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Racism: Resources for Understanding: Home

This guide provides resources that may help facilitate a discussion on the subject of racism.

Racism - Resources for Understanding

Racism:  Two Figures Speaking at a Table

Resources for Understanding




Racism is not new and has existed in one form or another in human society for millennia, and racism in the United States began long before the union was created.  It is important to understand that this racism is systemic and a lived experience for many people in the United States in general, but it also exists in California and the greater Bay Area.  For those who are Caucasian or white, racism can be a puzzling and difficult subject to think about and talk about.  Some Caucasian/white individuals are unaware that they enjoy invisible privilege/white privilege and have never really considered what benefits they enjoy in society because of this privilege.  It is important to begin unwrapping the thought processes and practices that have created an unequal society and begin conversations on what can be done to remedy this situation.

With this goal in mind, this guide includes recommended resources gathered from e-mails, listservs, social media, and other sources in an effort to consolidate materials and provide them in one place.  The hope is that this guide might provide materials that can help start frank conversations on such an important topic.

Due to current events and conversations, the present iteration of the recommended resource sections of this guide largely concentrate on racism that African Americans have experienced.  However, I consider this guide a work in progress and will continue to add resources over the next several weeks and months that relate to different ethnicities that make up our diverse community at NVC.  Please make sure to scroll down to see some introductory historical information.

History Timeline

At various points in the history of the United States and in California there have been practices and laws enacted that served to create a systemic and sustained racism, as well as movements and laws that sought to combat this ingrained racism.  Here are some dates of importance:

