For more than two hundred years, race in the United States has been viewed as a black/white issue. Blacks have been defined not as a people unto themselves, but only in relationship to whites. This relationship is one of power with blacks as a “minority subordinate” group and whites as a “majority dominant” group. Other people of color—whether indigenous to the Americas, settlers who predated Western Europeans, nonwhite settlers with several generations of U.S.-born residents, or newly arrived immigrants and refugees—have been primarily defined as nonexistent. When other people of color have been recognized, it has been in a marginal and stratified fashion. They have been defined not only in relation to a dominant white society, but also in relation to a black society defined by the federal government as the “principal minority.” This view is in contrast to the history of the Americas and to the emerging future of the United States as a heterogeneous society.


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