America's Original Sin | Sojourners

America's Original Sin

The United States of America was established as a white society, founded upon the genocide of another race and then the enslavement of yet another.

To make such a statement today is to be immediately accused of being rhetorical or, worse yet, of being "reminiscent of the '60s." The reaction is instructive and revealing. The historical record of how white Europeans conquered North America by destroying the native population and how they then built their new nation's economy on the backs of kidnapped Africans who had been turned into chattel are facts that can hardly be denied. Yet to speak honestly of such historical facts is to be charged with being polemical or out of date. Why?

One reason is that racism is no longer a hot topic. After the brief "racial crisis" of the '60s, white America, including many of those involved in the civil rights movement, has gone on to other concerns. Also, the legal victories of black Americans in that period, as far as most white Americans are concerned, have settled the issue and even left many asking, "What more do blacks want?"

Federal courts have recently interpreted civil rights legislation--originally designed to redress discrimination against black people--as applying to the grievances of whites who believe affirmative action programs have "gone too far." In addition, popular racial attitudes have changed, attested to by the opinion polls and the increased number of black faces appearing in the world of sports, entertainment, the mass media, and even politics. After all, The Cosby Show is the highest-rated TV series in the country, and Jesse Jackson is running for president.

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