We Are Not Yet A Pluralistic Society

Updated: May 22, 2019


Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are all “unalienable rights” which according to the Declaration of Independence has been given to all humans. The very framework of this country is supposedly build on the ideology that all men are created equal; despite the fact that key founders owned African slaves in 1776. During the 18th and 19th century, the typical “American” was white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. However over the course of the nation’s development there have been waves of immigration from different corners of the world bringing immigrants who speak various languages, religious beliefs, and cultural practices. It has become increasingly hard to define who and what “American” is in today’s society. A pluralistic society is one that respects ethnic and cultural differences, the rights of individuals, and supports values associated with tolerance while establishing common principles (“The Idea of Pluralism In The United States”). The United States of America was built on the framework to support a pluralistic society. However, from the historical evidence of racism and the current evidence of racism from our President Donald Trump, I do not believe the United States of America will be a pluralist society in the near future.

The American Civil War is famous for being the war to abolish slavery. It is responsible for one of the sieges in American military history, the Battle of Petersburg, Virginia which lasted 10 months (“The Battle For Pluralism”). On the Union side, black and white troops fought together, much to the disdain of the white soldiers. During this time many whites opposed fighting alongside black counterparts, whereas black men were eager to prove themselves. While it had been reported that recruiters were telling black men that the derogatory term “nigg**” would be obviated through their service and valor - Irish Americans rebelled against the draft by massacring blacks in Manhattan (“The Battle For Pluralism”). On the battlefield of Petersburg, Virginia during the advancement of black troops past the Confederate line of defense, white confederates were terrified and begged their own and Union commanders to save them. After this advancement, the Confederate troops pushed Union troops into a crater where small groups of union whites turned on union blacks. They mobbed them and screamed whatever they thought would let Confederate soldier know they shared their disgust in having to fight with them, and only wanted to surrender. Confederates indiscriminately killed the remaining wounded black soldiers. Outnumbered and under poor leadership, Union casualties totaled more than 4,000; Confederate troops totaled 1,500 dead, wounded, and missing (‘The Battle For Pluralism”). The black soldiers were fighting to support principles that did not apply to them yet - freedom and equality. Nor would they enjoy those principles even after the Civil Rights Movement.

After the Civil War blacks still faced injustices such as segregation, which meant they would live in poverty as second-class citizens. Before the Civil Rights Movement, blacks fought in World War II surrounded by American propaganda preaching liberty, justice, and equality to come back to a country that denied them those same “unalienable rights” (“Introduction to the Civil Rights Movement”). As there were nonviolent protests, civil disobedience, black power, and court decisions made - blacks began to gain equal footing through dismantling segregation in the South. However today there are still problems faced by the black community such as : mass incarceration at rates disproportionate to the population of blacks in the United States, police brutality, higher rates of poverty, poor access to quality social services and public education, as well as stereotypical portrayals of the black community in the media that is detrimental to black mental health. The 2018 election of the nations first black president, Barack Obama, marked a great headway for the black community, and for minorities in general - however it was one the country was not ready for. It was one, that brought the greatest backlash that could jeopardize the American ideal pluralistic society.

“Make America Great Again” is comparable to the sentiments of 1860s anti-war democrats who wanted “The Union as it was, the Constitution as it is”, with the intention to restore racial dominance to the way it was before the American Civil War (“The Battle for Pluralism”). In the 2016 election of Donald Trump, voters of color tried to defend American pluralism to the opposition of their white counterparts. This was a candidate that explicitly stated he would use the power of the state against ethnic minorities. This is evident in his encouragement of profiling and targeting suspicious looking individuals in the context of terrorism (“I Will Give You Everything”). Meaning Arab and Muslim men, as almost 100% of terrorism attacks are now undertaken by Muslim fanatics (“Donald Trump Doesn’t Call His Position”). He has suggested the United States bar Syrian refugees from entering the country, insisted we kick out the ones who are already living here, and temporarily banning most foreign Muslims (“I Will Give You Everything”). His rhetoric on national television, and on the world wide web has been one of racism and intolerance. According to The New York Times (2018), in June 2017 Trump said 15,000 recently immigrated Haitians “all have AIDS”; he also said after seeing the United States 40,000 Nigerian immigrants would not want to go back to their huts in Africa (“Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List”). Vulgarly, January 11th he called for more immigration from countries like Norway and less immigration from Haiti and Africa. Donald Trump is a huge issue for the future of American pluralism; he has openly endorsed and campaigned for Roy Moore, an Alabama Senate candidate that spoke positively about slavery (“Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List’). He has stated our system of government, and our American culture, is the greatest in the world.

A pluralist society is possible when there are common principles guiding a nation while still protecting and respecting the identity of the individual groups. It is a challenge to have a pluralistic society when common problems of diversity and differentiation include bias, prejudice, and discrimination (“The Idea of Pluralism in the United States”). This country does have a framework in place, but that will not work if the people are not working for it. The individual communities all have to work to respect their differences to see this work; but being galvanized by a President interested in capitalizing off of their division will only lead them in the wrong direction.



References

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  2. Serwer, A. “The Battle for Pluralism” The Atlantic, (2016), https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/the-death-of-american-pluralism/507044/, Accessed 19 Nov. 2016

  3. Johnson, J (2016) “ ‘I Will give you everything.’ Here are 282 of Donald Trump’s compaign promises” The Washington Post , (2016) , https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/i-will-give-you-everything-here-are-282-of-donald-trumps-campaign-promises/2016/11/24/01160678-b0f9-11e6-8616-52b15787add0_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.73dca27fc8cb, Accessed 19 Nov. 2016

  4. Blake, A. “Donald Trump doesn’t call his position racial profiling. It is.” The Washington Post, (2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/09/20/donald-trump-doesnt-call-his-position-racial-profiling-it-is/?utm_term=.335b1b54e782 , Accessed 19 Nov. 2016

  5. Leonhardt, D., Philbrick, I. “Donald Trump’s Racism: the Definitive List” The New York Times , (2018), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/15/opinion/leonhardt-trump-racist.html, Accessed 19 Nov. 2016

  6. “Introduction to the civil rights movement” Khan Academy, (N.D) , https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/postwarera/civil-rights-movement/a/introduction-to-the-civil-rights-movement, Accessed 19 Nov. 2016