  • 1562 - Spanish bring African slaves to Spanish Florida - try to colonize what would become South Carolina - uprising among slaves prevents this
  • 1619 - English privateer, John Lope, seizes Portuguese slave ship and brings to Point Comfort, Virginia (often considered the beginning of slavery in US, although African captives had been in the Americas before this) and sells slaves in Jamestown
  • 1669 - Beginning of Spanish colonization of California - San Diego Bay
  • 1776 - Father Junipero Serra founds first mission - tries to convert Native Americans to Catholicism; tries to force involuntary servitude and chattel slavery onto Native American population
  • 1785 - Toypurina, medicine woman of the Tongva nation lead rebellion against Spanish missionaries at the San Gabriel Mission in what would become Los Angeles
  • Early 1800s - Traders from Boston and other ports begin trading with California - had to show passports and submit to surveillance - "outsiders" greeted with suspicion
  • 1818 - first slave, Biddy Mason, brought to California by Robert Marion Smith, who wanted to create a Mormon compound
  • 1821 - Mexico wins independence from Spain and takes over governance of California
  • 1826 - Father Jose Altimira arrives from Spain - begins campaign to "civilize" Native Americans, including flogging and imprisonment - Native Americans revolt - rioting and looting - Altimira has to flee for his life
  • 1846 - United States invades Mexico and eventually the San Diego area - part of "manifest destiny" touted by President James K. Polk
  • 1848 - Gold discovered at Sutter's Mill; Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican-American War - California, among other territories, sold to U.S. for fifteen million dollars
  • 1850 - California admitted to the Union
  • 1850 - Anti-miscegenation laws passed
  • 1850 - Act for the Government and Protection of Indians - those Native Americans who were "loitering,"  committed certain crimes, or orphaned could be conscripted into servitude as forced labor - way of creating cheap labor
  • 1852 - California's Fugitive Slave Law passed
  • 1852 - Large Chinese immigration due to crop failure in China - Foreign Miner's Tax imposed - meant to discourage Chinese from mining
  • 1854 - U.S. Supreme Court  - People v. Hall - no person of Chinese, Native American, or African American descent could testify in court against whites, effectively making  it nearly impossible to seek redress for crimes committed against such groups
  • 1858 - Chinese Exclusion Act passed in California - no person of Chinese or Mongolian races could enter the state - thought Chinese were taking jobs away and causing low wages
  • 1862 - California's Chinese Exclusion Act struck down by unpublished opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court
  • 1862 - Passage of the The Pacific Railroad Act - Central Pacific Railroad begins construction starting in Sacramento - large number of Chinese workers, as well as African Americans and Irish immigrants used as cheap labor
  • 1865 - massacres of Native American tribe of the Yahi people, among others, begin
  • 1869 - Japanese begin immigrating to California - the Chinese Exclusion Act had caused shortage of cheap labor and business owners looking for new sources
  • 1870 - Fifteenth Amendment ratified - gave all male citizens the right to vote
  • 1870 - Frederick Sparrow first African American man to register to vote in Napa County
  • 1882 - U.S. Congress passes Chinese Exclusion Act - suspended Chinese immigration to the U.S. for ten years
  • 1887 - lynch mob in Bakersfield kills five men of Mexican descent (one of many lynchings and hate crimes targeting those of Mexican descent)
  • 1892 - Geary Act of 1892 - extended the suspension of Chinese immigrants for another ten years; any Chinese immigrants had to carry special papers certifying their residence, which the Internal Revenue Service provided
  • 1902 - Chinese immigration made illegal
  • 1909 - Creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
  • 1911 - Ishi - thought to be the last of the Yahi (although later evidence contradicts this) - walked into a slaughterhouse only four miles from Oroville in Northern California - massacres and starvation had forced him out of hiding
  • 1913 - California Alien Land Act - targeted Japanese immigrants, but occasionally used against others of Asian descent - trying to limit ownership of land or the creation of corporations
  • 1920s - KKK comes to Napa and initiates approximately 160 members
  • 1921 - Tulsa, OK - area known as "Black Wall Street" burned and African Americans massacred
  • 1924 - Immigration Act of 1924 - targeted Middle Eastern, Indian, and Japanese immigrants
  • 1930s - mass immigration from the Dust Bowl to California - tensions between the "Okies" (derogatory term used for those coming from the Dust Bowl) and minority populations
  • 1930 - Nation of Islam created
  • 1942 - California opens Manzanar - first Japanese internment camp
  • 1942 - Congress of Racial Equality founded
  • 1943 - Magnuson Act - Chinese allowed to become citizens of the US
  • 1948 - California Supreme Court Case - Perez v. Sharp - overturned anti-miscegenation laws of California
  • 1948 - Truman issues executive order to end segregation in the Armed Forces
  • 1954 - U.S. Supreme Court - Brown v. Board of Education - ends segregation in public schools
  • 1955 - August 28 - Emmett Till's lynching - sparks Civil Rights movement
  • 1955 - December 1 - Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus to a white man - sparks Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • 1957 - Little Rock Nine blocked from entering Little Rock Central High School
  • 1957 - Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1957 into law - trying to protect voting rights
  • 1960 - The Greensboro Four refused to leave seats at white-only lunch counter - start of "sit-ins"
  • 1960 - Ruby Bridges first African American student at William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans - intense racism directed her way
  • 1960 - some local black organizations and students from U.C. Berkeley's CORE created the Ad Hoc Committee To End Racial Discrimination - concerned about lack of employment opportunities for African Americans in the Bay Area
  • 1961 - Freedom Riders
  • 1961 - President John F. Kennedy signs executive order - uses affirmative action for the first time in policy -  "affirmative action to ensure that applicants are treated equally without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin"; also created the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.
  • 1962 - United Farm Workers union created by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Gilbert Padilla, and others
  • 1963 - George Wallace blocks two African American students from registering at the University of Alabama - President John F. Kennedy has to send National Guard to university
  • 1963 - March on Washington
  • 1963 - Bombing of 16th Street Baptist  Church in Birmingham, Alabama - kills four young girls and injures several other people
  • 1964 - Native American occupation of Alcatraz - symbolic reclaiming of stolen land - laid the foundation for Red Power Movement
  • 1964 - President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -  prevents employment discrimination due to race, color, sex, religion or national origin
  • 1964 - "Free Speech Movement" - U.C. Berkeley
  • 1965 - Malcolm X assassinated
  • 1965 - Bloody Sunday - Selma, Alabama
  • 1965 -  President Lyndon B. Johnson signs executive order - government contractors and subcontractors take affirmative action to hire more minorities
  • 1966 - Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale create the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense - focused on black nationalism, socialism, and armed self-defense (often remembered for this part of the party platform rather than other aspects) - provided free breakfast for school children, sickle-cell anemia testing, legal aid, adult education, and more for community members in Oakland
  • 1968 - President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act) - meant to prevent housing discrimination
  • 1968 - Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated
  • 1969 - Second occupation of Alcatraz - Red Power Movement begins - wanted lands restored to native peoples and self-governance
  • 1971 - President Nixon signs executive order to create plans and programs whereby federal agencies hire more minority contractors - Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) contracting program
  • 1978 - U.S. Supreme Court - Regents of the University of California v. Bakke - race could be used as one factor for admissions, but ruled unlawful medical school's practice of reserving 18 seats in each entering class of 100 for disadvantaged minority students
  • 1979 - U.S. Supreme Court - United Steel Workers of America, AFL-CIO v. Weber - race could be used as a factor when hiring in order to close gap between minority and non-minority workers, but had to be temporary and not violate rights of white workers
  • 1985 - Anti-apartheid movement gains ground in the U.S.
  • 1986 - U.S. Supreme Court -  Local 128 of the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association v. EEOC - upheld affirmative action and 29% minority "membership admission goal" for union
  • 1987 - U.S. Supreme Court -  Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa Clara County, California - race could be used as "one factor" in hiring in order to close gap between minority and white hires
  • 1989 - U.S Supreme Court - City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. struck down Richmond's minority contracting program as unconstitutional - race can only be one factor and hiring practice narrowly tailored - race can't be only reason for hire
  • 1992 - Rodney King's death and acquittal of police officers charged in his death - sparks protests and riots
  • 1994 - U.S. Supreme Court - Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena - affirmative action constitutional when narrowly tailored and when goal to remedy discrimination in hiring practices
  • 1994 - California Prop 187 passes - goal establish state-run citizenship screening program - designed to limit undocumented immigrants' access to non-emergency healthcare services, education, etc. - galvanized Chicano activism and resulted in LA schools walkout
  • 1995 - University of California system ends affirmative action at institutions - went into effect 1998
  • 1996 - California's Prop 209 passes - ends affirmative action for state jobs
  • 1998 - U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer issued final ruling on the ACLU's challenge to Proposition 187 - declared unconstitutional 
  • 1999 - U.C. Berkeley students protest plans to cut Ethnic Studies Program - took over buildings and culminated in hunger strike - administration decided to keep program
  • 2003 - U.S. Supreme Court - 2 cases - Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger - University of Michigan could use race as one factor, provided admissions process had "holistic" view of student, but College of Literature, Science, and Arts couldn't use point system where minority students received more points than non-minority students
  • 2012 - Creation of DACA and DREAM Act
  • 2013 - Black Lives Matter movement started
  • 2016 - Colin Kaepernick kneels for the first time during the National Anthem; Eric Reid kneels for the for time during the National Anthem - highlighting how racism has injured America
  • 2020 - Death of George Floyd at hands of police - sparks protests and riots - caused legislation proposals and executive orders in several states concerning police practices


