it and advocate for the equality of all human beings, notwithstanding their gender, race, and sexual orientation. In the US society, homosexual discrimination is evident from such issues as same-sex marriages or rather problems concerned with them, illegality of adoption by homosexuals in some states like Florida, discrimination in the workforce, for instance, one of the studies involving 900 gay men, lesbians, and transgender individuals working as teachers and educators indicated that “59 percent of participants reported the existence of discrimination in both current and previous workplaces” (Blackwell et al. 30). Besides, there is a biased attitude towards homosexuals in the society as they are believed to be able to choose their sexual orientation and to have a detrimental effect on morality. Religious discrimination of homosexuals is also wide-spread. However, the homosexual community fights for its rights advocating for the legalization of same-sex marriages and allocation to them of the same rights as heterosexuals have. The first protest against discrimination of homosexuals occurred in 1969 and is referred to as the Stonewall riots (Blackwell et al. 28).

– Struggling for Homosexual Rights – Kinds of Policies Are in Place Today to Help

Homosexuals are struggling for equality of all citizens in the USA. On September 20, 2011, the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy came into force, allowing openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people serve in the military (Bumiller). The issue of same-sex marriage is the most controversial one nowadays. A few states that perform this kind of marriage are “Connecticut, District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington” and California (Answers.USA.gov). However, the Defense of Marriage Act “prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allows states to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in other states” (Answers.USA.gov). Adoption by homosexual couples is banned in many states, for instance, in Florida. Nowadays, there are various regulations to fight against discrimination on the basis of non-traditional sexual orientation in the workplace, yet there are not enough laws to eliminate this phenomenon.

B. Racial Discrimination

– Black People: Rights, Workplaces, Benefits, Education

Although the contemporary society boasts of racial equality, such minorities as African Americans and Hispanics still suffer from covert discrimination in education, workplace, and criminal justice system, which is obvious from studying general patterns and statistics. Thus, black children are more likely to attend public schools than private schools and have a higher tendency of dropping out, which is especially true for black high school male students (Hoffman et al.). Although “the proportion of blacks completing college increased between 1975 and 2000, blacks still remained less likely than whites to earn degrees” (Hoffman et al. xii). Besides, grades earned by black students are lower than the ones of the white ones. In terms of rights, black people are allocated the same rights as all other US citizens.

Black people suffer from racial discrimination in the workplace, as evidenced by 34,000 race discrimination claims filed in 2008 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (HR hero). Nowadays, the workplace racial discrimination is mainly covert displayed in the failure to promote or hire the representative of a certain minority, in the tendency to fire him/her or to impose stricter punishments for violations of labor discipline. Federal law prohibits racial discrimination in the workplace with the major laws being Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (HR hero).

In terms of benefits and social assistance, African Americans are more likely to apply for various social programs. They are “more likely than whites to receive disability and survivor benefits” while unemployment benefits do not differ in terms of the race of people who receive them (Fleck). Besides, African Americans of the retirement age are likely to receive Social Security retirement benefits as they rarely save money in special funds and are more prone to have been involved in industries with lower wages. However, the benefits black households receive “are typically lower than what whites receive” (Fleck).

– Asian and Hispanic: Rights, Workplaces, Benefits, Education

Asian Americans are currently against affirmative action present in college admissions as they advocate for the elimination of racial ground from this process. Besides, many colleges exclude Asian students from receiving affirmative action benefits as they are already represented on campuses in large amounts. Moreover, social situation differs depending on the origin of the Asians: “those with Southeast Asian origins tend to have lower income and be less educated than their counterparts from South and East Asia, alike” (Nittle). Hispanic children are less represented in colleges than other minorities as well as they are more likely to receive lower grades and to drop out of school. Thus, “Hispanics are among the least educated group in the United States: 11 percent of those over age 25 have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher education compared with 17 percent of blacks, 30 percent of whites, and 49 percent of Asian Americans in the same age group” (Schneider et al., 180). The rate of poverty and unemployment among Hispanics and Asians is higher than among the whites: 6.3% versus 3.7% (The Leadership Conference). The household income of Hispanics is even lower than of African Americans. Hispanics are more likely to get involved in manual labor and construction than in services requiring higher education.

– Types of Violence have Come from this: Fighting, Meeting, etc.

Racial discrimination has given rise to the emergence of the hate crime phenomenon and other kinds of violence based on racism and xenophobia. The highest percentage of hate crimes is committed against the African Americans, as evidenced by the 2006 FBI report stating that anti-black bias was the reason of over a third of all hate crimes (Human Rights First). Hate crimes victimizing Hispanics have increased by a third since 2003 (Human Rights First). Among Asians, people of South Asian origin were most targeted due to their potential Muslim religion. Anti-black crimes include murder, beatings, stabbings, sexual assaults, and other serious crimes. The number of attacks on Hispanics is a bit lower than those on the African Americans, yet it has dramatically risen in the recent years, for instance, in 2006 there were 819 Hispanic victims of hate crimes; the number of Asian victims in the same year was 239 (Human Rights First). Racial attacks are also launched against entire families and their businesses. In order to combat violence, representatives of the races form tight communities and respond violently to any provocation in addition to the movement aimed at protecting their rights legally in courtrooms and through various protests and social actions.

Works Cited

Answers. USA.gov. Same-Sex Marriage Laws. 2010. Web.

Aptheker, Herbert (ed.). The Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906-1960 New Edition by W. E. B. Du Bois. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010. Print.

Barber, E. Susan. One Hundred Years toward Suffrage: An Overview. National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection. 2012. Web.

Blackwell, Christopher W., Ricks, Janice L., and Sophia F. Dziegielewski. “Discrimination of Gays and Lesbians: A Social Justice Perspective.” Journal of Health and Social Policy 19.4 (2004): 27–43. Print.

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Bumiller, Elizabeth. “Obama Ends ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy.” The New York Times 22 July 2011. Web.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. American Time Use Survey Summary. 2012, June 22. Web.

Civil War Women Blog. Women’s Rights Before the Civil War. 2006. Web.

Fleck, Carole. Social Security Benefit Crucial to African Americans. AARP. 2011, February 8. Web.

Hoffman, Kathryn, Llagas, Charmaine, and Thomas D. Snyder. Status and Trends in the Education of Blacks. National Center of Education Statistics. 2003, September. Web.

HR hero. Race Discrimination and Racial Harassment. 2009. Web.

Human Rights First. Violence Based on Racism and Xenophobia. 2008. Web.

Johnson, Allan G. The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005. Print.

Library of Congress. Pre-Civil War African-American Slavery. 2012. Web.

Licht, Walter. How the Workplace Has Changed in 75 Years. United States Department of Labor. 1988. Web.

Nittle, Nadra Kareem. Which Ethnic Groups Benefit from Affirmative Action in College Admissions? About.com. 2013. Web.

Revolution. The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need. 2010. Web.

Schneider, Barbara, Martinez, Sylvia, and Ann Owens. “Barriers to Educational Opportunities for Hispanics in the United States.” In Hispanics and the Future of America. Washington, D.C.: The National Academic Press, 2006. Press.

The Leadership Conference. Race, Class, and Economic Justice. 2013. Web.

The Prism. The Path of the Women’s Rights Movement. 2012. Web.

University of Virginia. The Civil Rights Movement ‘60s. 2009. Web.

Zhou, Karen. A New Role for Women in the Workforce. New University. 2010, May 31. Web.