African Americans in the U.S. Society
America has a history problem, especially when dealing with African Americans and slavery. It starts with the myth of Africa being filled with primitive tribes. African slaves came from farming villages, that had their own societies. They were used to farm work. Captured, chained, put on crowded slave ships, they made the voyage across the Atlantic. They were put on auction blocks and sold to their future masters. Separated from their culture, language, support system, and everyone they knew and loved, they were marched to forced labor and torture camps we have euphemistically called “plantations.” There, they were forced to work for the profit of their masters. They were ruled by shackles, whipping, rape, and lynching, while their white owners lived high class “cultured” lives. The money they made from producing cotton and sugar fueled the industrialization of the Northern states.
European immigrants had genealogical backgrounds and Old-World ties. They were able to interact with others of their ethnic groups. Around Marathon City, where I grew up, there were German, Polish, and Irish Catholic Churches. German Lutherans had their churches. My mother’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Norway as teenagers. My wife and I eventually joined a former Norwegian Lutheran Church in Wausau. African slaves did not have the support of their ethnic groups and religion. They had been torn away from their identities and mixed together with people from different areas of Africa. Families were routinely split apart and sold to labor camps throughout the South. Most feared were the deadly sugar labor camps in Mississippi and Louisiana. Not only were the cultural identities of the African slaves disintegrated, but their families were split up and sold for profit.
After emancipation was declared during the Civil War it appeared as if Africans would find a role as citizens in the U.S. Reconstruction, however, under President Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, allowed Southern whites to romanticize their “Lost Cause” of racial superiority. They enacted Jim Crow legislation, which allowed the re-enslavement of the former slaves by political and economic laws that legislated a severe segregated and unequal, society. With the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s promising a reinvigorated emancipation of the African Americans in U.S. society, the backlash of the the “Lost Cause” white supremacists has intensified. Our treatment of our African American population still has a long way to go to achieve equal opportunities in the U.S. economy, politics, and social acceptance.
White Christian nationalists are propagandizing to fear the “other” in our society. People I ask way overestimate the percentage of African-Americans in the U.S. population. According to a Gallop poll 56% of Americans think the African-Americans represent 30% or more of the population, rather than the actual 13.6%. White supremacists find it politically advantageous to push exaggerated numbers. The African-American percentage of the U.S. population is rather stable. People who identified as white alone in 2020 comprised 61.6%, but if added to those who identified ed as white in combination with another race group, their percentage was 71% of the total population. The largest increase in U.S. percentage were those who claimed mixed race moving from 2.9% of the population to 10.2%. Any analysis of these census figures belies the fear propaganda of minorities taking over and being vindictive toward whites in our society.
We can take pride in that our society has been moving in the direction of a diverse society that treats its citizens on the content of character and ability rather than a superficial glance at the color of their skin.