Racism in the United States has existed since the colonial era, and involved laws, practices and action that discriminated or otherwise adversely impacted various groups based on their race or ethnicity, while most white Americans enjoyed legally or socially sanctioned privileges and rights which were denied to other races and minorities.
European Americans—particularly affluent white Anglo-Saxon Protestants—enjoyed advantages in matters of education, immigration, voting rights, citizenship, land acquisition, and criminal procedure throughout American history.
Groups especially impacted included non-Protestant immigrants from Europe, including the Irish, Poles, and Italians, who were often subjected to xenophobic exclusion and other forms of ethnicity-based discrimination in American society until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Historically, Hispanics have experienced continuous racism in the United States despite many having European ancestry. Middle Eastern groups such as Jews, Arabs, and Iranians have faced continuous discrimination in the United States, and as a result, some people who belong to these groups do not identify as, and are not perceived to be, white. African Americans faced restrictions on their political, social, and economic freedoms throughout much of United States history.
Native Americans have experienced genocide, forced removals, massacres, and discrimination. In addition, East, South, and Southeast Asians along with Pacific Islanders have been discriminated against.
Major racially and ethnically structured institutions and manifestations of racism have included genocide, slavery, segregation, Native American reservations, Native American boarding schools, immigration and naturalization laws, and internment camps.[note 1] Formal racial discrimination was largely banned by the mid-20th century and over time, it came to be perceived as being socially and morally unacceptable. Racial politics remains a major phenomenon, and racism continues to be reflected in socioeconomic inequality.[note 2]
Research has found extensive evidence of racial discrimination in various sectors of modern U.S. society, including criminal justice, business, the economy, housing, health care, media, and politics in recent years in the United States.
In the view of the United Nations and the U.S. Human Rights Network, “discrimination in the United States permeates all aspects of life and extends to all communities of color.”
Some Americans saw the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, who served as president of the United States from 2009 to 2017 and was the nation’s first black president, as a sign that the nation had entered a new, post-racial era. The election of President Donald Trump in 2016, who was a chief proponent of the birther movement in the US (which argued falsely that Obama was not born in the United States) and ran a racially tinged campaign, has been viewed by some commentators as a racist backlash against the election of Barack Obama.
During the mid-2010s, American society has seen a resurgence of high levels of racism and discrimination. One new phenomenon has been the rise of the “alt-right” movement: a white nationalist coalition that seeks the expulsion of sexual and racial minorities from the United States.
In August 2017, these groups attended a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, intended to unify various white nationalist factions.
During the rally, a white supremacist demonstrator drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring 19. Since the mid-2010s, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have identified white supremacist violence as the leading threat of domestic terrorism in the United States.[