Michelle Aybar October 14, 2013
Barbados the Original Colony
Bussa statue. The leader of a slave uprising in Barbados
Barbados was the first English colony to erect a racial hierarchy, which acted as a model for the mainland plantation colonies in the Chesapeake Bay region and South Carolina. (Soderalnd, Pg. 63) “ The inclination of English men and women to exploit Africans as slaves came from ethnocentrism, hierarchical beliefs, and prejudice against blackness, all leading to the idea that Africans were an inferior, pagan, people who could be held as property. To justify keeping Africans as slaves, English colonist used color of skin more than any other attribute such as religion or customs.” (Soderland, Pg. 64) The English also employed the identical rationale for enslaving Native Americans, whom they also regarded as a tainted, heathen race.
Barbadians, English, and Europeans validated enslaving Africans for life and for the life of their offspring’s on the position that dark skinned people were pagan, uncivilized, and inferior human beings. (Soderland, Pg. 65) The hierarchies established by the Europeans defined Christians as superior to heathens, the Europeans found grave deficiencies in African religion, social customs, dress, and political organizations. (Soderland, Pg. 65) Africans were viewed to be at the very bottom of the humanity scale and were justifiably enslaved.
“ Most crucial for the English was skin color. English Language and culture differentiated sharply between White and Black, with Whiteness denoting what was good and pure and blackness suggesting sin and filth.” (Soderland, Pg. 65) Europeans mainly concentrated on the differences rather than on the traits they shared in common with the Africans, such as the belief in one creator, physical similarities that were overwhelming, and similar livelihoods as agriculturalist and live stock raisers. (Soderland, Pg.65 & Pg.66)
For the Europeans racialization was a justification for slavery. “Barbados was the most important single colony in the British empire, worth almost as much in its total value trade as the two tobacco colonies of Virginia and Maryland combined, and nearly three times as valuable as Jamaica. The tiny sugar island was more valuable to Great Britain than Carolina, New England, New York, and Pennsylvania all together.” (Das Gupta, Pg. 151)
Growing up and listening to the word race being used, I always correlated the word to meaning where you were born and where your parents/ancestors are from. It is very disheartening to learn that race originates from the beliefs and ideas of people born of a specific skin color that deem anyone different from their specific colored skin a inferior race, that are not to be seen as human beings but as property that can be treated with no regard.
The idea of race persists and is relevant in present contemporary social relations because those who are the majority seek to manipulate and maintain control and power over everything particularly capitol. Capitol was a key factor for those who were in control back then and it is still a vital property today. I often think to myself if race is what was used to divide us into groups and different categories, perhaps one day we will stray away from the grouping that divides us and classify ourselves as one race the human race. How powerful of an impact would that have on society? http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/barbados_01.shtml, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jul/20/sugar-in-the-blood-andrea-stuart-review, and http://jeromehandler.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Life-Histories-98.pdf are three very fascinating and interesting websites I highly recommend filled with knowledgeable facts of the history of Barbados.
Me sitting on The Lion at Gun Hill, Barbados – The Lion stands with one foot resting on a ball, which is representative of the might the British Empire had over the world at that time in history.
Das Gupta, Tania (2007). Race and Racialization: Essential Readings. Canadian Scholars’ press – Social Science Pg. 151
Soderland, Jean R. (2000). Creating a Biracial Society in Scott, W. R., & Shade, W. G. (Eds.), Upon These Shores: Themes in the African American experience, 1600 to the present (Pg. 63-81). New York: Routledge.
Aybar, Michelle. 2009. The Lion at Gun Hill, Barbados (Photograph)