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In Chapter 2, of A People's History of the United States, Zinn argues that racism...

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dawn214 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted August 8, 2013 at 4:20 PM via web

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In Chapter 2, of A People's History of the United States, Zinn argues that racism isn't natural; it's artificial. It is said that racism comes about because of historical forces and human decisions. Please give examples of these factors.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 8, 2013 at 4:41 PM (Answer #1)

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In Chapter 2 of this book, Zinn offers a number of examples of the historical forces that can be said to have caused racism.  He does not really offer examples of human decisions.  Let us look first at some historical forces.

One historical force that led to racism was the fact that Europeans became more technologically advanced than Africans.  This helped cause the Europeans to think that they were superior to the Africans.  This feeling of superiority helped lead to racism.

Another historical force that led to racism was the conquest of the Americas and the attendant need for slave labor.  When the Europeans took the Americas, they could not find enough Europeans to work and they could not coerce the Native Americans.  This made it “necessary” to enslave Africans.  The fact that Africans were enslaved made it easier to look down on them.

Now let us look at how human decisions lead to racism.  It is hard to separate human decisions, however, from the historical forces that influence them.  Even so, it was human beings who decided to make the laws that Zinn cites that prohibited blacks and whites from fraternizing with or marrying one another.  Each racist act requires a person to willingly undertake that act.  We are not forced by our natures to act in racist ways.

Thus, we can see that both historical forces and human decisions led to racism.

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