(Updated: November 29, 2016)
The title is jarring, especially in the peaceful United States as there should not be any racial prejudice or racism.That’s what I used to believe. I used to believe that I will not receive or experience any insults or mockery because I am an Asian American. This belief resulted in a small bubble surrounding me until I graduated high school and started to attend the University of California, Irvine. I listened to many people who had similar or different identities but they all had a common theme in many of their stories–Oppression.
Oppression, by Merriam-Webster definition, is the unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power. Although I lived in blue-state California, there is still racial prejudice. In the famous words of Willard Wigan, “Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.” It may not exist in the next neighborhood but it exists in our textbooks, our jailed systems, our politics. This institutionalized racism originated from somewhere in our U.S. history that our teachers failed to mentioned. The first of many origins was the Manifest Destiny.
The Manifest Destiny was introduced as a doctrine that the United States has the right to expand westward, on the other side of the Mississippi River. What it also introduce was the erasure of Native American culture through United States colonization. The Manifest Destiny encouraged this idea that a United States citizen is needed in lands that uncivilized and untamed; that the citizen will become a hero for his family and his country; that it is the power of the citizen to spread democracy from coast to coast. The Manifest Destiny carried the idea of unification between the Spaniard empire and the United States empire, in which the two empires will have more peaceful relations as this doctrine will expand and strengthen trade relations. According to The American Geography by Jedidiah Morse,
“They will carry along with them their manners and customs, their habits of government, religion, and education; and as they are to be indulged with religious freedom, and with the privilege of making their own laws, and of conducting education upon their own plans; their American habits will undoubtedly be cherished.
It is true Spain will draw a revenue from them, but in return they will enjoy peculiar commercial advantages…” (468-69).
The west side of North America will be under the control of the United States but it will be given these benefits and constitutional gifts so they would not feel oppressed or enslaved under the doctrine. However, Morse and the Manifest Destiny failed to address the negative effect on the Amerindians tribe and civilizations in between the Spaniard empire and them. This conquest resulted in many tribes being pushed away from their settlement for the white Americans to inhabited that settlement. From this results, the Amerindian was stripped away of their rights, property, and lifestyle. According to an Amerindian by the named of Black Hawk, he describes “that three families of white had arrived at out village and destroyed some of our lodges, and were making fences and dividing our corn-fields for their own uses”. This conquest failed to account for the non-Europeans. Why would the white Americans do this? Because the Manifest Destiny said so.
The Manifest Destiny encouraged the white Americans to practice expansion beyond the Mississippi River as well as encouraged them to steal land from those who settled before them. The injustice in this is stealing someone’s home and destroying any evidence of them without any reasoning. The doctrine encourages a certain authority on white Americans to oppress the non-Europeans and to not feel guilty for stealing from them, all in the name of America.
It is hard to believe this patriotic attitude can result in horrifying levels of oppression from stripping away citizenship to stripping away homes. Similarly, it is hard to believe this attitude was within the core of expanding the empire of the United States, in which every Patriot believed it was their duty to increasing their hand of justice in every corner of North America. Today, cases of racial discrimination had rapidly increased in the United States because the present is a direct by-product of the past. For instances, Standing Rock and #NODAPL is a direct by-product of this white patriotic attitude encouraged by Manifest Destiny. The Sioux Tribe continues to be oppressed by the United States’ economic system and the federal government itself. Despite President Obama’s law to halt the construction of this pipeline, the fate of this pipeline and tribe falls into President-elect Donald Trump and his domestic economic policies. The pipeline in South Dakota reaffirms the racial oppression in the United States as the construction of the pipeline triggered a sensitive wound for this tribe as a further reminder of their ongoing battle with the United States to receive respect and dignity so companies and states will not place rich white people above minorities.
It is a hope for oppression to discontinued itself in America but as people like to not put effort in learning about U.S. History in high school classes, it is most likely history will repeat itself.
Greenberg, Amy. Manifest Destiny and American Territorial Expansion. Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2012.