The contemporary society of the United States is a product of five centuries of immigration and the subsistence of aboriginals. The ancient European occupation of the lands adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean in the 1800s triggered forcible resettlement of some of Native American communities.
This was a race and ethnicity struggle that took about 300 years to settle. Scores of immigrants streamed to the country after the first European migrants and survived, albeit through generations, past the twentieth century. Some people preferred to live in the place; others were forced to settle there.
The origin of major populations that moved into the United States were the whites who originated from Europe. Shortly after, slaves of black decent were forced into the country from African regions that boarded the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1870s and 1890s, east European, Latinos, and Asian communities had joined the mainstream whites. These developments indicate how race and ethnicity defines the history of the United States.
According to Showalter (89) white Anglo-Saxons were the mainstream population during the American Revolution of 1775 to 1783; however, this welcomed a mix of races to a great extent. The expressions race and ethnicity connote the multiplicity of the American society that today is one of the most diverse in the world.
The contemporary American society of different races manifest in physical looks, such as the hair, feel, and shape of the eye as well color of the skin has transformed to enjoy almost similar cultural practices. On leadership issues, conventionally, the most influential offices in the United States were occupied by the mainstream whites.
The judiciary, for example was filled to the brim with juries, attorneys, and prosecutors, with white decency. Most minority communities had to wait until the mid twentieth century to be represented in influential positions. In view of this, race and ethnicity is an important aspect of the US history that defines how the society treated racial minority groups in the country.
Based on the population census held in 2000, almost 30 percent of the entire population in the country believed they fall under minority groups (Dan, Todd, and Lan, 331-341). This rising racial diversity of the United States population, triggered debate on whether the country’s mainstream population was ready to exercise tolerance and allow minority groups into influential positions in the society.
Regardless of the hundreds of years that different communities have stayed in the country, ethnic origin and ancestral roots have remained significant to individuals seeking public offices in the US. Though ethnicity is not a logical expression, it remains an imperative social tool that influences education, earnings, politics, and criminal inquiries in the US.
An individual’s race is recorded on different documents issued by the government. Such documents include official document for recording births, driver’s licenses, student identification, and crime records. Although, this information is vital, it is not beyond reproach since many American citizens are half cast (Dan, Todd, and Lan, 331-341). Nonetheless, race and ethnicity issues are observed when one applies for the US citizenship.
The issue of race and ethnicity is intertwined with the history of the United States for far too long, because it is easy to separate social and or political historical developments without considering race and ethnicity as imperative variables. (Dan, Todd, and Lan, (337-340) believe that whereas the notion behind the importance of ethnicity and descent is an axiom, it is profoundly highlighted, with respect to the population segments involved, their associations within the community, and the essence of the distinctions that differentiate them in relation to often racially affected ascriptive qualities.
This explains why certain why for one to run for president in the US, he or she must show proof of having been born in the country.
Documentaries also reinforce the contribution of race and ethnicity in defining American history. For instance, ‘I Am A Man’ I is a documentary of Martin Luther King Jr., available on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1xHuYyp4eI. The video illustrates Memphis Sanitation strike that was addressed by the African American civil rights icon.
In the film, blacks were deliberately subjected to squalid living conditions, otherwise not the case with the mainstream American whites, during the mid 20th century. The Montgomery Bus Boycott available on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ1OO5iBWCQ, also illustrates the hatred which was targeted at the minority races, especially blacks, in the United States during 1950s.
The documentary illustrates how the rights of blacks were infringed on, in regard to social facilities and services such as public transport. But today, the American society has evolved to become more tolerant to the minority groups in the country, by welcoming the election of the first Black American president. President Obama was inaugurated into office in early 2009, an event that was captured on a documentary that is available on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjnygQ02aW4.
Showalter (89) suggests ethnicity is composed of the affiliation of a particular ancestral origin of a community to the organization of the entire society. In the United States, the separation of those usually grouped in one class as minority groups, in regard to the historical significance of status and the place taken in the society, is a major factor that has influenced acculturation, coexistence, and social relations within the society.
Racial and ethnic tolerance in the United States has led to historic transformation of the society from an ancient relic that infringed on the rights of the minority groups to a new one that is built on the qualified gains of the social tolerance and equal opportunity for all.
Dan, Todd, and Lan (333-337) avers racial profiling formed an imperative part of the US history, especially during the sunset years of the twentieth century. The act raised the divide between the mainstream whites and the minority groups, three decades after blacks and other minority communities who had been discriminated against, benefitted from civil rights legislations. Law enforcers, for instance, would flag down stop a motorist or stop a reveler because of the suspect’s race or ethnicity.
To some extent, racial bias found its way into law enforcement, leading policing agencies to focus more on particular suspicious actions or situations likely to result to criminal behavior or trace into crimes that had been committed before the encounter. Statistics indicate that males from minority communities bore the brunt of skewed policing in the United States during the mid 20th century, especially the brutal crackdown of the rallies organized by the black activists (Showalter 89)
Generally, race and ethnicity have played a pivotal role in defining the historical course of the United States society. Long time ago, members from minority groups believed to be immigrants from other countries were referred to as aliens, hence denied registration as official citizens of the country.
The non-whites also suffered multiple infringements on their human rights; they were denied the right to select leaders of their choice, refused to own property, confined in certain neighborhoods with poor social and economic resources, denied better education and employment opportunities and gagged.
The mainstream whites on the other hand enjoyed unfettered freedom of participating in society leadership roles, picking the leaders, enjoying better social and economic resources and expressing themselves without fear. But with time, the United States society has developed to accommodate the once ‘aliens’, by building social and economic institutions for all regardless of race or ethnicity. Education, right to suffrage and equal opportunity for job application and recruitment programs have become the culture of the society.
Dan, Yongjun, Todd, Reuse, and Lan, William. Consensus And Difference: American Students’ Perspectives On The National History. Education, 131.2 (2010): 331- 341.
Showalter, E. Dennis. Not Just Black and White. Multicultural Review, 14.1 (2005): 89.