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Hist-142-901
Ashley McCrea
November 25, 2019
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What Is Free?
Introduction
Racism and the injustices of African-Americans are topics that are very controversial
among the American population. Often so contentious, many Americans avoid these subjects in
day-to-day conversation. With the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter,” Americans and people around
the world have brought light to the unjust killings of black people and other issues regarding the
black community since then. Famous athletes and artists have expressed their feelings about these
issues in recent years. Many people would argue that racism does not exist, and it is another reason
why America is still in the current state it is in. The effects of racism, racial profiling, and
misrepresentation can be seen in the black community, contrary to the belief that in America, these
issues are no longer prevalent. Even though the thirteenth amendment partially abolished slavery,
the same guarantees that were granted to White people were not available for Black people.
Amongst many other things, Black people would not come to enjoy the right to freedom fully – in
some cases; they still might not. As such, one could not say that this population has actually been
allowed to exercise freedom since the end of slavery. The passing of the thirteenth amendment
would free Black slaves from the institution of slavery, but it would not grant them a freedom that
was equal to white citizens. Not free to vote, to access the same resources and opportunity, or even
not free at all, as the prison population can attest, Black people would remain barred from grasping
true freedom even after the abolition of slavery.
African Americans have undergone difficulties in their struggle to gain and retain freedom,
as well as enjoy the privileges that come with it. This struggle dates back to the ages of slavery as
well as the aftermath of this scarring ordeal in Black history, all the way to modern times. In the
past, Blacks never enjoyed that same freedoms or privileges as their white counterparts in every
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field. A good example was during World War II when many African Americans sought to fight
for the ‘Four Freedoms,’ namely; freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom from want, and
freedom of worship. These African American soldiers lacked any of these freedoms back at home.
However, they were still willing to be enlisted in the army to fight using the ‘Double V’ strategy,
which meant that they fought to achieve the four freedoms as well as against racism (Katz, 1999).
Other examples that clearly showcase the struggles that blacks faced include the Montgomery bus
boycott, which was spearheaded by Rosa Parks when she refused to move to the back of the bus
as blacks were required to, and leave her seat for a white citizen. Her refusal to succumb to the
oppressive laws which were directed at blacks empowered other blacks to rise up in opposition to
such laws, marking the onset of the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Blacks
then proceeded to fight segregation in schools as well, with the Central High School case stirring
up desegregation policies which were later enforced in other schools with time, albeit facing strong
protests from whites (Katz, 1999). Ever since the abolishment of slavery, all the milestones that
African Americans have achieved have been all aimed at enabling them to enjoy the freedoms that
whites enjoyed and put an end to blatant racism and oppression targeted at blacks. The rise of black
power has, however, been faced with greater challenges, with racism still existing in some of the
major institutions within America. It is not, therefore, accurate to claim that African Americans
have adapted to life with their newfound freedom, as most blacks are still struggling to adapt as
the system seems to be steered towards achieving the exact opposite.
Modern-day African Americans would like to believe that the days of struggles and
oppression are behind them, and they have finally achieved the freedoms that their ancestors fought
for, but that is far from the truth. Despite claims that the US has entered a post-racial era, racial
profiling has remained a troubling problem all over the country, especially among police officers.
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Law enforcement officers often target blacks for detentions, which are often humiliating and
inhumane, as well as questionings and searches which are done without any evidence based on the
color of their skin. It not only violates their Constitutional rights as US citizens, taking away their
freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures but has also been proven to be highly ineffective
since it widens the bridge between communities and the police, hence preventing efficient
community policing. Innocent and unarmed blacks are often gunned down by police officers due
to racial profiling, which makes them suspects of crimes they did not commit in the eyes of law
enforcement officers. The dreams of young and promising African Americans are cut short without
any care (Lee, 2013). Cultural appropriation has also portrayed undertones of racism in America,
with celebrities such as Bruno Mars and Miley Cyrus presenting what they believe to be the black
culture in their music videos and performances, as well as the outrageous Japanese B-Stylers who
claim to have adopted black culture with the way they dress. All these, as well as the stigma on
black crime which has led to the labelling of the ‘hood’ as crime-infested areas and black criminals
as posing a greater risk of default, have pushed blacks back into the bracket of racist oppression
and inequality from which they were perceived to have escaped. Their freedom is defined by the
system, which includes law enforcement and as well as the criminal justice system which
incarcerates innocent blacks on a regular basis without clear evidence for committing the crimes
they are accused of; while giving them unfair sentences while their white counterparts get off easy.
Despite all the evidence suggesting otherwise, some people still believe that racism does
not exist. They claim that racism is made up by politicians who use race as a card to win votes.
They cite reasons such as the fact that white racism is perceived to exist everywhere, that if you
oppose school busing, you are racist, and if you want immigration laws enforced or support slavery
reparations, you are racist (Riley, 2019). Moreover, they claim that the death rates of whites and
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blacks are the same and that this shows how politicians would go the extra mile to force racism in
departments or areas where it doesn’t exist.
However, statistics never lie, and the truth remains that blacks are being killed by law
enforcement at a higher rate than whites. Based on their dwindling population, more black people
are dying, mainly due to police shootings based on racial profiling. The media and other races
often try to downplay or sweep black issues under the rag, with cases of police shootings being
done away with faster than they should and afforded less significance than they deserve. An
example of a case that ‘disappeared’ from media attention way too fast was the case of the Phoenix
police officers who harassed and pulled a gun at a black family after a four-year-old allegedly store
a doll from a store. Politicians should not be the major focus when issues of racism are raised since
it is never a politician’s issue but depends on how people treat each other with dignity and perceive
one another as equals regardless of the color of their skin. As General Powell once suggested to
black students in his speech at Howard University, “We as a people who have suffered so much
from the hatred of others must not now show tolerance for any movement or philosophy that has
as its core the hatred of Jews or hatred of any other group” (Flaherty, 1994).
Conclusion
The oppression of black people cannot be equated to statistics or feelings of another race.
History can act as an educative tool for us only if we work together as allies, and learn to coexist
as one. The Declaration of Independence grants every American life, liberty, and pursuit of
happiness. So why haven’t black people been able to achieve what their country is based on without
being mistreated and misrepresented? Until America decides to let black issues be valid, things
will never change, the freedom of blacks in America will forever remain in the hands of law
enforcement and the criminal justice system.
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References
Flaherty, M. P. (1994, May 16). GEN. POWELL ISSUES CALL TO REJECT HATRED.
Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1994/05/16/gen-powellissues-call-to-reject-hatred/bbdc801f-8680-43a4-a7fd-7f01e3e51428/
Katz, W. L. (1999). Black Pioneers: An Untold Story. Oxfordshire, England: Taylor & Francis.
Lee, G. (2013). Hold Fast to Your Dreams. Passionate Desire Turns Dreams Into Reality.
Riley, J. L. (2019, July 16). Opinion | The Race Card Has Gone Bust. Retrieved from
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-race-card-has-gone-bust-11563318876

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