Looking at history from a purely anthropological standpoint, no one is actually native to North America. Research concludes that this is true whether the particular research bases its findings on Darwinism or Judeo/Christian/Muslim beliefs. Life began somewhere in the area of the world now known as the Middle East. However, some people are more native, as a result of having lived in North America the longest, than others. After the original colonists arrived across the land bridge many thousands of years ago, it is debated who showed up next, but it was probably some European Vikings out for a short fishing trip. Columbus was a late comer, and he realized that people had already colonized the land he "discovered." It was not until everyone else had arrived in America, that Africans were brought over to work the land in chattel slavery. Three groups Native Americans (American Indians used here as the preferred term of the people themselves), Whites/European-Americans, and Blacks/African-Americans are the focus of this essay. This paper will look at how the three groups arrived in what is now the United States, and compare/contrast the experiences of the groups.
The first wave of Americans immigrants are thought to have come to the shores of North America approximately 25,000 years ago (Chavez y Gilbert, 2007), although that is widely debated. The fact is that Asians did cross the land bridge across what is now the Bering Straits until around 12,000 years ago when that are became sea again. These people spread out from the Northern reaches of the United States and Canada, to the southern regions of South America over a 20,000-year period, and they formed the first communities in what would come to be known as the Americas.
These people were built their own distinct societies, lived nomadic or stationary lives, and were always ready to get involved in the war struggles inherent between any two peoples due to property concerns or to prove manhood. This way of life continued until the first Europeans began to arrive in 1495. The newcomers did not believe in the same way of life and they tried to dominate and Christianize all of the people now native to North America.
It has been debated for many years when the Europeans first came to America, and most now believe that it was well before Columbus (Chavez y Gilbert, 2007). Colonies began in Central and South America in the 1500's and shortly after that the French came to the upper reaches of the middle U.S. And Canada. Then, in the 1600's the English began trying to establish colonies along the coast of the U.S. The European settlers took root in these areas and moved the indigenous peoples out.
Africans came to the United States for much different reasons than other people. Although some American Indians were enslaved, most were just exterminated or moved off of their land. No other people was as routinely made to endure chattel slavery as those from the continent of Africa. At first it was just wars between tribes that caused this enslavement. But then, the slaves started being sold to Portuguese middle men who took the tribe's people to the coast and sold them to slave ship captains from the rest of Europe. Many of these Africans were then transported to slave markets in different parts of the Americas. They were thought to be better slaves than the natives because they had been shipped thousands of miles from their homes and would not be able to run back to them. So, the Africans arrived in America and became members of the cultural milieu.
Many studies have been conducted and books written regarding European world dominance from the 1400's until the present. Empires rose and were defeated, but the most damage may have been caused not by the actual fighting armies, but by the armies of people who fled their own oppression under kings and other people. The Whites that emigrated to what is now the United States wasted no time following in the footsteps of those they had left to begin their own subjugation of a new continent and its now native people.
The first term that can be used for the European emigration is amalgamation. The people from the different European countries and cultures were originally at odds (such as the British settlers and the Dutch), but they eventually formed bonds that helped them to create a society that would completely divorce itself from the European motherland in the 1770's and 80's. The two sides were a mixture of European natives and their colonies who fought for the right to control America. England knew what they were losing in terms of tribute and future revenue, so they fought hard to keep control. But, the rebels won. The amalgamation of the people from different European countries fought with certain tribes of American Indians to wrest control of a country that was not theirs to begin with from another group of Europeans and American Indians who wanted to keep control. This amalgamation continued from there as other groups of Whites were accepted into the society to form what the text called the "triple-melting-pot" (Parrillo, 2011).
The two other groups were not a part of the amalgamation because of their relative differences from the European populations. The American Indians could not be a part of the group because they were native to the country, so they had land that the Whites wanted. This sealed their fate as a group that was at first exterminated, and then the Whites tried to assimilate them (Parrillo, 2011). In her presentation about healthcare and the Native Americans Thomas talked about the efforts of the Whites to assimilate the American Indians. These efforts included taking the children to schools where they would learn the tenets of their new culture, and civilize them. This assimilation did not work because even after the American Indian children were properly schooled, they still did not have the approval of the general population. Therefore, even those who were educated into the White culture in primary, secondary and tertiary schools were later shunned by the very Whites who had tried to take away their culture.
The Africans who first came in ships to the United States were forced to assimilate to some extent. At first, the people were controlled because they were slaves, but the freed Blacks, of whom there were quite a few, realized that they needed to accept the culture in the United States if they wanted to be a part of it. This meant that they willingly assimilated even though they knew that they were not accepted by the Whites. The assimilation of the freed blacks was more along the lines of Anglo-conformity (Parrillo, 2011), which was seen in the fact that the freed Africans of the time tried to be like the Whites as much as possible (and many who shared a long European heritage were very much like the Whites) to fit into the society. However, they were never accepted by the White culture even in the North.
After 1865, all of the slaves were officially freed (the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, but the Civil War ended in April, 1865), and many in the Northern government promised that they would be accepted into society as equals. Originally, Blacks took positions in government, both local and national, but this quickly ended when the soldiers were removed. The time period between about 1880 and 1960 was a time of segregation and humiliation for the Blacks. Whites in the South resented the fact that the government had favored the Blacks over them (supposedly), and they took it out by passing Jim Crow laws, and by organizing into gangs that terrorized Black families. During this period there was no attempt at any type of cultural equality between the Blacks and Whites in the South. The Whites held all of the power, and they used it to, in effect, continue the slavery that had been their ancestors lot. The only way for the Southern Blacks to escape this forced servitude was to move North. Even there, the Blacks were not welcomed into the society, but were kept separate in their own communities. This was a type of accommodation that the text calls structural pluralism (Parrillo, 2011). This pluralism still exists to a lesser extent today for African-American communities.
Because of this Blacks have formed their own cultural traditions and had periods like the Harlem Renaissance such as Jackson spoke about. It was a time when Black art, music and writing started to become recognized in the wider American culture. Whites began to see the brilliance of the Black music and thrill to some of the writers such as Langston Hughes. This time of renaissance did not completely endear Blacks to Whites because structural pluralism remained, but it did instill pride in the African-American community.