Racism: Issue In Institutional Racism


The history of the United States is one of duality. In the words of the
Declaration of Independence, our nation was founded on the principles of
equality in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, long before the
founders of the newly declared state met in Philadelphia to espouse the virtues
of self-determination and freedom that would dubiously provide a basis for a
secessionary war, those same virtues were trampled upon and swept away with
little regard. Beneath the shining beacon of freedom that signaled the
formation of the United States of America was a shadow of deception and
duplicity that was essential in creating the state. The HSS 280 class lexicon
defines duality as “a social system that results from a worldview which accepts
inherent contradictions as reasonable because this is to the believer\'s benefit.”
The early years of what would become the United States was characterized by a
system of duality that subjugated and exterminated peoples for the benefit of
the oppressors. This pattern of duality, interwoven into our culture, has
created an dangerously racialized society. From the first moment a colonist
landed on these shores, truths that were “self-evident” were contingent on
subjective “interpretation.” This discretionary application of rights and
freedoms is the foundation upon which our racially stratified system operates on.

English colonists, Africans, and Native Americans comprised the early
clash of three peoples. Essentially economic interests, and namely capitalism,
provided the impetus for the relationships that developed between the English
colonists, the Africans, and the Native Americans. The colonialization of North
American by the British was essentially an economic crusade. The emergence of
capitalism and the rise of trade throughout the 16th century provided the
British with a blueprint to expand its economic and political sphere. The
Americas provided the British with extensive natural resources, resources that
the agrarian-unfriendly British isles could not supply for its growing empire.
When Britons arrived in North America, the indigenous population posed
an economic dilemma to the colonists. The Native Americans were settled on the
land that the British colonists needed to expand their economic capacity. To
provide a justificatory framework for the expulsion of Native Americans off
their land, the English colonists created a ideology that suited their current
needs.
The attitude of Anglos toward the Native Americans began as one of
ambivalence and reliance. When the English first arrived in North America, they
needed the Indians to survive the unfamiliar land and harsh weather. Once the
English became acclimated to their surroundings and realized that the Indians
were living on valuable land, it was only a matter of time before guns and
shackles replaced treaties and handshakes.
In the name of Christianity and capitalism, the English colonists
quickly turned their backs on the short lived missionary zeal that characterized
the early colonial period. Now, the “savage Indians” were viewed as unable to
save themselves and extermination would be a worthy enterprise in the sight of
the Lord. The idea that one possesses a God-given right to mistreat others runs
through much of Western culture and became especially acute in North America
after the emergence of capitalism.
For example, in New England many settlers rejoiced at the extraordinary
death brought upon the Native American population by the introduction of
epidemic diseases. It was viewed as a way of “thinning out” the population. In
the world of the New Jerusalem, where a city was to be build upon a hill, such
trite concerns were of little consequence for those with divine providence.
Duality, and its means of placing the truth and its allied freedoms in
the hands of the powerful, furnishes the “chosen ones” with wide latitude to
create theoretical arguments that justify and perpetuate systemic arrangements
of inequality. John Winthrop outlined his reasoning for the British right to
North American land in terms of natural rights versus civil rights. Natural
rights were those that men enjoyed in a state of nature (i.e. Native Americans).
When some men began to parcel land and use tilled farming, they acquired civil
rights (English colonists). Inevitably, civil rights took precedence over
natural rights. This method of thinking enabled privilege to the English and
provided a justification for the institutional and systemic extermination of the
indigenous people (Growth 83).
Before addressing the subjugation of African-Americans by the English, I
think it is important that I make an important theoretical point in my argument.
All political systems are rational, in the sense that there is a logic and a
thinking that guides those making the rules. White supremacy and its associated
beliefs (Christianity, patriarchalism, etc) provided the rationale for the
creation of a system