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Slavery in the United States
For as long as many can remember, slavery has been in existence in the society. Slave masters viewed slaves like other investments such as gold, iron, and oil. It was a cheap source of labor and an asset for hire. Slavery was equated to forced labor. It existed legally in the American states long before the formation of federal governance. Slavery and slaves continued until the 13th Amendment, a bill that was enacted in 1865. This was after the infamous American Civil War.
The Historical Events that Provide the Foundation for Slavery in the United States
Slavery can be traced back to when Tobacco farm owners had to find a new source of labor. This was after a decline in the indenture servants’ in 1619. To be comprehensive enough, the causes of slavery are classified into social and economic factors (Axelrod & Phillips 2007). The existence cotton gin is another factor that advocated for the importance of slaves. Whitney Eli invented the cotton gin between the years 1765-1825. This gin was labor intensive, and so, it required high workforce than the already available means. This necessitated additional labor that could only be availed through slavery.
Racism is a form of oppression. It emanates from discriminating against a certain group of people on the basis that the people possess some inherited qualities; this is the color of one’s skin, which could be said to make one seem inferior’ to the rest. The concept of racism and race surfaced at the beginning of capitalism between 1500s and 1600s. Marx argues that capitalist production was characterized by the discoveries of silver and gold in America. He continues to say that entombment, extirpation, and enslavement in mines of continents’ indigenous population (Marx 1997). As Charles and Alan (2008) put it, racial prejudice was common to the white European colonial world and their American progeny. The English Seaman Hawkins began the modern trafficking of men in 1562, when he opened a direct slave trading between West Indies and Guinea. By the year 1600, the Dutch and French had embraced the enterprise (Axelrod & Phillips 2007).
Scholars agree that slavery was simply a racial prejudice. Those who found colored people inferior also found a reason to enslave them. Racism comprises of biological aspects, experiences, and conditions. Human beings were created to get attracted to people who look somewhat like them. It is a survival tactic. This same mechanism pulls families and people of the same ethnic group closer, and creates divides between people of different race and ethnicity; thus, its contribution to slavery.
African people and their religious status of being non-Christian attributed to the vast spread of slavery and its practice. The whites viewed being a non-Christian as being barbaric and socially unfit, and treated them as social outcasts. Slave trade was not a new practice among the Africans. Africans had been traded as slaves for a couple of centuries. The African slaves accessed Europe through the help of the Islamic-run trade routes that included the Trans-Saharan route. The slaves obtained from this part were so much dominated by the Muslims; for example, the slaves from the North African coast were said to be educated; therefore, they were thought to have a tendency of rebelling. As such, they sought for slaves in other African territories; for instance, the Eastern part of Africa. Slavery was also part of African traditional society. Most African kingdoms were known to operate chattel slavery, serfdom, debt bondage, and forced labor.
Slavery started when some slaves were taken to Jamestown, the current Virginia state. This was in 1619, and cotton and tobacco production was at its peak. Slavery was practiced in a large part of the North America (Edward, 1998). Cotton gin invention is the greatest attributable factor to slavery in America, especially in the Southern states in the year 1793. Planters had to find a new source of labor as indenture servants opted for returning to their homeland, England. As a result, Dutch traders who were trading in slaves transported them to Virginia and sold them to cotton and tobacco planters. (William 1998)
Racism and capitalism work hand in hand; it is impossible to separate the two. Racism forms substantial part of oppression. The epic of the slave trade has its roots in capitalism, which begun in the 1500s and 1600s. Capitalism gave birth to the hunting of the black people for commercial purposes. The black skinned people became extremely profitable to those people who had thrived in the slave trade. They were then sold to work in gold or silver mines. Furthermore, Adam Smith propagated that pride and love for authority led to slavery (Eric, 1994).
