Amanda Diaz 10/14/13
Virginia and Separating Race
In Virginia during the 17th century, black people went from servants to slaves. Servitude slowly turned into slavery as extra punishments for running away. During the late 17th century there was a decrease in workers and increase in need for labor which forced a change (Soderlund Jean.R. 68-70).
Nathaniel Bacon a rich Englishman among other settlers in Virginia saw Indians as enemies. He was the man behind the Bacon rebellion which brought poor white and poor black people together to fight side by side. The unity was seen as a future problem for the top of the hierarchy and soon enough the Virginia Slave codes would come in full affect (pbs.org). The wealthy European men needed a way to make sure the poor white and black people did not rebel and fight back. They needed to make a group inferior to them in order to keep control of their laborers and in order to continue to make themselves wealthier.
African Americans seemed to be an easier choice considering they physically looked different.
In 1705 Virginia’s assembly decided anyone imported onto the land who was not a Christian on their previous homelands would be enslaved and could be punished as severely as to death and the master would not be accountable.
Race was something I was never told to critically think about until the present. To me my ethnicity was my focus. I struggled growing up as a “Puerto Rican American”, constantly trying to prove being a Puerto Rican descendant; I never really thought about what race I belonged to. A couple of years ago while applying for jobs I checked my ethnicity but stood stuck or would check other when it came to race. I never saw myself as “black” or “White” or any of the other options. I would think, what qualifies me to check either? Taking Black and Latin studies classes has forced me to think critically. As a child I remember getting made fun of because my hair was not straight like the other Spanish girls, but curly and as everyone would say “nappy”. Back then it bothered me more to be made fun of than as to why having “black hair” was seen negatively, but it happened and continues to do so.
Race was always a way of categorizing different groups of people. Everyone always put others into the categories based on their appearances to make a group feel inferior to the other. Race in early America was determined by hair texture and facial features but most importantly by the color of one’s skin. Black enslaved people were seen to have wool like hair, flat noses and dark skin, while Europeans had straight long hair and lighter skin. That’s one aspect of race that has not changed. Race was a way to divide people into groups which would later lead to enslavement. In Ian F. Lopez’s essay Critical Race Theory: the Cutting Edge he discusses Hudgins V. Wright, a case in Virginia which allowed three generations of women free simply because the mother had straight long hair inherited through her Native American Ancestry. So because slavery was determined through the matrilineal line her children were freed as well. (Ian F. Lopez.191-192)
Race was used to enslave Africans in the 17th century up until the late 19th century. According to Lincoln Quillian in “Does Unconscious Racism exist?” race is still being used today to determine inequalities, discrimination and stereotypes. Lincoln Quillian argues that white men are seen to possess good traits while black and Latino men are seen to have bad traits. (Quillian.Lincoln.7)Some stereotypes that lead to discrimination and inequalities leave negative views of African Americans which can and in some cases lead to loss of opportunities. Loss of opportunities and support can lead to discourse which can be used to explain high rates of incarcerated black men and crime. Race still exists to continue that dividing line between superior and inferior.
Lopez, F. Ian, Hanley. (1999). Critical Race Theory the Cutting Edge. Temple University Press Philadelphia. 17 191-194
Quillian, Lincoln. (2008). Does Unconscious Racism Exist? NorthWesternUniversity.7-10
Soderlund.Jean.R. (2000). Creating a Biracial Society 1916-1720.Routledge. William R. Scott and William G. Shade.
Citing Websites. Virginia Slave Codes.retrieved October 14, 2013, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p268.html
Düre, Albrecht . Albertina, Graphische, Sammlung. Portrait of a Negro. retrieved October 14,2013, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1h287.html
Wood, L. Marren. Founding of Virginia. The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Retrieved October 14, 2013 from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-colonial/2029