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Achieving Social Progress:

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Achieving Social Progress:

Race, Racial Solidarity, and Racial Integration

Since the days of reconstruction, the debate over how African-Americans could best obtain equality in the United States has raged on from generation to generation. Blacks have been subjected to racial inequalities in America before America even really existed. And even when blacks were finally "free" after the Civil War, social injustices continued throughout American history, and still exist today. There have been many heated debates throughout the short history of the United States in regards to the best possible course of action for the social progress of black people, but there has never been a consensus on what that course of action is among the country or among blacks themselves. When it comes down to it, racial integration and racial solidarity were (and still are) the basic ideologies that many black political and community leaders argue about to shape social policy and reform in the United States. The American government has followed the idea that forced integration is the best means of success for the African-American population, but is this truly the best way to truly achieve equality? For some people, the answer appears to be yes, but there are many others who would disagree. In this paper, I examine both ideas of racial integration and racial solidarity from a historical perspective and the effects of these ideologies on society as a whole.

In order to truly conceptualize the idea of social progress for blacks, one must first understand what social progress really is in itself. Social progress is exactly how it sounds. It is the process in which societies or individuals become better. According to Lars Orsberg, "social progress (in a liberal society) must be measured in the "enabling" sense that a society progresses when it enables more of its citizens to achieve the kind of life they personally value." Traces of the idea of social progress can be found back during the Enlightenment period in Europe. During this period, social commentators and philosophers began to realize that the people could actually change society and change their way of life because they are the ones who made their own society, not the gods. This led to the idea that human beings could make choices and that people could independently make their own lives using their own judgment. Because of the ideas of human freedom and people controlling what happened in history emerged (whether it be evolutionary or revolutionary), real human progression and regression could then be seen occurring in history. This is the basic idea where social progress comes from, but times change and the idea of social progress becomes more complex when you include factors such as race, gender, and class status. Today, many blacks (and other minority groups) face a much more arduous road of social progression. Social inequalities and injustices have severely hindered the social progress of African-Americans in the U.S. for well over two-hundred years, but history tells a story of the attempts and movements to help overcome these hindrances.

Everyone knows that slavery occurred and how terrible and inhumane of an institution it was. However, in America, the slavery institution's ugly head is still somewhat embedded in our culture. It is the main historical aspect that affects race relations in America today. Slavery actually was the institution that brought about the need for the concept of race:

"Racial slavery did not happen all at once. Slowly, involuntary servitude in America became the province of black Africans and slowly that involuntary servitude evolved into full-scale slavery. In the process, not only did slavery itself have to be justified, but racial slavery had to be justified. In order to do this, Europeans and European-Americans had to invent a new concept: race" (Hooker 1996).

The modern concept of race was promoted by rich Europeans in the 17th century to perpetuate slavery. Among the people who accepted the idea of race, circumstances for people who were seen as "white" improved slightly. This "slight" improvement for whites and the enslavement of blacks based on the concept of race was the beginning of the social inequalities and injustices that faced enslaved Africans then and also can account for many of the inequalities suffered by African-Americans today. When slavery ended, the concept of race only got worse for blacks because the "one-drop rule" was then implemented which basically said that "a person with as little as one drop of black blood in their heritage was to be considered black" (Davis 1991). This later could actually be considered somewhat advantageous to Black Americans, because many people, who would never even be considered black other places around the world, were in the U.S., thus giving the African American population a boost and opportunity to have even more intellectuals amongst the ranks. Though we are all human beings, the concept of race is also the reason why the idea of social progress differs greatly among groups in America today.

The purpose of the concept, race, is to exaggerate differences, to create divisions, and to confuse issues. After the civil war, the concept of race did not just go away and everyone was considered simply American, but rather divisions grew deeper and the period of Reconstruction made it worse. During this period from 1865 to 1876, the government attempted to give more equality to blacks by enforcing harsh laws on white southerners and chastising former confederates. Unfortunately, it became rather obvious that the problems of the South could not be solved this way and northerners wanted there troops to come home, thus leading to the end of Reconstruction and also to whatever forward progress blacks were going to make. Outraged white southerners quickly began to practice extreme forms of discrimination and they had the state governments and the federal government in their corner now. This quickly led to the segregation by race and it extended into every area of Southern life by law; and if any area of life was not segregated by law, then it was surely segregated by custom and practice. Faced with widespread discrimination and racism, African-Americans needed someone or something to believe in.

Following Reconstruction, two very important black in¬tellectuals clashed over the direc¬tion African-Americans should take to shake off the chains and residual effects of slavery and racial discrimination. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois came from different backgrounds and as a result, they had different perspectives on the growing race issue in America. Dubois sought to direct responsibility for change



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