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CAS SO 207
Ruha Benjamin

RACE AND ETHNICITY NOTES Diversity and Society 2/19/14 Pages 96-100; 104-112; 130-141 Pages 96-100 The Development of Dominant-Minority Group Relations in PreindustrialAmerica: The Origins of Slavery • Intro: slave girl describes her master whispering foul things in her ears and claiming her as his property and tells us that the vices that grow out of slavery are more than she can describe • Creation of black slavery will be used to illustrate the process of minority group creation • Two broad themes underlying this chapter: o Nature of dominant-minority group relations is a function of the characteristics of society as a whole—reflects the subsistence (the means by which society satisfies basic needs) of society.  As explained by Gerhard Lenski, the subsistence technology of a society acts as a foundation, shaping and affecting every other aspect of the social structure o The Contact Situation—the conditions under which groups first come together, which has long lasting consequences for the minority group • The Origins of Slavery in America o Spain was a powerful nation, leading to the new world, followed by England (early 1600s)—Jamestown o 1619: Jamestown had been established for more than a decade and a Dutch ship arrived, offering to trade 20 blackAfricans for provisions (landmark event) o The firstAfricans were incorporated into society as indentured servants (not yet slaves), contracted laborers serving a master for a specific number of years and at the end of the contract they were free o There was not much demand for labor (hence no slavery yet) until the 1650s when they were treated as property of others (slaves) and in 1660 the first laws defining slavery were enacted and was clearly defined in law and custom by 1750s o The Labor Supply Problem  Colonists saw slavery as a solution to the labor-intensive farm work done by hand (Industrial Revolution was still two centuries away)  Plantation system—based on cultivating crops such as sugar, tobacco, and rice on large tracts of land using a large, cheap labor force • Profits were low so workforce had to be cheap (i.e. slaves)  White indentured servants dwindled around the same time and were freed every couple of years, and landowners who relied on these white indentured servants had to deal with high turnover rates in their workforce and faced a continually uncertain supply of labor  Attempt to useA.I. as labor failed because there were too few of them and someAmerican Indian nations retained enough power to resist enslavement  This left black Africans as main source of labor and slave trade began fromAfrica to Spain and Portugal to SouthAmerica (this kidnapped millions ofAfricans) Pages 104-112 • The Creation of Slavery in the United States o Noel Hypothesis for why blackAfricans were enslaved instead of white indentured servants orA.I.  All three were objects of ethnocentric feelings on part of dominant colonial group: • Black Africans andA.I. had different religious and racial grounds and indentured servants were usually Catholics (not protestant) or criminals  Competition existed • A.I. vs. Colonial: Land (direct competition) • Indentured servants (white and black) vs. Colonial: labor force for landowners (indirect competition)  Differential in power • Balance in power between Colonists andA.I. was even • White indentured servants had advantage of being preferred over black which gave them bargaining power for better treatment • Black Africans were a colonized group and had no bargaining power and no safe havens (no relatives, knowledge of countryside, etc.) • Paternalistic Relations o The nature of inter-group relations will reflect the characteristics of the larger society o Small elite class and plantation-based economy led to paternalism characterized by vast power differentials, repressive system of control over minority group, caste-like barriers between groups, elaborate and highly stylized codes of behavior/communication between groups, and low rates of overt conflict. o To control labor of their slaves, plantation elite designed a system of laws and customs to give masters total legal power. In these laws, slaves were defined as chattel, or personal property.  Thus slaves had no rights (could only testify in court against another slave but that is it)—masters had legal authority over everything  Slaves forbidden by law to read or write and marriages were not legally recognized o Slavery was a caste system (a closed stratification system—ascribed social status)  Interactions between members of dominant and minority groups in a paternalistic system are governed by rigid, strictly enforced code of etiquette. • Slaves had to display they were of a lower status in order to not threaten power and status differentials • Many owners were polite to their slaves when they both followed the system so slaves came to hate the system more than their owners o Powerlessness in slaves and little way to defy system without being beaten or killed  Nat Turner led an uprising, killing 57 whites and >100 slaves died in armed encounter at state militia, Nat Turner and 13 others later executed, the result of this was greater oppression and control by the dominant group • This shows how little power slaves have in revolting due to the system)  Others were successful, runaway slaves, some received help from Underground Railroad, supported by blacks and whites involved in abolitionism (movement to abolish slavery)  Others used open rebellion in the forms of resistance (intentional carelessness, work slowdowns, sabotage, dragging their feet, etc.) o Slaves both resisted slavery and accommodated to it to maintain family and their lives • The Dimensions of Minority Group Status o Power, Inequality, and Institutional Discrimination  Key concepts for understanding creation of slavery  Plantation elite used power to consign blackAfricans to inferior status; racial inequality was implemented and reinforced by the institutions o Prejudice and Racism  Prejudice did not come first but after colonists had decided that using black Africans for cheap labor would be a good solution to agricultural needs  Prejudice and racism was used to rationalize and “explain” the emerging system of racial and ethnic advantages for the colonists  Intensity, strength and popularity of anti-black Southern racism emerged 200 years after slavery began for this reason  When abolitionist movement brought slavery under attack, the response was a strengthening in anti-black racism to help defend their actions  Avicious cycle develops as prejudice and racism reinforce the pattern of inequality between groups, which was the cause of prejudice and racism in the first place. • Thus, the Blauner hypothesis states, the subordination of colonized minority groups is perpetuated through time. o Assimilation  Views on why slavery was positive (assimilating): • Some argued that slavery was beneficial for blackAfricans as a school for civilization, exposingAfricans to Western culture [ethnocentrism] • Some argued it protected slaves from the evils and exploitation of the factory system of the industrial North  Views on why slavery was negative (forced cohesion): • Compared with Nazi concentration camps, brainwashing slaves and stripping them of their culture in a “perverted patriarchy”  Nonetheless, slaves retained a sense of self and a firm anchor in their African traditions—stressing the importance of kinship, religion, and culture in helpingA.A. cope. • Africans still had their language die out quickly though and had to adjust to English—Africans under slavery experienced massive acculturation  Acculturation forced onAfricanAmericans o Gender Relations  Only about 25% of farmers in south owned slaves  AfricanAmericans echoed the patriarchal pattern of Southern society (women subordinate to men)  AfricanAmerican Female slaves were at the bottom of the system • Had very little femininity (from all the labor and place in society) compared to white southern belle women who were placed on a pedestal • Sometimes used to breed more slaves to sell—raped by males of dominant group
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