Disputes Between White Settlers And Minority Groups
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One could theoretically argue that these examples of were not intended, but alas, what all of these diverse groups still shared was racial conflict with white settlers. What white settlers of this time were certainly motivated to do was to expand their nation. They had to thus be willing to do anything and everything in order to acquire the land that would facilitate this growth. Targeting these minority groups offered the obvious path of least resistance. After all, each minority group was starkly distinct from white settlers, so there was a sense of vindication in grossly manipulating them. The idea of Native American assimilation, for instance, was nothing but an ill-hidden lie; they were viewed as savages of the woods, and the signing of treaties that were claimed to allow them to live as an independent people never actually benefited them. Rather, these treaties were admittedly one-side and profited only white settlers. (Their underrepresented presence today is an indicator of this.
Native Americans constitute such a minute proportion of the American population that their gradual disappearance is comparable to the inevitable extinction of an animal species.) Tribes such as the Cherokee did not maintain their ancestral home lands. Mexicans too, like the Native Americans, lost territories to the ambitiously expanding United States, which clearly did not consider Mexico’s claim to these lands. Putting a ceiling on Chinese immigration into America effectively curbed the potential effects of a substantial Chinese presence in a majority white America. Such a prospectively large group surely would have had consequences on a white-controlled America, so white settlers carried out actions (like preventing their naturalization) to mitigate this possibility. Even the Irish immigrants, despite sharing skin color with white settlers, were viewed as inferior to the same white Americans.
Like the Chinese immigrants, they too encountered racial discrimination and hazardous conditions in the workplace. A saving grace for these native-born white Americans could be seen in the emancipation of black slaves. That being said, the delineation of race was “reinforced by class and caste,” and even the United States Supreme Court “upheld the constitutionality of segregation”. Newfound freedom, it appeared, could not prevent African Americans from remaining heavily discriminated against, whether by de facto racial segregation or de jure Jim Crow Laws. At the end of the day, interactions between white American settlers and these various minority groups did not birth acceptance, toleration, or even acknowledgement, as a racial hierarchy was instead instituted with white settlers comfortably unchallenged at the very top.
Nonetheless, despite the injustices that these various groups suffered from their interactions with white settlers, these same minorities did not band to work together. If anything, all they would accomplish during the nineteenth century was to instigate infighting. For example, Irish immigrants found themselves on different sides from their Chinese counterparts. When Irish workers went on strike demanding increased wages and better hours, the Chinese were brought in to substitute them, only to surpass them in work dependency and efficiency. The Irish attempted to unionize them in what amounted to poorly disguised Irish self-interest, but when the Chinese refused, the Irish denounced them for “reducing ‘American labor’ to ‘the Chinese standard of rice and rats’” (Takaki, 151). Such vile resentment towards Chinese immigrants by Irish immigrants translated into a nationwide bitterness against the Chinese, which in turn yielded the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Similarly, though the Irish initially believed in the emancipation of black slaves, competition over jobs was fostered between the Irish and blacks. In this regard, however, the former promoted their whiteness and went so far as to oppose suffrage for blacks. In response, African Americans then argued that the Irish were stripping jobs from them. What could have manifested as a coalition between African Americans and the Irish instead collapsed into a senseless back-and-forth feud that was only representative of the racial discrimination and work divide during this time. Lo and behold, although racial discrimination was an obstacle that the Irish too initially encountered, they managed to utilize their white skin in order to better fit in with “white” citizens and improve their conditions in comparison with the other groups.