African American Discrimination in America


Racial discrimination among all minority groups has been around for a long time in America. One of these includes African Americans. There has been a long history of racial discrimination among this group which has lead to the awareness of this social problem. Mills describes the sociological imagination which ties into why racial discrimination is a social problem. The sociological imagination is how individuals are connected to society. The sociological imagination talks about personal troubles which are individual problems, and publice issues which is multiple individuals that have the same problem. In this case African Americans are the individuals that have the problem of being discriminated against. Racial discrimination is no longer an issue that one individual is dealing with, it is a public issue that all African Americans are dealing with which makes it a social problem. In 1941 Fuller and Myers defined what a social problem was "a condition defined by a considerable number of persons as a deviation from some social norm which they cherish." Now that racial discrimination is a social problem a number of individuals have tried to put it to a stop. Although there have been groups who have stood against racial discrimination, there have also been those who believe that colored individuals do not deserve equal rights. One of those groups is called the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The KKK was founded by the veterans of the confederate army in 1865. The KKK was the group that was against any race that was not White or non-protestant religions. One of the primary goals of the KKK was to kill African Americans and to prevent any advancement of African influence in American society. Even though the majority of the KKK activity has declined, there are still current active members today.

Here are some of the main events that show how racial discrimination against black people came to be...

1619: Slavery in America

African slaves were brought to North American colonies by the European settlers. Some experts have estimated close to 7 million slaves that were brought to America, and within them some of the strongest people from the African nation. (1) Our country was dependent on the African slaves because they were the majority of the slaves contributing to the production of crops like tobacco and cotton.

1861: Civil War

This war consisted of eleven slave states that declared their separation from the union which then created the Confederate States of America. This was an important war for the beginning of the end of slavery where the first slaves were freed. "Some 186,000 black soldiers would join the Union Army by the time the war ended in 1865, and 38,000 lost their lives. The total number of dead at war's end was 620,000, making it the costliest conflict in American history," (2). The Civil war also helps shape the future for blacks in America.

1865: After Slavery

Since millions of slaves were granted their freedom during the Civil War, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were very important to the newly free slaves because they granted them with citizenship, and granted them the rights to vote no matter what race a person was. Most white people were not okay with the new amendments so the white people in the south created certain laws that treated blacks unequally. Along with these laws the KKK intimidated and stopped the advancement of black people in society.

1896: Segregation

Black people were considered "equal" to white people in the society, but they were seperated by their color. This was done by public places posting signs that were designated for white people or colored people. For example, public restrooms had signs outside that were for white people, and a seperate bathroom that was for black people. The conditions of these public places were considered "equal" but from pictures, there is evidence that the places designated for black people were in bad conditions compared to the places designated for white people.

Segregation was a good example of the definition for oppression. Susanne Bohmer and Joyce Briggs defined oppression as "attitudes, behaviors, and pervasive and systematic social arrangements by which members of one group are exploited and subordinated while members of another groups are granted privileges." During the period of segregation African Americans were the oppressed group because they weren't given the same rights and opportunities as white people. White people were the privileged group because they were able to do anything they wanted. There was the whole concept of separate but equal and that even though places were separated by the color of skin, they were "equal". The reality is that they were separated by the color of their skin and they were not given the same opportunities or privileges as the white people. Black people were the oppressed group and still are today.

1909: N.A.A.C.P


"The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination,"

The NAACP was one of the first groups that formed to fight for equal rights. It was founded in 1909 due to the events of lynching and crime committed against blacks. So both blacks and whites came together to discuss how to fight for equality and justice for blacks in America. This was the start of the association which is still active and one of the strongest associations for black people in America.

1954: Brown Vs. Board of Education

This case was a "landmark decision" which started the integration of schools because racial segregation in public schools violated the 14th amendment. This case was not simply about children and education but it was a product of human inclination to judge and discriminate against colored people. The Brown decision was inspired and fired up human rights struggles in America.

