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William Apess and Frederick Douglass - Research Paper Example

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“An Indian's Looking-Glass for the White Man” (1833) and “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass” (1881) authored by William Apess and Frederick Douglass respectively are scathing rebukes against racial prejudice and discrimination against racism in the United States.
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William Apess and Frederick Douglass
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Download file to see previous pages William Apess and Frederick Douglass were both men who accepted and adhered to the Christian faith while championing social causes for their people. William Apess is a Christian minister and missionary who works among his people and fights for their recognition of their status as worthy human beings. Apess’ writings “illuminates the meaning of the colonial and post-colonial relationship between Native Americans and the white dominant culture as well as an understanding of the violence that permeates that relationship” (Moon 45). Equally, Frederick Douglas is an ex-slave who was educated and sought to sensitize the American public on injustices against slaves and African Americans. Both men persist in laboring as advocates of human rights through their writings. Their writings classified as protest writing “found enthusiastic supporters among the entire literate black population whose resentment and indignation it voiced…the motivating force was that once they became aware of the situation, the powerful white minority would do something to improve matters” (Gaylard 20). Composed during the Abolitionist Movement and Reconstruction Era, these literary works stress the superficiality and hypocrisy of the Christian Whites in their support of institutionalized, discriminatory oppression - employing their own ideologies and religious doctrines to control the masses.
The superficiality of the White man's doctrine is a point of argument in Apess' work. Apess observes that one “may learn how deep (the White man's) principles are...I should say they were skin deep” (Apess). The foundation of the objections to non-Whites’ enjoyment of their human dignity and privileges is based on the skin pigmentation. Skin color has no inherent value in any substantial and profound argument since what lies on the inside forms the core and matters most. Contrary to the racial Whites, Apess’ major concern is “…not talking about the skin, but about principles” (Apess). In his day, Apess would have been familiar with the Great Chain of Being philosophy which privileges the Whites at the head of the human race and relegates the Other to occupy lower tiers (Lovejoy 27). American Whites manipulated this concept to justify their subhuman treatment of other races. Frederick Douglass also perceived the superficiality of racism realizing that “there was a skin aristocracy in America; no not exactly the skin, it was the colour of the skin, that was the mark of distinction or the brand of degradation” (Blassingame 50). Greed and prejudice constitute the vices that spurred discrimination. As a consequence, millions have lived broken lives and died deaths worse than an animal’s. The slavery was founded on skin color without regard for other more sterling and lasting qualities such as character. Douglass marvels at the preoccupation with something so trivial, yet which bears so much weight. The usage of skin color as a means to exalt oneself and debase another reveals the superficiality of the premises of racism. In time, the surface of any object is defaced and gradually stripped away. External appearances deceive however, only the content of character is real and enduring. As a Christian minister himself, Apess makes a stirring appeal to the tenets of Christianity, the so-called White man's religion. White men would use their religion to validate conquest, segregation, and the institution of slavery, however, Apess wields the Holy Bible, the book which instructs Christians in defense of human rights, equality, justice and brotherhood. Apess cites in his stirring appeal that “God is no respecter of persons; …By this shall all men know that they are my disciples, if ye have love one to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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