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Slavery and The Genesis of American Race Prejudice - Essay Example

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In the article, “Slavery and The Genesis of American Race Prejudice” Degler seeks to dispute the notion that slavery was the main cause of discrimination and prejudice against the Negro in America more so Virginia as presupposed by Tocqueville…
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Slavery and The Genesis of American Race Prejudice

Download file to see previous pages... Degler however refers to the writing of Frank Tannenbaum to cast doubt to this assumption held not only by Tocqueville, but many others in regard to the issue, he argues that if slavery was the course of discrimination, then the ensuing prejudice should have been uniformly evident in all societies that embraced slavery. However, the levels of discrimination that Negroes in the United States underwent after slavery is significantly more severe than those suffered by Negroes in other parts of the world. Degler argues that that slavery cannot be seen as a cause for discrimination since the prejudice existed long before slavery, thus, he thus seeks to strengthen his position by examining the retrospective treatment of Negroes before the term slavery came to be applied socially and legally to them. He argues that before, and during slavery, a Negro free or slave occupied a lower and degraded position in society than any white man. Degler also opposes an argument suggested by Handlin that during the 17th century the position of the white servants was improving while that of the black ones was becoming worse; Degler demonstrates that white servants were very badly treated in New England. He uses this to prove that if the position of blacks was to be compared to that of the white servants, the fact that the former were worse off leaves one in doubt of the validity of the explanation that blacks were not being discriminated before slavery became a legal reality. Degler emphasizes that despite the fact that a negro was rarely called as lave before the 17th century, the position he held as an individual and a servant was subject to extreme discrimination and was at no time comparable to that of even the most oppressed white servant. The difference between the treatment of Negros, slave or free in the Iberian and English colonies is explained thus; in the English colony, discrimination antedated slavery ergo slavery when it was developed there simply inherited the attitude of Negro inferiority that was already in existence. Degler further assets that before the official use of the term slave, black servants were often in servitude that exceeded that of white ones, for example, in case of escaped servants, while white servants had time added to their term of service blacks were either made “servant” the rest of their natural lives. In some cases their punishment did not have to do with time since they were already serving for life, in addition, servitude, while a white servants children could not inherit it was often passed on from parents to children. Based on this and other reasoning Degler disputes the assumption that slavery gave birth to discrimination and attempts with a significant degree of success to prove that discrimination was not a result of slavery but it was borne off prejudice and xenophobia dating long before slavery. Degler has referred to several works in his quest to disabuse the notion that slavery gave birth to prejudice and one of them is Frank Tannenbaum, he reasoned that the reason the inferiority of slavery did not continue in Iberian countries after slavery could be attributed to three factors (Charles). These were; that the Roman law of slavery, which was influenced, by the Catholic Church and constant contact with dark skinned people took a pragmatic view of slavery as a mere accident to which anyone despite their color could be a victim. Ergo, unlike the North America where slavery was mostly the reserve of the dark blacks and laws put up to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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