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    The View from the Bottom Rail: Bias in America

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    BiasWhat does the word bias mean? Bias is a mental predilection orprejudice. The essay “The View from the Bottom Rail” by James West Davidson andMark Hamilton Lytle opened my eyes on how American history could be looked at asone sided and even bias.

    Even today there is still bias in America. In today’ssociety, racism and stereotyping occur in all aspects of life. It can occurbecause of one’s gender, race, religion, culture, economic status, etc. It evenoccurs amongst our finest, our law enforcement officials.

    “The View from the Bottom Rail” explains the history of slavery. It implies a lack of accuracy from the people that the information was obtained,either black or white. Most of the black slaves could not read or write. Theones that did, hid it from their masters. Because of this, most of the writtenbooks and documents and even diaries on slavery were written by the whitemasters. At that time most of recorded history was based on how the whitemasters viewed slavery.

    You did not get a view on slavery from the slavesthemselves. In the 1920’s, black scholars like W. E. B. Du Bois, CharlesJohnson, and Carter Woodson, started a project to collect oral evidence fromformer slaves who were still living. Even these interviews could not be viewedas 100% accurate.

    One example, is a geographic bias. The people that wereinterviewed were only a very small portion of the millions of freed slaves. Counting the number of slaves interviewed from each state, it was discoveredthat there were only 155 interviews from black people living in Virginia,Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky, which is about 6% of the totalnumber of published interviews. Twenty-three percent of the southern slavepopulation lived in those states. In these statistics, the upper-south wasunrepresented.

    Another example would be the ages of the ex-slaves interviewed. Two-thirds of them were over 80 years of age, leaving the question of howaccurate were their memories. Also, most of the interviewees were under the ageof 20 when they were slaves. Since the conditions for children were not asharsh compared to adults, they might have an optimistic view of slavery.

    Finally, the different effects the interviewer had on theinterviewees. There were two interviews done on the same lady named Susan Hamlinby two different interviewers. One interviewer was a white lady named JessieButler and the other was a black man named Augustus Ladsons. Susan thoughtJessie was from the welfare office. Susan possibly told Jessie what she thoughtJessie would want to hear in order to increase her chances of getting a welfarecheck.

    She spoke of her master as though he was the kindest. All the slavesloved their master. He gave them shoes in the winter. He kept the childrenwith their mothers and when the war started he took everyone including theslaves to a safer place. On the other hand, Susan told Augustus a totallydifferent story.

    She spoke of the whippings in cruel detail. She also spoke ofhow the slaves families were torn apart, and children were taken from theirmothers. There were no shoes given to the slaves in the winter. Whichinterview is closest to the truth? How do you tell? In my past I have experienced many bias situations. I am aPuerto Rican male living in America.

    I have hazel eyes and light skin. Becauseof my eyes and skin color, I have been mistaken for Caucasian. I have had todeal with people calling me “white boy” all the time. As a child, one of myuncles gave me the nick name “gringo”, Spanish word for white boy. I grew up inEast New York (Brooklyn, NY), which is a predominantly African American, with afew Latinos and almost no Caucasian. In East New York, the African Americansand Latinos tend to get along.

    For me this was not so. Being that I lookedCaucasian, most of the African Americans and Latinos tended to harass me andstart trouble, which caused tension constantly. In Denver back in 1992, the Denver Post ran an article on policeharassment among Hispanic youths by Judith Brimberg. The article stated therehad been complaints to Mayor Wellington Webb by Northwest Denver residentsconcerning the police harassment on Hispanic youth because of their skin color.

    The Mayor subsequently notified the Civilian Complaint Department of the city ofDenver. After the investigation a report was released on August 8th,1992stating that hundreds of complaints of unprovoked

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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