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A Short History of Bigotry In America


Given all the controversy over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in Lower Manhattan and all the discussion over immigration reform, a more liberal-minded person would probably think that the United States has suddenly become bigoted thanks to the likes of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and their Tea Party supporters.

However, looking at the history of this country right back to the Colonial days, you realize that we have always had something against this or that group, beginning from the colonial days. And if you are thinking solely about slavery and Jim Crow after the Reconstruction, you might be surprised that many others were persecuted for their religious beliefs, their origins or skin color.

For instance, the same settlers who came to this continent to pursue religious freedom did everything they could to ban Roman Catholics from immigrating here, as they were suspicious of the fact that those believers followed the instructions of their “Prince in Rome” (this being a term used during the Civil War when Irish-Americans joined the Union Army). Such distrust continued into the 20th century, when then-candidate John F. Kennedy had to go public to ‘explain’ his religion to the voters, stating that he was “not the Catholic candidate for President,” but the “Democratic Party's candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic.”

Asians were also targeted by this country from the late 19th century all the way to the end of World War II. While several other ethnic groups could freely immigrate to this country, the Chinese (and later all Asians) were denied entry here via a law called the “Chinese Exclusion,” which not only banned new immigrants from that continent but also excluded those who were already here to gain citizenship. That only changed in 1965, when a reform did away with the cruel quota system established in 1943 that kept ‘undesirable’ groups from pursuing their happiness here.

Of course, other groups were ridiculed or branded unfit in some way, such as the Irish (who ‘did not need apply’ for job openings), Hispanics (yep, they have been scapegoats since way back when - just watch Giant) or others - remember that until The Civil Rights Act, interracial marriage was forbidden in a great number of states.

I do not think bigotry is a good thing, but looking back at all this history, I think that I can now understand (but still deeply disagree) with all the current emotions going on in the United States. Maybe in another century or so, this country’s races might become mixed enough so that this kind of thing won’t matter. In the meantime, we will continue, to a degree or another, continue to see the sad spectacles displayed in the daily papers these days.


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