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Posted on May 2nd, 2014, by


            Slavery in its diverse forms has existed in all parts of the world. No race managed to escape this terrifying form of social development. Even nowadays slavery remains a usual practice. Slavery is a form of dependence of people, which in anthropology is called rights-in-persons. Such relations are possible in different social patterns in any country and historical epoch. From a sociological point of view, slavery has different forms, such as family duties, relations between superior and inferior, a right to treat people as goods by selling, buying and exchanging them.

The USA has been a slave-owning state from the very beginning, slavery being an inherent part of American way of life. As for the historical events that provided the foundation of slavery within the USA, it is important to mention that it was formed on the basis of capitalism and reflected the peculiarities of its foundation in agricultural economics of Northern America. Due to a small market of waged labor, plantation owners had to take to labor of African-American slaves (Kolchin, 1995). However, the use of slave labor led to the formation of a separate class, which combined the features of typical capitalists and slave-owners. Despite the well-known slogans that all people are born equal, the War of Independence (1775-1783) had no influence on slavery of African-Americans in Southern States. This problem was not solved even during the second American Revolution the Civil War (1861-1865). The problem of slavery in the USA is comprised of socio-economic, socio-political and racial questions, tracing back into the depth of American history (Davis, 2008).

The tradition of using slave labor goes back to the times when it was a part of plantation property, while American slave-owners got high incomes with the help of slave labor. An important point in relation to this tradition lies in the fact that although slavery in the USA has long been abolished, it is still alive. Nowadays human trade is a global business and an extremely growing criminal sphere. Just like it is described in Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northrup the conditions for slaves have not changed. Solomon Northrup mentions that keeping slaves in horrible conditions was a common tradition of slave-owners. And even nowadays, teenagers, children and women are sold to different farms and factories, where they have to work for 14 hours a day for a single portion of food. In such a way, tradition plays an important role in keeping people in slavery.

Ethnic minority is a widely spread term in sociology. Among the factors that contribute to racial prejudice and discrimination against African-Americans are the following:

  1. Discrimination takes place when a certain group of people is deprived of rights and abilities, peculiar to some other group. For example, a house-owner might refuse to lend a room to an African-American due to the ethnic affiliation of the latter.
  2. Ethnic prejudice has a destructive impact on African-Americans. However, facing discrimination and prejudice, most of the African-Americans experience a strong feeling of entity and solidarity. Discrimination towards them takes place due to the fact that they have a different color of skin, and their culture is different from that of white people. It is common not only in regard to African-Americans, but other ethnicities as well.
  3. Another reason for prejudice against African-Americans is the fact that there can be no social equality if an African-American occupies a subordinate social position due to their ethnicity. This situation is greatly influenced by ideological and social climate in the USA.
  4. Ethnic prejudice is often a reaction to the development of previously discriminated minority, which no longer wants to put up with such situation. Afro-Americans have been considered spiritually and intellectually inferior to white people. This leads to further spread of discrimination and prejudice.

In such a way, nowadays prejudice and discrimination form a vicious cycle. Although the concept of race is relatively new, ethnic prejudice and contradictions have been widely spread in the history of humanity. It is important to distinguish prejudice as opinions and psychological orientation towards Afro-Americans, and discrimination as an actual behavior towards them (Allport, 1954). Although nowadays, slavery in its traditional form no longer exists, it can be seen in the attitude towards African-Americans. Thus, it is a common practice not to employ African-Americans just because of their ethnicity, while the same job is likely to be given to a white person with similar abilities and skills. Besides, white people might resist from buying a house in certain regions of the city, which are inhabited by African-Americans, due to prejudice towards the latter. Such situation influences discrimination and leads to the progression of this vicious cycle.

Speaking about effective ways to improve contemporary African-American relations in the USA, it is important to say that American sociologists have thoroughly investigated the influence of different means to improve relations with this ethnic minority. Such means as communication outreach, radio programs of good will aimed to protect minorities, proved to be not so effective due to the fact that such means mainly draw attention of the minorities themselves. The best results may be achieved by individual conversations with small groups of African-Americans. However, this method represents an extremely long and difficult process. A great role in improving relations with African-Americans is played by the informal personal contacts with representatives of the minority. This method helps to view African-Americans not as a different ethnic type, but as same people. Interrelations with African-Americans are the most effective way to change attitude towards them.

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