Racism and Prejudice
There is no more evil thing in this present world than race prejudice, none at all. … It justifies and holds together more baseness, cruelty, and abomination than any other sort of error in the world.—H. G. Wells.
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.—The Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
The status of black Americans today can be characterized as a glass that is half full—if measured by progress since 1939—or as a glass that is half empty—if measured by the persisting disparities between black and white Americans since the early 1970s. — Gerald D. Jaynes & Robin M. Williams, Jr., 1989.
Americans like to think of the U. S. as “one nation… with liberty and justice for all. ” However, despite these high ideals, our nation has a long history of intolerance, injustice, and violence—first toward the Native Americans, and then toward a succession of immigrant groups, each of which had to struggle to gain the freedom, equality, and justice guaranteed to them by the Constitution. To cite just one example, anti-Catholicism was rampant in all of the American colonies settled by Protestants, even leading to the execution of priests. It grew even stronger when large numbers of Catholic immigrants began arriving in the nineteenth century. Powerful groups formed the violently anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party, and later the Ku Klux Klan persecuted Catholics as well as blacks and Jews. Although the Irish, Italians, Poles, and other immigrant groups gradually gained local political power, on the national scene New York Governor Alfred Smith's Catholicism doomed his presidential bid in 1928 and stirred up more anti-Catholic violence. Even in 1960, John F. Kennedy nearly lost the presidential election because of anti-Catholic sentiment and votes. Since then, those passions have mostly evaporated, but it was 1979 before a Pope could be entertained in the White House and welcomed as a visitor by Americans of all religious persuasions (Morrow, 1979).
This chapter on prejudice and discrimination focuses mostly on race relations involving black Americans, the group that was stigmatized most severely by slavery in America and later by legalized “Jim Crow” segregation. However, it is important to realize that fairly similar accounts could be written about religious persecution, not only against Catholics but also against Jews, Muslims, and others, and about ethnic, racial, and national prejudice against Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Irish, Italians, and many other