Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Drawing the Color Line

Zinn’s thesis is that the elements of racism and slavery are historical, not “natural”. This unequal treatment, this developing combination of contempt and oppression, feeling and action, which we call “racism” –was this the result of a “natural” antipathy of white against black? If racism can’t be shown to be natural, then it is the result of certain conditions, and we are impelled to eliminate those conditions (p.27).

The argument the author presents consists of how the settler’s racist ways played a major role in determining who they made to become slaves and the treatment towards them as opposed to people of the settler’s own kind. The reason the settler’s made the blacks slaves were because of two reasons. The first one being the Indians in the mainland had a big advantage over the settlers, mainly because they know the territory much better than the settlers do, and they are much more resourceful on living off the land, unlike them. “There may have been a kind of frustrated rage at their own ineptitude, at the Indian superiority at taking care of themselves, that the Virginians especially ready to become the master of slaves” (p.24). So because of this, the settlers turned to Africa in search for the labor needed to take care of the crops and other jobs in the new world. The reason the African’s were much easier to force into slave work was because they were foreigners in the new world, torn apart from their homeland. They were basically like helpless animals confused and forced into slavery towards the settlers. As Zinn says, “The blacks had been torn from their land and culture, forced into a situation where the heritage of language, dress, custom, and family relations was bit by bit obliterated except for the remnants that blacks could hold on to by sheer, extraordinary persistence” (p. 25). Also, even before the New England’s discovery of the Americas, African blacks had already been used in other parts of the world as a source of slaves. The racism the settlers had against the Indians also existed against the blacks. Whites were the masters, and the blacks were slaves to the whites. The blacks also received harsher punishments than the whites did, even if they committed the same crime. So violence was a big part of keeping the slaves in control, and just increased when they tried to rebel various ways.

Zinn applied his argument very well in discussing the fact that the settlers were racist against the slaves, and “proving” that the Americans were the superior races through violence; even though the Africans and the Indians were better developed then the settlers was in the new land. I agree with Zinn’s argument about his views on the racism within the settlers throughout this time period. There is evidence to show that the American’s way of slavery were quite harsh in comparison to any other kind of slavery throughout history. The settler’s greed for “limitless profit that comes from capitalistic agriculture; the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white was master, black was slave” (p.25). Because of that drive, they didn’t care how much they hurt the blacks. The settlers treated them basically like cattle, herding them onto their ships from Africa and porting them back to the mainland to sell like items in a trade market.

I thought this article was very interesting as well. I learned that the Indians were actually too hard to keep control of and catch them as slaves for the settlers, and that is one of the main reasons why they went overseas to find those who are foreign to the landscape, and are more helpless than the Indians. The Indians can take care of themselves and defend quite strongly as they did to avoid capture from the settlers. With this happening during the same time period the settlers needed more laborers for the work needed, it caused the settlers to look elsewhere for slaves. Showing history from the opposite point of view from which we were taught has grabbed my attention more than the subject of history has in the past. I think that Zinn does a wonderful job with exposing the darker side of what happened in the new world, and how the Africans came to be a strong source of slavery for the America’s. I also found it very interesting how Zinn puts into perspective, when comparing the New England settlers, the Indians, and the Africans, it is actually the settlers that are inferior in the ways of taking care of themselves and running a settlement. Yet it is the New Englanders who look down upon the Indians and Africans because they are different, and become very racist against these groups. The only way that the settlers showed they were superior were through violence and forcing their ways upon the “inferior” groups. Overall, I found this to be another pretty good read by Zinn.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Tempest in the Wilderness

The Tempest, the London audience knew, was not about Ireland but about the New World, for the reference to the “Bermoothes” (Bermuda) revealed the location of the Island. What was happening onstage was a metaphor for English expansion into America. (p.29).

The author’s argument throughout this piece revolves around the fact that Shakespeare’s play, The Temptest, represents a prelude to what happened with the Indians from America and the European “invasion” that occurred around the discovery of the Americas and so forth. Also, due to the Tempest, when the Europeans did start conquering the Americas, the perceived the Indians as how Caliban in the play was perceived; as a devil. The Europeans view of the Indians slowly progresses to those of demon-like features, such as their darker skin. Also, they’re ways of living and hunting were perceived as “lazy” in the Europeans eyes, and therefore they thought it was right that they should take over the land and have them farm the correct way. Another part of the argument included the treatment the New Englander’s treated and invaded the Irishmen. Apparently the way that the New Englanders viewed the Irish people were relatively similar to how they viewed the Indians in the Americas. Basically, to the New Englanders during that time period, any way of life that was different from their own was wrong, and in order for lifestyles to be successful and productive, they need to follow the ways of the New Englanders.

