Discrimination means treating people in an unfair way based on certain characteristics such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or ability. This practice can take many forms, such as denying someone a job or promotion because of their race or denying someone access to services or opportunities because of their religion. It is generally recognized as a negative and wrong practice. There are laws in many countries that aim to avoid racial inequality and other forms of discrimination.
Research and statistics show that discrimination continues to be a problem worldwide. It can have serious negative consequences for those who experience it, including economic and social disadvantages and a lack of access to education, problems in the workplace, and other opportunities. This essay on discrimination in America compares Irish vs. Vietnamese immigrants in pre-World War II era and African vs. Native Americans in post-World War II era. It also highlights various forms of social discrimination, such as educational, social, and so on.
Discrimination in America: Irish Vs. Vietnamese Immigrants before WWII
For many Irish-American families, the story begins in a tragedy when famine struck Ireland in the decade of the 1840s. They mark the event by calling that period in history as the Great Famine. However, the story of the Irish in America started way before the mass migration of the 1840s. During the 18th century, Irish Americans were known as poor farmers trying to survive by trading with Native Americans. The passage of time changed the dynamics of the interaction between immigrants with Irish heritage and the English settlers who came earlier to carve a new home in the New World.
The first major manifestation of discrimination came from Irish Protestants. Lumping them together with their fellow countrymen was an abhorrent idea for them. They prefer not to be identified with poor Irish Catholics. The newcomers were also discriminated against on the basis of financial capability. Most of the Irish immigrants were poor farmers. Most of them immigrated because of failed harvests and related economic woes. Thus, English settlers, who were some of the earliest immigrants to establish colonies in the New World had the temerity to look down on the Irish immigrants. However, aside from experiencing discrimination on the basis of economic status, a significant number of Irish Americans were persecuted on the basis of religious beliefs. The discrimination against Irish Americans was based on religious beliefs even as Irish immigrants came from both Catholic and Protestant denominations. After some time, the number of Irish Catholics outnumbered Irish Protestants. During the mass migration of the 1840s, the United States saw wave after wave of poor Irish Catholic immigrants desperate to find a new home in America. It was also during this time when discrimination against Irish Catholics intensified.
Laws were passed to prevent the immigration of Irish Catholics. In Puritan England, there was no love lost for Roman Catholics who were perceived as supporters of the Pope. In South Carolina, laws were passed banning the immigration of people with questionable character, especially those who were affiliated with the Roman Catholic faith. Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Georgia ratified laws that made life difficult for Irish Americans. Irish Catholics were not allowed to vote. They were not allowed to worship in public. Irish Catholics were not allowed to hold public office. At the same time, they were not allowed to practice law. In order to maintain the status quo and keep Irish Americans in poverty, laws were passed banning the establishment of Catholic schools. In addition, stereotypes were created to denigrate Irish Americans. They were stereotyped as lazy and prone to drunkenness.
It was a different story with Vietnamese Americans who came to the United States as refugees escaping the hazards of a war-torn land. Vietnamese Americans were discriminated based on cultural differences and as a result of a negative perception that they were competing with Caucasian Americans in the exploitation or utilization of finite resources.
One of the best ways to illustrate the severe type of discrimination experienced by Vietnamese Americans was the violent confrontation between the new immigrants and white Americans living in Texas and Louisiana. As expected the newcomers were desperate to earn a livelihood in a foreign land. They simply utilized skills that they have mastered in their homeland. They went fishing and became successful in doing it. However, they were persecuted because the local residents perceived them as an economic threat toward their livelihood.
In addition, white Americans had ill-feelings towards the Vietnamese immigrants because of the wrong notion that the refugees were using up resources that were intended for local residents. In certain Texas towns, the local government was accused of giving favors to Vietnamese refugees so that the newcomers were able to get interest-free loans or low-interest loans. Most of the rumors were unfounded. However, the negative publicity was enough to cause great resentment towards the refugees.
Just like the Irish Americans who were vilified before them, Vietnamese Americans suffered because of the stereotypes that were created to disparage them in public. They were stereotyped as unsanitary and untrustworthy people. Aside from violent confrontations, Vietnamese Americans also suffered from a barrage of legal actions. For example, in fishing towns, local fishermen successfully lobbied the banning of the issuance of fishing licenses to Vietnamese Americans.
