Racism in California: A Reader in the History of Oppression

Racism in California: A Reader in the History of Oppression

Racism in California: A Reader in the History of Oppression

Racism in California: A Reader in the History of Oppression

Excerpt

Until not so long ago, historians were mainly interested in describing the actions of dominant elites and concerned themselves largely with political and military leaders. The vogue of this so-called "drum and trumpet" history is happily now past; since the 1930s social and economic history has tended to prevail. But even with the increasingly broader scope of our analysis of the past, significant areas have been virtually ignored: one of the most important of these is the systematic oppression that has been the lot of racial minorities.

By collecting some of the more perceptive accounts of how racism has operated in one state, California, we hope to help correct this deficiency. While it is now possible to give a generalized picture of the oppressions suffered by racial groups in the past, not nearly enough is known about this vital subject. We hope that some of those who read this book as students will be stimulated to do research of their own about what happened in their particular localities.

It is sometimes argued that California and Californians are more prejudiced than most of the rest of the nation. Perhaps. What is more certain is that in California there have always been greater numbers and varieties of people against whom to discriminate, or against whom to be prejudiced. Had Swedes been red, yellow, brown, or black, Minnesota might also have been a racial battleground.

We are informed by social psychologists that racial discrimination is learned behavior. Californians certainly learned that lesson thoroughly, and not only white Californians. Group hostility among the dispossessed, although not examined in this book, has existed side by side with the more common form of prejudice. Furthermore, because of the variety of pigments encountered in California, all white men were "promoted"; for example, Roman Catholics and Jews encountered significantly less prejudice than they did in the supposedly more enlightened East.

Although racism can be affected by circumstances of geography, propinquity, and population and can be practiced by any race (the treatment of East Asians in contemporary black Africa is a case in point), most of the racism in California stems from and is related to the whole American racist tradition that begins almost, but not quite, with our history. The . . .

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