The Story we Tell

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America and Race have a long and entangled history. The concept of Race, like America is a recent invention. Race is an idea constructed by society to further political and economic goals. Race was never just a matter of how you look, it's about how people assign meaning toward how you look. It is ironic that a nation that takes great pride in one the foundation “All men are created Equal” can at the same time portray the idea of Race in such a scale that would repress and kill so many people. In this essay I will address what necessitated the creation of the story of race in American history.
In the beginning of colonial America people used religion and wealth to define status. As the years progressed fewer people migrated to America. This resulted in a labor shortage of indentured servants. Farmers turned to the transatlantic slave trade, and started replacing indentured servants with African slaves. African slaves worked for nothing, could be easily identified by their skin separating them from indentured servants, and were valued for their farming skill. Plantation owners found what they an ideal and endless labor supply and developed the first slave system where all slaves shared a common appearance and ancestry. The abundance of this new labor source brought poor whites new rights, opportunities, and a sense of superiority for whiteness. Many were elevated to manager’s plantations and bounty hunters. White societies for the first time started to identify themselves with each other not based on wealth or status because they were white. As slave labor increased, slavery became inherently identified with blackness. This perpetuated white Americans belief that Africans were a different kind of person and stimulated the theory that Africans maintained a "natural" inferiority.
This theory of "natural" inferiority rationalized for many white Americans the stealing of Indian lands. Indians, another “racially inferior” group, were initially viewed as naturally white. They explained they were tan because of exposure to the sun. Many felt that they were good human material, and the problem was not race but culture, that the Indians were primitive but they could be civilized. Whites sought to civilize Indians though English education and Christian religion, turning hunters into farmers and businessmen. They tried to assimilate them into American culture. The "civilization" process and way of life began to be seen as the only way for Indians to live in peace with whites.

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