It is important to point out that Vietnamese refugees had a harder time adjusting to a new life in America. The struggle stems from the trauma they experienced as a result of the Vietnam War. They also had traumatic experiences when they went through the processing requirements in refugee camps Finally, most of the refugees lacked the educational background, job skills, and other resources needed to start a business or seek employment in America. These are the factors that could have exacerbated the negative treatment they received from local residents. As a result, the children of Vietnamese refugees suffered from the indirect effects of discrimination as the immigrants were forced to live in areas that the government designated for them.
Discrimination in America: African vs. Native Americans after WWII
Abraham Lincoln signed into law a bill that ensured the abolition of slavery in the United States. The law was ratified in the latter part of the 19th century, at the tail-end of the U.S. Civil War. Fast forward into the period at the end of World War II and nothing much has changed in order to say that African Americans were living in an egalitarian society. Nevertheless, there were no traces of slavery, and the socio-economic conditions of African Americans in the Northern states vastly improved at the end of the Second World War. However, the deplorable socio-economic conditions in the Southern states was due in large part to the negative consequences of discrimination.
African Americans living in the south carried the burden imposed on them through Jim Crow laws. Nevertheless, the United States Federal Government tried everything possible to promote racial equality all over the nation. A major breakthrough came via the case known as Brown v. Board of Education. A moral victory was accomplished when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of schools was unconstitutional. They also promulgated that it was illegal to prevent African American students from studying in schools designated for white Americans.
Changes were made in a painstaking manner. Jim Crow laws had a negative effect on the way African Americans access government services. In Alabama, it was illegal for government officials to require a white female nurse to help or serve an African American confined in the same health institution. In the same state, there were separate waiting rooms for passengers boarding a public bus. They also established rules ensuring the creation of separate ticket windows for white and black passengers.
Absurd laws include the prevention of establishing a restaurant that would allow African Americans the same dining privileges as white Americans. The said the racial group was permitted to eat in the same restaurant if the business proprietor was able to construct a wall that separates these groups. It was also unlawful to establish pool halls that would have allowed the intermingling of white and black players.
In Arizona, it was unlawful to marry white Americans with African Americans. In Florida, extra-marital affairs between a white man with a black woman are punishable by imprisonment or a fine. In certain states, African Americans were not allowed to use the same bathrooms reserved for white Americans.
The plight of Native Americans during the post-World War II period was far worse than the experiences of African Americans. Even in the 1930s the U.S. government tried to find ways in improving the socio-economic conditions of Native Americans who were displaced as the result of massive industrialization efforts during the 19th century. Native Americans lost access to ancestral lands and other natural resources. Government officials responded with problematic programs. Lands were distributed to Native Americans and many of them were compelled to live the rest of their lives in territories that were reserved for them, hence the term Indian reservations. However, at the end of World War II, when American cities prospered, Indian reservations suffered as the result of poverty, crime, the lack of access to agricultural produce, and crimes that were exacerbated by drug abuse and alcoholism.
The knee jerk response to the worsening conditions in the reservations was to eradicate the program that compelled them to live in areas that were far away from economic opportunities. However, the forced integration of Native Americans into mainstream American society was also deemed as a failure by many critics.
African Americans and Native Americans experienced discrimination in the area of education. Both groups attempted to fight this oppression through legal means. African Americans made known how they felt like second-class citizens when they were forced to travel long distances in order to receive basic education. Children from African American families live in close proximity to top-quality public schools. However, they were compelled to walk on foot or take a meandering route towards another school situated several miles away. It was a tedious process. It made no sense to deprive a young African American child of access to something that would ultimately make a major difference in his or her career. Education was viewed as the ticket out of extreme poverty.
African Americans had to fight for the right to study in a public school located nearby. Native Americans on the other hand had no trouble with the location of the public schools. They had ready access to public schools. Nevertheless, they need to fight to improve the quality of education that they were able to receive. It had something to do with the location of the schools in relation to Federal agencies that were responsible for monitoring the quality of education made available in the said institutions. In addition, Native Americans had to fight for the right to get better financial support when it comes to funding government services related to educational purposes. Just like other minority groups, Native Americans understood the value of education as a critical tool in poverty alleviation. They made sure the rest of the nation understood how they were affected by this indirect type of oppression.
Economic Discrimination in America
Irish Americans faced tremendous challenges when it comes to the type of work that they were allowed to have. Before they became Irish Americans they were farmers in Ireland. It was a challenge to acquire land. There were certain legal restrictions for them to be able to purchase land. As a result, it was a struggle to achieve financial independence. Thus, Irish Americans leverage their numbers as a weapon to gain concessions.
