Face to Face: The Changing State of Racism across America

By James Waller | Go to book overview

2
The Foundations of "Isms"
Stereotypes, Prejudice,
and Discrimination

Arnold Toynbee has said that some twenty-six civilizations have risen from the face of the earth. Almost all of them have descended into the junk heaps of destruction. The decline and fall of these civilizations, according to Toynbee, was not caused by external invasions but by internal decay. They failed to respond creatively to the challenges impinging upon them. If Western civilization does not respond constructively to the challenge to banish racism, some future historian will have to say that a great civilization died because it lacked the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all.

-- MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. 1

"Isms" -- sexism, ageism, anti-Semitism, racism, and so forth -- represent one of the most destructive aspects of human social behavior. They are an internal rot that can imperil the health of even the strongest societies. American history is littered with violent examples of "isms" directed against groups of people simply for who they are, what they look like, what they believed, or where they come from. This book focuses on racism -- the exclusion, persecution, and marginalization of blacks, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

When the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in 1776, slavery of minorities had existed in the Western Hemisphere for nearly two centuries. Blacks have a 378-year history on this continent -- 245 involving slavery, 100 involving legalized discrimination, and only 33 years involving anything else. The first Africans were brought to what is now the United States in 1619. Whereas these first 20 likely came as

-21-

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