1960: SNCC


A group of black college students at A&T University in North Carolina were refused service by white servers, black students refused to leave the counter as a silent protest. This influenced other college students to do the same, this was the start of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was founded by John Lewis who played a big part in to civil rights movement. John Lewis spoke at the march on Washington and he also coordinated the famous march from Selma to Montgomery for the right to vote, this day is also known as "bloody Sunday". The SNCC was a group of college students that protested and practiced non violence. They also had workshops to teach black people on how to register to vote and educate them on everything about voting.

1964: Civil Right Act

This act protected citizens from discrimination, mainly African Americans by prohibiting segregation in schools, public places, and employment. This act also allowed equal voting rights the following year in 1965 by eliminating the biased registration requirement.

1992: Rodney King

Rodney King was an African American who was the victim of police brutality by the LA police officers. This was caught on video and aired on television which raised outrage in the black community. The Rodney King case made all the national news, at which point influenced other African Americans to speak up to end this brutality used against them.

2001: First African American male and female to become Secretary of State

Colin Powell, a Vietnam veteran and four star general U.S. Army general became the first secretary of state under George W. Bush. This was the first time an African American was holding one of the most important positions in the U.S. government. He is well respected among his peers and very influential in the government, at one point he was also considered a possible presidential candidate. After giving his resignation in 2004, the position was given to Condoleeza Rice, who was a foreign policy adviser and head of the National Security Council. Rice became the first African-American women to serve as secretary of state.

2009: Barack Obama

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States; he is the first African American to hold that office.

Role of Institutions

An institution is "the organization of a set of values and norms that establishes how we attempt to meet our basic needs as a society." Institutions try to maintain the status quo and keeping things in society the same as we know it. We will be focusing on three specific institutions that play a part in contributing to racial discrimination against African Americans.

Colleges: Colleges construct plans to have a certain percentage of black students that would get accepted in their college, this is still discriminating against the other black students who might be as qualified. Even though colleges are not supposed to use quotas they are trying to diversify the campus. This chance has been given to black students through Affirmative Action which causes discrimination against black students in colleges.

Media: We see in media that blacks in movies are portrayed as sports figures, musically talented, gang related or live in poverty. Movies are shown where black people still use the 'N' word vigorously which makes it seem like its okay to say it within the black community. Media needs to stop promoting movies that use the 'N' word even though its normal to use within the black community. Audiences need to see a different image for black people because majority of the ones shown in the movies are negative which causes discrimination against black people. Another important part of media is the daily news shows. News channels often sheds light on the negative aspects of black people or the community they live in which causes stereotypes that all communities with black people or other minorities are bad communities that often involve gang violence, drug dealing, assaults, rapes, and poverty. "Chapter 5 shows how local television news portrays blacks in urban communities with a limited palate that paints a world apparently out of control and replete with danger." The book The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America by Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki discusses the history about black people in the media and how it influences what other people think of the black community.

Work: Depending on the employer, majority of them tend to hire white people for white collar jobs because black people are less educated and considered lower class. Blacks usually ended up getting blue collar jobs where less education is needed, and are required to do more labor work. Blacks are always assumed to have less education because of their circumstances. This shows that discrimination against black people are put in both white and blue collar jobs. Affirmative action plays a very important role in the work force as well to avoid discrimination against blacks.


We have seen and heard many cases or stories of discrimination against black people in America. There have been some untold stories before racial discrimination became a social problem. Now every black individual has the right to speak up once they feel like they were discriminated. We will look at one of the most recent cases of racial discrimination against blacks.
"Henry Louis Gates Jr., a prominent Harvard scholar of African-American history, was arrested at his home in Cambridge, Mass., last week by an officer investigating a report of a burglary in progress. Although charges for disorderly conduct were dropped, the incident has caused a stir over the issue of racial profiling." New York Times
This is a good example of how the claimsmakers have shed light on racial discrimination as a social problem.
Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

This incident sparked other racial profiling cases that occurred in the past. It also reminded the American society that racial discrimination still exists in America. As we can see in the video where President Obama talks about this issue on a national network. Many believe since President Obama was elected that we have overcome racial discrimination, but from Professor Gates' arrest, it is clear that African Americans are still targets of racial discrimination.