With regard to Vietnamese Americans, they were faced with economic problems of a different type. Many of them were farmers and fishermen. However, they do not have access to land or fishing grounds that would have allowed them to use traditional skills related to farming and fishing. For the fortunate few who were able to find jobs as fishermen, they fought to have the ability to purchase boats and secure fishing licenses. However, those who were compelled to live in urban centers were forced to learn contentment with low-paying jobs. Both Irish Americans and Vietnamese Americans share a common problem when it comes to limited job opportunities. However, the major differences were seen in the socio-economic conditions that both groups had to contend with.
With regard to African Americans during the post-World War II era, there were hindrances in acquiring the same high-paying jobs enjoyed by Caucasian Americans. The root cause of the problem was the type of laws ratified that justified discriminatory practices. They challenged these laws through the Civil Rights movement. On the other hand, Native Americans had difficulty securing jobs that ensured a steady income. The attempt to solve this problem was manifested in the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the bid to have greater control of natural resources or lands that were given to them by the United States government. The EEOC was responsible for enforcing the law under the Civil Rights Acts. Thus, it became illegal for employers to discriminate against Native American job applicants. There were similarities between African Americans and Native Americans when it came to how both groups were able to benefit from the Civil Rights Act as well as the establishment of the EEOC.
Education Discrimination in the US
Irish Americans had little or no access to top-quality education. They experienced bigotry in public schools that were dominated by Protestants. They challenged this issue by demanding for the secularization of public schools. In response, the officials of the Catholic Church paved the way for the creation of Catholic schools, especially colleges and universities. These were institutions of higher education created for Irish Americans that were barred entry into colleges and universities under the control of Protestants.
With regard to Vietnamese Americans, the problem that they faced was different from that of their Irish American counterparts. Vietnamese Americans have not barred entry into colleges and universities. However, language barriers and cultural differences may have created unnecessary obstacles for them. They challenged this particular social issue by working hard in order to speed up their assimilation into mainstream America.
In the case of African Americans, the lack of access to quality education was the direct result of Jim Crow laws that institutionalized school segregation. They challenged this issue through protests and legal actions. The most effective strategy was the use of a legal remedy. This was manifested in the landmark case successfully persuading the U.S. Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the laws that allowed the segregation of public schools.
The problems faced by Native Americans when it comes to access to quality education was different from those encountered by African Americans. Native Americans did not struggle with segregation laws. However, Native Americans wanted the U.S. government to recognize the unique problems and unique needs of Native Americans when it came to educating future leaders and entrepreneurs. Native Americans require a system of education that recognizes cultural and language needs.
Employment Discrimination in the United States
Irish Americans had to contend against the laws that were ratified to prevent their socio-economic improvement. They were discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. This has created a chain reaction of events leading up to the failure of Irish Americans to secure meaningful employment. Vietnamese Americans did not suffer from the same set of circumstances. The problem that they faced was due to a misconception that they were going to make life harder for the local residents. In contrast to the Irish Americans, the Vietnamese had an easier time when it came to religious beliefs. They came at a time when the United States already went through a cleansing process via the Civil Rights movement. Thus, one can argue that in the case of the Vietnamese, the bone of contention was related to economic conditions.
African Americans and Native Americans benefited from the Civil Rights Act. They also benefited from the establishment of the EEOC. These major developments came out as the result of the glaring disparity in the employment rates for blacks and Native Americans. There were many unemployed African Americans and Native Americans compared to their Caucasian counterparts.
Irish Americans responded by creating initiatives to secularize public schools. The historical precedent was traced to the active participation of the leaders of the Catholic church to end bigotry. It was a different story with Vietnamese Americans. There was no need to champion the cause of underprivileged Vietnamese children. However, improvements were made regarding access to better employment in order for them to move out of problematic areas and access top-quality schools. In other words, the obstacles that they faced was not due to legal impediments or direct discriminatory practices. In the case of the Vietnamese refugees, the challenge was to deal with the language barrier and cultural differences. Once these problems were resolved it was easier to move up the socio-economic ladder.
In the case of African Americans, the problem with access to top-quality education was remedied using legal action. The same thing can be said about the plight of the Native Americans. However, the purpose of the legislative action was different for both groups. With regard to African Americans, the goal was to eradicate segregation. However, with Native Americans, the goal was greater autonomy and recognition of certain needs. African Americans achieved success after the successful resolution of the case aimed to eliminate segregation in schools. However, for Native Americans, victory was achieved through the Indian Education Act of 1972.