It was only after ten years of fractious political differences between Great Britain and the thirteen colonies that war broke out. At Concord in the colony of Massachusetts, the colonialist militia refused to cede and disarm at the command of the Royal Army, officially sparking the American Revolutionary War. Attack and counterattack followed. Petitions were made to the King in Great Britain. The Americans conciliatory yet determined to find reprieve. The Royal army stubborn and forceful, demanding servitude of a people determined to remain free. Very much, like their masters back in the Great Britain. "When in the Course of human events..." Few people in America need more to recognize these words. Fewer still do not appreciate the huge impact of the Declaration of Independence. The founding principle on which an ambitious nation was to rise and, centuries later, conquer the whole world. The land of the free. Land of opportunity. Beacon of hope. Somehow we all forget, or simply ignore, the fate of those ancient Sioux's, Cherokees, Shawnees and all other Native American tribes. Were the Native Americans vanquished or were they assimilated into the mainstay of American culture? Even after the Declaration of Emancipation that freed black slaves in America, Jim Crow and Segregation condemned black people to servitude and oppression. The juxtaposition between the lofty wording of the declaration of independence and America's treatment of other peoples begs the question: Is oppression and subjugation the foundation for "The land of the free"?
From the Indian Removal Act and the subsequent mass forced evacuation of Native Americans from their lands for American occupation to the Jim Crow laws that established the neo-oppression of freed blacks, America displays a blatant disregard for the welfare of people of nationalities other than European from which a majority come from. According to Horse (63), America remains to be a white supremacist society where racial stratification oppresses people from other racial groups. While freedoms for the white majority have always been upheld and defended with steadfast commitment, Native Americans, as with all other minority groups in the country, have had to fight through oppressive discrimination to gain a modicum of recognition and dignity in American society (Stebbins, 132).
The oppression of minority groups may not alarm many people because they come from different cultures, which are perceived as being inferior to the European ancestry of the colonialist who worked to establish the country. According to Stebbins (9), gross violations of Native Americans for federal gain were justified by the simple feat of describing them as savage barbarians from whom the civilized American populace needed protection. It is rather ironical that so soon after breaking away from the crown because they were oppressed, American governments perpetrated heinous acts of subjugation against Native American tribes. Native Americans were soon being forced to evacuate their lands, with brutality that gave birth to such blemishes as The Trail of Tears where thousands of the Five Civilized Tribes who had previously adopted European customs and lifestyles followed by the settlers.
Ultimately, the subject of oppression for minorities boils down to one factor namely material greed. The motive behind the forceful removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands was to pave way for farms and white settlement (National Humanities Center 7). The other minority group that has faced substantial amount of oppression is the black American community. Initially brought to the country to work as slaves in cotton farms in the south, African-Americans have been greatly oppressed by the white majority American government even after their freeing. Exploitation for labor is the greatest challenge facing the black American community today (Stebbins 133).
More than two hundred after the independence of the United States, European immigrants to America are held in more regard than Native Americans who have lived in the land for several millenniums. Injustices against the Native Americans continued into the twentieth century where forced urbanization and social control enabled by the 1922 Protective Legislation pronounced aboriginal people (those not from European countries or descended from European natives) as dependents of the state (Weaver 5). Rather than being an independent nation where all peoples of the world can exist in harmony in their constitutionally pursuit of happiness, America's social stratification paints the picture of a melting pot for European cultures with black and oriental people being ostracized.
According to Stebbins (5), current generations cannot possibly be held responsible for the socioeconomic upheaval that resulted from the enactment of such laws as The Forceful Asian Removal Act, Jim Crow legislations, among others. The level of tolerance between white Americans and Native Americans has improved gradually as interactions increased. Mutual understanding has improved over time as Native Americans have embraced the urban lifestyle and interacted with other cultures. A popular counterargument to the claim that America oppresses minority communities is to point out that communities are living more harmoniously today, and government interference to the affairs of groups like Native American tribes has dropped significantly.
Another counterargument is that British settlers had a right to claim land that lay idle
The founding fathers of American came to the continent to seek personal fortune, freedom, and comfort. Through dogged determination and ambition, they have succeeded in transforming the country into the leading economy of the world and the strongest military force with global interests. For many people around the world, moving to America is symbolic of receiving a chance to achieve personal dreams and living the exulted life synonymous with the country. It is only regrettable that the foundation of these achievements is the oppression of racial groups perceived to be inferior. Even more alarming, however, is the fact that the racial stratification of America is still an issue today, and that Native Americans, Blacks, and others still live under marginal oppression.
Horse, Perry G. "Native American Identity." New Directions for Student Services 1.109 (2005): 61-68
National Humanities Center. The Taking of Indian Lands: Perspectives of Native Americans and European Americans, 1707-1765. Research Triangle Park: National Humanities Center Resource, 2008
Stebbins, Susan. Native Peoples of North America. Geneseo: Open SUNY Textbooks, 2013
Dalal, Nassima. "The impact of colonial contact on the cultural heritage of native American Indian people." Diffusion: the UCLan Journal of Undergraduate Research 4.2 (December 2011) 1-10
Weaver, Hilary N. "Recognizing Our Past and Moving Toward Our Future: Decolonizing Attitudes About Skin Color and Native Americans." Journal of Indigenous Social Development 4.1 (2015): 1-15
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