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Discussions of race and community relations in all facets of American life are often limited to generalized attitudes that are at base, interracial.

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Introduction

Discussions of race and community relations in all facets of American life are often limited to generalized attitudes that are at base, interracial. That is to say, the dominant, or white culture, sets standards for the perceived subordinate culture. The expectation is that all cultures that make up the United States must adhere to what is American in order to benefit from the promises of America and its Constitution, that of liberty and prosperity. To complicate matters, the dominant culture also dictates who reaps the benefits of Americanism, despite behavior. Throughout American history there have been many folks who challenge such notions for the sake of a single cause. Whether it is the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, or education and housing reform, protest, or the ability of an oppressed group to say "no" to injustice and lack of choice grounded this nation. While on the surface such protests are commendable and admirable, an undercurrent exists that is usually left unchecked. Freedom to earn money and prosper as well as own land is within ones rights as an American that have been upheld as "self-evident." What complicates such a simplistic and arguably accessible accomplishment is that one group determines how far another group can go, the extent its members can be successful. This notion of superiority is seen within cultures in this country as well. When discussing the history of Blacks in America, the legacy of slavery must be acknowledged as a constant line feeding into ideas of superiority. ...read more.

Middle

Eastern cities like Washington, DC had a clear distinction between free blacks and the black aristocracy. The lines were drawn with regard to churches one attended, clubs in which one belonged, and neighborhoods where one could purchase homes. Likewise, whites, too, determined class lines based on what they deemed appropriate behavior of the Negro. For example, in 1916 Mary Church Terrell, daughter of one of America's first black millionaires, was refused service at a drug store soda fountain. She and her husband formally protested to the store manager, who immediately apologized for the clerk and said, "We do not care to serve people of any race at our fountain who are not genteel, but such objection certainly could not obtain against your wife, yourself and any high class colored person" (Gatewood 67). Clearly for some whites the aristocrat of color warranted different and better treatment than did ordinary blacks. In black communities throughout the US, old established families occupied a position of aristocracy. As a black observer noted, "almost all communities possess a few thoroughbred families who glory in lineal ancestry and carry wherever they go the tone and flavor of unconscious refinement, pride, that manifest their culture, achievement, behavior, and ancestry. Family trees genealogical charts often included an assortment of European noblemen, white American statesmen, African kings, and Indian Chieftains. Even Chicago where there is nothing old, I found the same spirit" (Higgenbotham 70). ...read more.

Conclusion

Gwendolyn Wright in her text Building the Dream offers that such reformers "did bring much genuine concern, but they brought moralistic middle-class biases to their crusade" (Wright 129). This attitude had an impact on the housing issue for blacks in Chicago as lines were drawn, gates were built, and people were shut out. For so many, Chicago was the land of promise and potential. The dream of liberty and prosperity seemed very close at hand as hopeful migrants left their homes in the Deep South. They met many established Blacks in Northern urban centers who "visualized the progress of their race in terms of education, personal economic success, judicious political action, and co-operation with powerful and influential white people" (Drake 51). From 1890 to 1920 economic, political, and social lives of blacks in Chicago underwent tremendous transformation. (Knupfer 30). It was believed that the influx of blacks had "Negroes rapidly replacing foreigners as Chicago's problem" (Drake 60). Given this information, advancing the race became an issue and many aristocratic and middle-class blacks felt the dichotomy of being black in America much like their foreign counterparts; allegiance to an ethnic group as well as to America. The result of this duality lead to the class divisions reminiscent of the days of slavery. The select few living life much like the whites or aspiring to do so and many left behind eating the scraps, when they could get them. 5 1 ...read more.

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