  • (American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity)
  • (American Civil Liberties Union)
  • (The History Channel's website)
  • (sponsored by the University of Texas at Austin - Department of History)
  • Library of Congress
  • Napa County Historical Society
  • National Park Service
  • New York Times - "Recalling Racist Violence in California"
  • PBS (Public Broadcasting System)
  • UCSF (University of California, San Francisco)
  • (United Farm Workers website)
  • United States State Department

A Short Note on Colonial Mentalities

Societies have often created situations in which segments of the popular are consider "other" or "them," rather than part of "us."  When labeling that group "other," societal members in the "us" group then often feel as if they have permission to treat that "other" as less than they would treat members of the "us" group.  When this happens, "others" became equated with "things" in a process that Aimé Césaire called "thingification."  Those "things" then are mistreated, abused, and acted upon as if they are no longer human beings.  This is exactly what happened in the United States.  European colonists considered themselves "us" and everyone else as "other."  Such a philosophy lead to the mistreatment of several groups, and in California, this was especially true for Native Americans, those of Mexican descent, and African Americas, both slaves and freedmen and freedwomen, as well as the mistreatment of several groups of immigrants, including Chinese and Japanese immigrants.  In order to justify this situation of mass oppression, European colonists also had to provide a fictional narrative that would justify their intentions, and thus was born the damsel-in-distress idea that Gayatri Spivak so aptly describes in "When the Subaltern Speaks?" as, "white men saving brown women from brown men" (93).  In a larger context, "brown women" represents the feminization of "brown countries" and the idea that Europeans are "rescuing" these countries from the native peoples.  This is, of course, a fiction.  Yet, the idea of a saving a people from themselves still exists in the modern era and is one facet of racial discrimination in the United States.

Librarian - Amy Catania