Potential Solutions

There are many potential solutions that can eliminate racial discrimination, but it will take a lot of time. We stated above already, some organizations that formed around the idea of fighting racial discrimination. One solution that would really help is awareness. Groups like the NAACP and SNCC are a form of awareness. My potential solution is similar to these organizations. This organization would be open to anyone that is willing to participate and wants to fight for equality for all. After this organization is put together, they could go to different schools from elementary through college or after school programs like the boys and girls clubs and teach students about racial discrimination. These visits to the schools would include lessons on how racial discrimination started, examples of people that experienced racial discrimination, and how they dealt with it. Another important part of this awareness and teaching solution I would want to involve the students and have them share any kind of experiences involving discrimination or inequality. The reason for having students sharing thier experiences is to show that they aren't dealing with this on their own, other people have experienced it too, and they can relate to eachother. After doing the lessons, and sharing experiences with one another, everyone will brainstorm their own kinds of solutions that they can perform everyday to minimize racial discrimination each day of their lives so that one day it can be completely gone. This solution would help solve the issue of racial discrimination in the aspect of society and individuals. The individuals are being taught that racial discrimination is a social problem and they can do something everyday to help get rid of it, and that it how it turns into the society addressing the issue because there is more than just one individual that is trying to fix this problem.

Every individual has a voice in America. These are some of the voices that help others realize people's problems or make them aware of the situation. This is one of the solutions that should be used to make everyone aware of how minorities like black people are still facing discrimination in America. Each individual can make their personal stories heard through articles, books, magazines, internet, or movies. Overall, the media has a huge impact on these different branches of networks. Media could be both positive or negative. The positive part of media is showing how blacks are still being discriminated against in America, such as being pulled over by the police for being black. The negative part of media is that most of the movies are still showing black people involved in gangs and violence. These are some of the strongest images shown, and could leave a huge impact on others when it comes to decision making. These decisions could be used when it comes down to hiring black people, or accepting them in colleges. Experiencing discrimination on daily basis could change that individual in many different ways, either being violent or depressed. Therefore discrimination stories need to be told and hearing their stories from individuals could make a huge difference in this society.

One potential solution that already exists is Sojourn to the Past. Sojourn to the Past is a 10 day trip that takes place in the south at the key places where the Civil Rights Movement took place, it is a retracement of the Civil Rights Movement. This is a very good potential solution because it takes students on the trip and the students get to physically experience, see, feel, and hear about the Civil Rights Movement and how racial discrimination still exists today. The students that take the trip get to meet key people from the Civil Rights Movement like John Lewis, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, and many more. The students get to hear first hand stories, and experiences from the people that were alive and present at the time when racial discrimination was violent and very scary to face. Sojourn to the Past is a very good potential solution because it has about three trips per year with students from different high schools. This is a potential solution because slowly over time more and more students will have gone on this trip and will want to help in the ending of racial discrimination.


a) (1) (2)



d) Entman, Robert M. and Rojecki, Andrew. 2000. The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America. The University of Chicago Press

e) Mills, C. Wright. 1959. The Sociological Imagination.Oxford University Press.

f) Goodnough, Abby. 2009. Harvard Professor Jailed; Officer Is Accused of Bias. New York Times, July 20.

.Warren, Patricia; Farrell, Amy. The Environmental Context of Racial Profiling. Florida State University. Journal Volume 623, 52-63. 2009.

King, C. Richard. Nurturing Racism: Taking Race and Kids (Popular) Culture Seriously. Washington State University. Volume 9. 2009.

Seaton,K. Eleanor; Yip, Tiffany. School and Neighborhood Contexts, Perceptions of Racial Discrimination, and Psychological Well-being Among African American Adolescents. Department of Psychology, Univ. of North Carolina. Volume 38. 2009.


Since our group consisted of only two people we decided to split the work evenly in each section.

By Amy Gutierrez and Sahand Chini