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Segregation In The Americas

The concept of segregation in the United States was different from segregation in other parts of the Americas, although all practiced slavery that affected the indigenous population. Segregation, with the exception of the United States, was not codified into law. Throughout the colonial and slavery periods in Latin America, South America, and the Caribbean, people of European descent maintained a hierarchy based on race. They attended separate schools and churches, lived in separate neighborhoods, and used separate recreational facilities. In Brazil after slavery was abolished in 1888, segregation was not by law; however, blacks and the indigenous population were not integrated into society. The government wanted to "whiten" the population by encouraging European immigration and interracial marriages. People who were viewed as white or close to white accrued privileges from their skin color, therefore indigenous Brazilians and people of African descent remained excluded from whites. Under Brazil's racial democracy project during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was argued that Brazil did not have the same kind of racial problems as the United States because race was of little significance and people achieved social and economic mobility due to individual merit. If people of African descent were at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, it was due to poverty and past discrimination. Scholars such as Gilberto Freyre, Carl Degler, and Frank Tannenbaum contended that the Portuguese who colonized Brazil were used to black people because of their experience with the Moors. The Catholic Church encouraged slaveholders to treat the slaves with a certain amount of humanity, and miscegenation was encouraged. Critical race theorists such as Thales de Azevedo began to question the racial democracy myth during the 1970s and argued that blacks and indigenous Brazilians were segregated in society based on race and not class.

Segregation was also practiced in Canada, as illustrated by the experiences of people of African descent who fought on the side of the British during the American Revolutionary War and those who escaped through the Underground Railroad. They believed they would enjoy citizenship rights in Canada, but there were few economic and educational opportunities, and land for farming was scarce. Some blacks therefore opted for resettlement in Sierra Leone.

The concept of segregation in the United States has been defined in distinct ways, based on race and ethnicity. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant immigrants were the privileged group who wielded political, economic, and social power. Other European immigrant groups were excluded from various jobs, universities, residential neighborhoods, and recreational facilities. This segregation was not codified into law and ended as soon as these groups were considered "white" and granted citizenship.

The country was envisioned as a "white man's" country regardless of the presence of American Indians. Beginning in the early seventeenth century, Africans were brought to work first as indentured servants and then (by the 1660s) as slaves, and thousands of people from Asia emigrated to the United States in search of jobs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Residential segregation was evident with the establishment of reservations for American Indians in 1638. People of Mexican descent experienced economic, residential, and educational segregation following the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848. People of Asian descent were encouraged to immigrate to the United States for employment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nonwhite workers were relegated to unskilled jobs in factories and on sugar plantations, farms, and the railroads. They were forced to attend separate schools and live in separate neighborhoods.

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