Discrimination based on skin color has been a prominent and ugly reality in the United States for more than four centuries. People of color have been treated differently than whites and have suffered physically, economically, culturally, psychologically, and politically.
Blacks were forcibly brought over from Africa in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as indentured servants and slaves. After the abolition of slavery in the mid-nineteenth century, southern states imposed an all-encompassing system of legal segregation, which continued unabated until the 1960s. Even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act ( 1964), the Voting Rights Act ( 1965), and numerous other pieces of legislation and administrative guidelines, discrimination continues to be a widespread problem throughout the country.
Although never the victims of slavery, Hispanics were also the victims of white discrimination. The United States conquered Mexico during the nineteenth century and took over what is now the southwestern part of the United States. Puerto Rico, also annexed by war, has been an American colony since 1898. During the twentieth century, Hispanic immigrants have been disproportionately employed as migrant workers, low-paid restaurant and hotel workers, and workers in garment factory sweatshops.
American Indians were, of course, the targets first of new American colonists and then of subsequent generations as the country expanded westward. The military conquest and attempted extermination of Native Americans are infamous. The resettlement of conquered tribes on reservations was detrimental not only to both their economies and their cultures but also to the developing culture of the United States.
Asians have also been the victims of white discrimination. They were barely tolerated when they were imported as low-paid contract railroad workers in the mid-nineteenth century. A number of states passed laws prohibiting Chinese from owning property. After they were no longer needed, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which prevented further Chinese immigration. American immigration legislation in the first half of the twentieth century gave small quotas to potential immigrants from Asia, as well as immigrants from