Ritual servitude refers to a practice where women were forced into servitude for sexual exploitation. They were forced to marry religious men allegedly for absolution of sins committed by the girl’s lineage. Prior to the American Civil War, the clergy from the South used passages from the Bible to assure people that somehow it was Gods’ will that they be slaves (DJ, 2011). This depicts that what we believe in, enslaves us; thus, the adoption of some enslaving beliefs. While institutionalized slavery may have been abolished globally, there still exist some forms of slavery. Female sex slave is still rampant in the world today. This is a tradition borrowed from slavery of the 16th and 17th centuries. Concerning the topic, ‘There was no such thing as rest’ slaves were subjected to the same conditions day in day out. Fear of being beaten and flopped kept them enslaved. Being a slave was a tradition that was accepted (William 1998).
Factors that Contribute to Racial Discrimination and Prejudice against African-American
Prejudice and discrimination have been part of humankind since time immemorial. They have led to the propagation of intolerance of other human beings of a different race or skin color. Discrimination is directed to another person. Prejudice occurs when there is an already formed attitude and view of a certain group of persons. Causes of these phenomena include
Homo sapiens are more similar than they are different. We are different only in skin color, eye color, and physical morphology. All that makes up about 2% of biological make up. Racial bigotry plays around the 2%, and magnifies the difference.
Prejudice and discrimination are passed from one person to another. Peers, family, and media are the avenues for these behaviors. They are used to promote and spread racial discrimination and prejudice.
The theory is built upon the belief that in order to maintain the status quo, one must resist competition or opposition from a marginalized group (Paul, 2009). More factors include conforming attitude, authoritarian personality, ethnocentrism, and the closure grouping.
How Racial Prejudice and Discrimination forms Vicious Cycle
When a group is made to believe it is inferior, and it perceives inferiority, then in reality, they will be discriminated based on their belief of inferiority. In the case study, the slaves believed they knew no better than to offer free labor; thus, they were forced to work as slaves, and they agreed. The vicious circle that comes into being once prejudice and discrimination prevails, affects both the oppressor and the oppressed. The oppressed feels the pinch of these in that they could result into attending schools that are poorly financed, as such, these could lead to poor performance or school dropout. The oppressed gets minimal job opportunities than the oppressor. This could result from poor education or even other forms of discrimination in the work place. This could have an adverse effect on the part of the oppressed where they result to judging self or even end up having self-doubt. As a result, the oppressed ends up fighting back; this creates an unhealthy relationship with the oppressor. Prevalence of crimes becomes inevitable among other evils in the society as a way of rebelling. A number of factors could be put in place while explaining the causes of prejudice and discrimination. These include the social conflict theory, scapegoat theory, and authoritarian personality.
Marriages between different racial groups would melt down the perceived racial diversities. Marriages incorporate tolerance of one’s faults and weaknesses. Through intermarriages, the African-Americans are viewed as natives of America. The intermarriages will also correct those traits that could otherwise be seen as being inferior.
African-Americans should be given a chance to change the historical misconception that they are inferior. Colored men were believed to fall short when it came to intellectual matters. Giving them a role has proved the myth wrong. Their leadership should also be seen when it comes politics; as such, in the event that the African-Americans are given positions of governance they should be judged on virtue of their performance rather than on the color of their skins. Once they are in charge of these positions, they are able to identify themselves with America as their own country and not as visitors.
Law prohibits the racial discrimination. This ensures equal opportunities to members of different groups. Laws should be enacted to prevent any form of segregation. It may be at school, churches, or the homestead. A system of ensuring that no race is found in one locality exceeding the 80-percentile mark should be passed. This will ensure equity in all endeavors. Those who are found violating this law should be charged fairly and squarely. As such, the law enforcers will not be seen to favor any party, and it is from doing this that one can say that discrimination is long dead and gone.
In conclusion, slavery has been practiced for many centuries. In Africa, most kingdoms practiced forced labor, serfdom, debt bondage, and chattel slavery, while in the United States racism and capitalism gave birth to slave trade. It is essential to note that, prejudice and discrimination yields an extremely vicious cycle, which possesses a negative effect on both the oppressed and the oppressor. Various factors should be implemented in making sure that African-Americans and Americans co-exist peacefully without one party treating the other as being inferior.