Racism and discrimination are prevalent throughout the US, although they can be felt most strongly in conservative regions of the country like the South and Midwest, as well as in small towns and rural areas. The groups that are most often discriminated against are African Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims, but smaller minority groups, such as Jews, other immigrant groups, and the LGBT community, bear their share of intolerance as well.
Although the United States has come a long way since the days of slavery, and huge steps were made towards granting equal rights on the basis of race in the 1960s, racism is still a very pressing problem in the US today. Sometimes it is blatant and open, but often it can be more subtle, or even built into the system, as seen by racial profiling by law enforcement officers and other government officials, and the near impossibility for some groups, especially African Americans, to break the cycle of poverty.
Discriminatory policies in schools lead to the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline.” Due to zero-tolerance policies in schools, disadvantaged black youths quickly end up being pushed out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems, instead of being given a chance and receiving counseling within the school system.
Although America is by nature a country of immigrants, US anti-immigrant sentiment is deeply rooted in American history, and continues to the present day. Many white Americans of European, usually Protestant, descent, like to claim that theirs is the one true “American” culture. The reality, of course, paints the picture of a culture that is anything but homogenous. Native Americans lived on the land that is now the United States first, millions of Africans were brought to the US by force to be held in slavery, and people have been immigrating to the US from all around the world, not just western Europe, for centuries.
Xenophobia has risen over the past years as the topic of illegal immigration has come to the forefront of American politics. The nation is divided on what to do about the millions of illegal immigrants currently living on US soil. Anti-immigration groups patrol the border, making sure no more prospective immigrants cross over, and racial profiling is used to question the legal status of anyone “foreign-looking”. Especially with the instability of the US economy in recent years, some Americans fear that their jobs are being given away to immigrants.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Islamophobia has increased in the US, fueled by ignorance and the faulty belief that all Muslims are fundamentalists. Muslims, especially those who could be identified as such by their dress or practices, were frequent victims of assaults and attacks, mosques were vandalized, and they were generally made to feel unwelcome. The number of these incidents decreased over the following years, but many people still harbor general suspicion of Muslims and the Muslim faith.
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