Racism is sadly one of the most tenacious legacies left by American history. This is especially so in the Southern areas of the United States, and specifically in Augusta, Georgia. The racism problems currently experienced in this area can be ascribed to many factors. Below is an investigation of the main historical contributions to this paradigm today. Slavery is one of the main causes still today contributing to the view of especially black people as somehow inferior and less intelligent than white people, and even people of other races.
The problem with slavery is that people were brought from their homeland mostly against their will to work on white-owned farms. Native Americans were in the country before colonizations, whereas immigrants arrived afterwards. Thus Africans were really the only group to arrive unwillingly in such large numbers. The paradigm of slavery was thus combined with the view of blacks as worth no more than to work as slaves. This is what so angered and still angers so many African-Americans.
Augusta however delivered several prominent black people to combat this paradigm. Dr. C.T. Walker, himself born a slave, was one of them (Gallop). Walker, a minister and fighter for the rights of black people in the United States, was angered by the fact that black people, who were in the country long before white immigrants, received fewer opportunities than the latter. This was a typically unfair practice of the time, and indicative of the exacerbated social difficulties faced by blacks during the beginning of the 20th century.
Another related factor is the fact that black slaves, especially those born into slavery, were taught to believe in their essentially meaningless lives, to be lived out as slaves. This imposed paradigm then also contributed to the fact that many millions of black people found it very difficult to empower themselves. Again, this was especially so in the Southern areas such as Augusta, since this was the home of slavery.
Yet Dr. Walker discouraged these persons from leaving the South to make a better life, since racism was a pervading phenomenon everywhere in the United States at this time (Gallop). Instead he encouraged black people to empower themselves in order to overcome the paradigms of racism.
It was thus a combination of mindsets; mainly that of the African-Americans and that of the white people, that resulted in the racism conflicts experienced in Augusta today. During the beginning of the 19th century white colonialists believed in the superiority of their own race, while blacks were made to believe in the inferiority of theirs. This resulted brought leaders such as Dr. Walker and Martin Luther King, who refused to be victims, or to let anyone of their race believe the lies regarding their inferiority.
The result of such empowerment is further conflict between empowered blacks and white extremists, as may be seen in the countless violent acts of murder and riot pervading American history during the 20th century.
Racial Conflict During the 20th Century
It appears that despite activists, artists and religious leaders such as Dr. Walker and Martin Luther King, race relations in Augusta would not stabilize. The year 1970 for example was also a particularly stormy year in terms of American politics. Indeed, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy had recently been assassinated at this time. Civil rights and resistance to civil rights continued to create conflict throughout the country, as did movements such as the Black pride movement (Augusta College History).
Accordingly then the black students at Augusta College during this year faced several occasions of undisguised racism in the form of students and professors alike proclaiming their supposed superiority. The black students were also not heard by the administration of the College, further frustrating them (Augusta College History). The reasons for this situation can again be found in the paradigms of the past. Augustan professors, students and administration personnel did not believe that the black students had a legitimate reason for complaint. This is typical of the attitude cultivated by a nation with a legacy of slavery.
The reaction of the students however shows a remarkable paradigm of growth in the attitude of black persons in terms of empowerment and self-worth. The Augustan black students then formed an organization, the Black Student Union, in order to encourage the personnel of the College to be more attentive to their problem. Typically however this was also met with considerable resistance, but the Union went on to become a prominent force at the College, showing that constructive action can mean even more in terms of resistance to unfair treatment than violent opposition (Augusta College History).
Racism in the 21st Century
According to the Augusta Focus however, it is clear that the problem of race is still a prominent one particularly in the South, but also across the country. Race, even as it was before the Civil War, is still a factor in many areas of life including political decisions, employment opportunities and public resources.
This can be seen particularly with regard to the Hyde Park area of Augusta. Not only do many, mostly black, residents live in abject poverty; very little is also done to empower them or to remove potentially harmful chemicals from the neighborhood. Indeed, according to HPAPIC (Hyde Park and Aragon Park Improvement Committee), despite an occasional attempt by the EPA to shut down factories such as Southern Wood Piedmont and a scrap metal company contaminating soil with arsenic, it is a losing battle between poor people and the big industry.
This Augustan legacy, similar to racism and slavery, has been built over a long period. According to HPAPIC, the Hyde Park area has been under the burden of poverty since its existence, without much help from government or other political officials. Until 1970 for example, Hyde Park residents did not have running water, and were obliged to use wells in their back yards as well as grow vegetables of their own. The problems created by their poverty were exacerbated for the residents with the advent of big industries such as the wood preserving factory and scrap metal site mentioned above.
The inability of people to move away from the area or indeed to sue the industries successfully created a cycle of poverty and illness. This is also created by the legacy of political abuses levelled at the poor and colored people. Many political agencies are associated with big industries and, according to HPAPIC, care little beyond raising funds to further their own popularity and wealth. This is impacting badly on the community of Hyde Park, and especially on the children who suffer a variety of disorders as a result of the harmful pollutants in their environment. Of course the social effects of living and growing up in such an environment can be devastating. Indeed, this is the case with many young people from the area, such as Alfred Adams, who spent fifteen years in jail for drug-related criminal activities (Dunbar).
The root of Adams' problem is poverty, and the dire need to make money as quickly as possible. Not receiving any help from politicians or other authorities often inspire especially young African-Americans like Adams to pursue a life of crime. Adams' story is however one of self-directed empowerment and success. He is currently working to empower others like him to help themselves become involved in politics in order to change the world that had so badly let them down (Dunbar).
Adams, now 33 years old, sees this as his opportunity to become involved and make his voice heard, whereas his previous paradigm was one of powerlessness. Indeed, there are no educational movements in the Hyde Park area and others like it in Augusta to empower persons by giving them advice and making them aware that there is a way to empowerment. Adams and others like him, if they are empowered, usually do so themselves. Self-empowerment however occurs only by means of empowered leaders, of which there are too few to make much of a difference to the problems experienced in Augusta.
Adams' story shows that knowledge empowers, since he recognizes that using his right to vote and inspiring others like him to do so, increases the number of black votes, as well as the power given to these votes. According to Dunbar, 22,560 Georgia parolees currently have the right to vote. If all of them do so, it would make a difference.
This paradigm is however not very strongly instilled in either the prison community or in the general black community of Augusta. The legacy of the past is still very much alive in occurrences of blatant racism in public places, as well as in cases such as the Hyde Park area, where politicians are either not aware of the disgraceful situation, or do not much care.
At the core of the problem lies the past, and the issue of empowerment. People are not taught to empower themselves, but rather to live in a state of almost…