20th Century History Essay Examples
The Division of America by Race and Class between 1900 and 1941
One of the leaders of the African Americans, Du Bois once stated that the major problem in the twentieth century in America was the racial discrimination. In the 1900, a third of American’s population comprised of immigrants native-born Americans whom at least one parent was a foreigner. They represented the minority group. But as the economy developed, more immigrants moved into the country and by 1905, there were additional 449,000 immigrants (McGerr 32). The working class comprised of the African- Americans, Mexicans, Japanese and Chinese. The difference in their races bled antagonism, suspicion and conflict among the diverse workers. The racial differences turned into workplace conflicts. Racism bled hatred among the different races with each race considering itself superior to the other.
The class of specialists also had conflicts with the less specialized labor. They despised the less skilled and would demand a high pay for their services, thus further widening the gap between the skilled and non-skilled workers (McGerr 34). Racism was well pronounced in America during the era. The minority races faced discrimination in access to public services such as education and water. This affected the development of these races, and they lagged behind. For instance, their inaccessibility to education denied them a chance to train in the skills needed for labor. This in turn affected their economic status because without skills they could only work in the unskilled sections. There was a wide gap between the unskilled and skilled workers in terms of wages. They would therefore continue earning poor wages and living miserably, and this further deepened the hatred between the whites and the minority races. It was difficult for the minority races to reach the economic status of the white whose status made them belong to a different social class.
In some cases, they were not allowed to buy houses in the white neighborhoods. This was a move meant to ensure that the races that were regarded as inferior did not mix with the superior one in any way. People mostly interact with those who live near them and in the same sense the bonding decreases for those who are far away from them. Therefore having the whites in separate residential areas from the whites ensured that their interaction was minimal. Further, the residential classification made a clear distinction between the social classes. The white neighborhoods were associated with high class, and that is why the other races were not allowed to buy houses since they were considered to be of a lower class. This only served to enlarge the division of the American people.
There were segregation laws that further made the situation worse such as the Jim Crow. The Jim Crow laws promoted the racial discrimination. Things like trains, restaurants, restrooms, theaters, stores, buses, workplaces and other facilities were separated on racial grounds. There were sections for the whites and others for the other races which were termed as the ‘colored ‘people. The laws were operational from 1890s up to 1960s. Such laws made the situation worse since the bets public utility facilities were reserved for the whites. In addition, the race was not the only element attached to the facilities. The best facilities were reserved for the high class in the society that comprised of the whites. This is because a majority of them were rich unlike the poor people from the minority races. The minority races felt that their human rights were not addressed properly. The bitterness that developed among the people was based on the classes and the racial discrimination.
The African Americans were excluded from decision making even on matters that affected them directly since they could not vote. The direct primary election especially in the South required that only the whites would vote thus excluding the African Americans from politics. The whites were the only ones who had the power to make decisions, and this further deepened the hatred towards them by the minority races who felt that their opinions were disregarded. The political class was reserved for the whites, and this was unfair to the other races. The situation in the North was not any different. The African Americans who migrated to the North experienced more racial discrimination. Due to the high competition for limited jobs the North had racial tensions that led to social instability. They were poorly paid and were prohibited from joining labor unions where they could air their grievances. The racial discrimination was so bad that it sometimes led to violence towards the minority races. For instance, in a span of 20 years from 1900, there were about 75 cases of lynching that occurred annually (Piketty, Thomas and Emmanuel 63). The worst part is that the law did not even make any effort to investigate the lynching. This was meant to drive away the immigrants on the basis of their races and low social classes.
The great migration that happened between 1910 and 1920 led to an increase in the number of African Americans in industrial cities. After the World War 1, the country was in shortage of labor and thus the African-Americans were best suited to provide the labor (Ross 19). They still faced discrimination but as their population rose, their voting became significant. In addition, the New Deal that was introduced in 1933 by Franklin Roosevelt ensured more support for the race although some policies allowed discrimination. However, the racial discrimination did not end. The minority races were still considered inferior. Further, the social classes that were created by the economic ability of the individuals favored the whites thus widening the social gap even further.
The ways in which the American State Addressed Race and Class Divisions.
A divided nation is not easy to coordinate and especially if the nation has to achieve national goals. The government saw a need for national cohesion because it would be easier for the people to meet national goals in unity. The productivity in the industries, for example, was dependent on the input of the workers. The workers comprised of the whites and the minority races but thy wee not united. The first step that the government implemented was the promotion of unity in allowing the minority races power to vote (Ross 26). This ensured that they were included in the state’s decisions such as deciding on the best leaders. Prior to this, they were excluded from voting, a fact that made the division between the whites and the minority races wide.
The other approach that the government used to lessen the division of race and class was enabling the provision of social amenities to the minority races. Previously, even vital services such as healthcare and education were only accessible to the whites. Allowing these services to be accessed by the minority races made the division between them and the whites less. They were now able to compete equally with the whites in the job market. This enhanced their social status as they could afford better housing and living standards.
Social Friction and Economic Inequality
The social friction in America during the 20th century was mainly due to the gap in the wages that brought about the economic inequality. The social instability and wide economic gap was partly as a result of a leadership that was less concerned about national unity. Even in times when they seemed concerned it was out of their selfish gains such as re-election. For instance, the New Deal introduced by Franklin Roosevelt was not comprehensive in addressing the racial and class issues. Laws such as the Jim Crow should not have been allowed to operate if the leadership was sound. With the laws being non-operational, the divisions would not have been as wide. The only party that would have stopped the discriminatory laws from operating was the leadership which ironically implemented the laws to the letter. Further, the leadership would have been more considerate in provisions of services such as education that would see the division end. Promotion of education and voting rights to all the races would have put an end to the divisions since there would no longer be class segregations in jobs and leadership positions. The economic inequality among the races would not exist since their earning capacity would be equal. In addition, allowing all employees to join labor unions would ensure that the employees get justified wages thus reduce the economic inequality.
However, there are various limitations that make it hard to associate the race and class with the social division and economic inequality. In classifying racism as the major cause of the division, may not be accurate since al the races did not face the same challenges. Even if they faced some common challenges such as in securing employment, they were treated differently. The African Americans are the ones who faced more harsh conditions thus their bitterness may not be the same for other races. Therefore, racism cannot be generalized as the cause of the division in America. Class is the other cause of the division, but there are limitations that make the conclusion debatable. In all the races, there were different classes; there were the rich and the poor regardless of the level of income. There are no clear indicators of how the classes were defined. The parameters could maybe in terms of the level of income or the living standards.
In conclusion, the 20th century was a hard time for the minority races in America where they had to fight for their rights. The height of discrimination in the nation was so high that the minority races were denied crucial services such as healthcare. This only led to divisions in the country on the basis of class and race. The high class did not interact with the low class. The racial discrimination led to social instability, but this could have been avoided.
McGerr, Michael E. A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920. New York: Free Press, 2003. Print.
Piketty, Thomas, and Emmanuel Saez. The evolution of top incomes: a historical and international perspective. No. w11955. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2006.
Ross, William David. "The right and the good." (2002).