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Discrimination in Cleveland - the Consequences of Racial Discrimination on African-Americans in Cleveland

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Discrimination in Cleveland:

The Consequences of Racial Discrimination on African-Americans in Cleveland


Abstract

Discrimination is not something that can be rationalized by any argument, but we can track down the consequences of it for African Americans in Cleveland. Our ancestors a century ago laid the ground work for a segregated city by the lake and split it right down the middle with the Cuyahoga River. The east side of Cleveland has been where African Americans lived with the injustices of discrimination against them for a century now and while discrimination is not still potent, you can see the consequences it laid out for the African American community today. While some argue that discrimination has nothing to do with lack of employment or deplorable housing situation, the real truth is that the people who discriminated against them created these circumstances for African Americans.


Discrimination in Cleveland:

The Consequences of Racial Discrimination on African-Americans in Cleveland

Consider the following scenario: A country formed on freedom and rights of individuals eventually deeming one race of individuals as unworthy of those freedoms and rights. This certain race would not be worthy of equal opportunities eventually leading to costs in the quality of life for this race for centuries. It is a curious outcome that an entire country could be built on uplifting ideals and then have double standards in its belief system.

This is a scenario that unfolded in the African-American community in America today and for the past century in Cleveland. In the early twentieth century discrimination grew in Cleveland and only continued to get worse. As a society we will never truly completely understand how racism and discrimination based on race came about or even why it started happing in the first place. Unfortunately, discrimination did eventually surface in Cleveland and the consequences from it are still noticeable today. There are people out there today that believe that African Americans put themselves in the lower status situation on their own and that argument is completely false and the data for that argument is lacking. White people put African Americans at a disadvantaged status within society and white people are the cause of all of the consequences of discrimination in Cleveland.

To really understand the state of discrimination and the consequences on the African American community in the twentieth century in Cleveland, it is important to understand that Cleveland was not always a place that treated African Americans unfairly. There was once a time when African Americans could come to Cleveland and be safe from the enslavement of the south. Somewhere along the way, this changed and Cleveland became a counterpart to southern hospitality towards African Americans. W.E.B. DuBois stated that there must be other causes of race prejudice and discrimination and stronger forces forming the founding stones of race antagonism (1968, p. 283).  Although there is hope that there is more at play for a cause to this discrimination than whites thinking that African Americans did not deserve to be treated equally, R.J. Gilbert believed that white Americans condoned discrimination with a “big lie” to gain financially from slave trade and then sold this idea to white people giving them the ok to think that African Americans were not actually real people (p. 169). This lie was then sold to citizens of both colors to explain why poverty, low employment rates, and depraved housing were ok for African Americans to deal with in America (Kusmer, Black Cleveland, 1870-1930, 1976). There are also other theories about how racism came about. One theory elaborates on actual physical appearance and how white people thought they were “so excellent that they were the closest living creatures to Greek Gods. Africans, at the opposite extreme, were close kin to primates (Camp, 2015, p. 682). This theory explains the unfair treatment saying that African Americans did not need equality; they are only primates. It is an interesting theory and thought process to compare to Gods and primates to help explain why it is that whites helped put African Americans in the situations that they did. Even with these explanations, there is no excuse for how African Americans have been discriminated against.

Beginnings of a Bigoted Regime in Cleveland

        Cleveland in the early nineteenth century was a city of equality. Whites and African Americans lived in harmony together not noticing that there was any difference other than the color of their skin. Cleveland was seen “as a northern urban industrial city… far removed from the economic, political… and even psychological currents that underlay the southern plantation system with its dependence on the enslavement of blacks” (Wye, 1995, p. 119). With this, African Americans could hold high skilled jobs and were not restricted to live in certain areas of the city. The now “ghetto” areas of the city were filled with white immigrants and African Americans and there was no difference in housing accommodations or treatment.

        African Americans in Cleveland also were big supporters of runaway slaves and offered help and sanction for the Underground Railroad. With this, African Americans confirmed their refusal to accept any future that included discrimination for African Americans and did not want to remove themselves from ordinary American life (Wye, 1995, p. 120). It seemed as though Ohio in general was evolving with the passing of the Ohio Civil Rights Act in 1984, which prohibited the discrimination of any citizen based on race. The law clearly stated “all persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, restaurants… and all other places of public accommodation and amusement (Kusmer, Black Cleveland, 1870-1930, 1976, p. 59). With this act, African Americans in Cleveland probably thought that life for them in this northern city would never again be what it was in the south, full of discrimination and inequality.

However, with the beginning of the twentieth century and an influx of new ideas brought about by whites, the sense of safety previously established would be ruined and life for African Americans in Cleveland would gradually get worse by the year. In 1910 a leading sociologist painted an ugly picture of African Americans justifying discriminatory treatment and deeming them inferior to whites; this is when social living situations in Cleveland for African Americans started to really decline (Kusmer, Black Cleveland, 1870-1930, 1976, p. 54).

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