Takaki’s argument relies heavily on the Tempest being a direct relation to the creation of England’s new society in America. Although there distinctively is some kind of connection between the play and the views of the Indians being that of the devil, the Tempest cannot be though to completely represent the events that occurred over in the Americas. I agree with him that there is a connection, but there are a few questionable differences. First off, it seems that throughout the time period their portrayals of the Indians slowly changed into that of Caliban in the Tempest. The settlers started off viewing them as though they could use them for labor work and help in the fields. But as time continued on, and the puritan priests started to preach that they are nothing but savage beasts that need to be tamed, that portrayal changed and started treated the Indians as they would bears in the wild. Eventually the full standpoint of the Indians became that they were either “domesticated” into the ways of the New England settlers, or they were hunted and killed. The Indians were given no other choice in the matter. So it is true that the Tempest’s Caliban became how the Indians were portrayed in the new world, but that portrayal was slow and progressively became as it was, and not instant like in Shakespeare’s play.

I thought this reading was very intriguing. I liked how Takaki exposed the correlation between the conquering of the Irish and the Indians, and also giving many valid points of how The Tempest could be seen as an early prediction to what occurred in the new world and the Indians. My point of view towards the New Englanders and how they treated both the Irish and the Indians while “conquering” their homeland still stays the same; their actions are quite appalling and unorthodox on many different levels. I also believe that when the Puritans started preaching that the Indians are devils, and that that when the European diseases greatly diminished their numbers was a sign of God saying that the settlers had a “right” to take over the new land, was complete and utter bogus. I personally think that how they viewed themselves and the way they acted was beyond selfish, and really is an embarrassment to today’s society. Also, now I’m curious about The Tempest, and am now interested in reading the play to see what actually happens. Overall, this article was very interesting, and very informative.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Intro Blog

Hi I'm Maria Simmons and I'm a sophomore at BGSU. I'm majoring in Computer Science. I enjoy rock climbing, deck tennis and volleyball. I also play a lot of video games and love tinkering with computers.

Chapter 1: Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress.

The author's thesis in this article is about how the Americas came to be through the harsh genocide of the various
Indians that were first settled here before Columbus' discovery.

The argument that Howard Zimm presented was that the way America was taken over by the Europeans were harsh
and inhumane on many different levels. The Indians are a simple group of people, depending on natural resources for food and shelter. When the Europeans came to their land, they were not hostile and offered anything they owned to
the newcomers to their land. One example of how the Arawaks were treated by Columbus and the rest of the settler's consisted of when Columbus needed to bring back to England more gold those who invested in this expedition, and he
forced any Indians age fourteen or older to go hunting for gold every three months. If they brought back a good share, they were given a copper pendant to wear, which ensured their safety for the time being. During this time, Indians that
were found and not wearing a copper necklace had their hands cut off and left to bleed to death. Between Columbus and the Arawaks, Cortes and the Aztecs, Pizarro and the Incas, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots, the way they were treated and conquered were relatively the same.

The author states in the article that "I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves…" (Zimm 11). In this case, I agree with the author and how he wishes to write about the history of America from the opposite view than the "executioners". Though it is important to have an accurate viewpoint of history from whence we originated from, it is also equally important to know and understand the
opposing side of the battle, in this case, the Indians that were quite literally wiped out due to the conquest of North America. This argument would be applied to anything that would be against how the textbooks in middle and high school perceive history through solely the eyes of the conquerors. What the textbooks and history class in grade school lead people to believe is that Columbus is a hero, and he discovered the Americas which in turn opened up a vast amount of opportunities for trade and natural resources, let alone developing an entirely new settlement which expanded to what is now the United
States. All of the above may be true, but the textbooks describe the hostile nature the expeditionary had towards the Indians to be very subtle and obsolete in comparison to this discovery. For history to be more accurate, I believe that both sides of the story must be represented equally in order for the entire truth to be exposed.

I found the article to be very interesting and informative. Some of the events during the expedition of America that were explained in the article I had not known about beforehand, and found it intriguing. I also completely agree on the author's beliefs that history should be taught with both sides of the fight explained in equal detail, because in the long run the truth about the history of America will be much more accurate as opposed to just having one side of the fight revealed. Even though discovering the America's and developing a whole new settlement was a spectacular event in history, I believe that the means of which it was acquired were inhumane. Because of the practical genocide of what happened during that time period, we lost and experiencing living with those Indian tribes, and learning/sharing cultures with each other. I think that things
could have been handled differently and in a more peaceful manner between the Indians and the other discoverer, and in turn we would still have a relatively decent amount of those Indians still around today.