Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Drawing the Color Line

I found the Zinn’s thesis to be, “So it is more than a purely historical question to ask: How did it [racism] start? — and an even more urgent question: How might it [racism] end? Or, t put it differently: Is it possible for whites and blacks to live together without hatred?” In this article Zinn first begins by stating how based on history the first known period where blacks and whites interacted with each other begun in North America. He goes on to state how the European settlers in Virginia was in great need of laborers. Zinn also states that the Indians “were tough, resourceful, defiant, and at home in these woods” where as the Englishmen needed to obtain slaves that were opposite the Indians. A group of people the Englishmen believed were less superior to them as well as the Indians. It came to be that black slaves were the perfect choice. Zinn states that blacks had been used as slaves by many other countries prior to the Virginians sailing out to obtain some. Also, the Englishmen believed that based on some African civilization at the time they were already using their own people as slaves. To the Englishmen, this meant it was ok for them too to use the blacks as slaves. Zinn tells of the journey from Africa to the Americas and how many Africans died a horrible death along the way. After this journey Zinn goes on to tell how the Africans adjustment to slavery in the Americas. Lastly, with the Africans adjusting and not all the Virginians agreeing with the slavery and attempting to aid black slaves in the escape. The white men sought out one way to prevent all the rebellious behavior and that was to free the white servants of their duties and provide them with bushels of corn, shillings, if they were a man they were provided with a gun, and lastly they were given land. This was to persuade them to side with the white men more and prevent them from siding and aiding the blacks.
I believe this article expressed its idea of where racism rooted from pretty well but at the same time I believe it begun with the Indians instead of Blacks. I do not understand why the Englishmen saw the Indians as being inferior to their race but it was blacks that racism supposedly rooted from. Based on the previous chapter by Zinn, it referred to how Indians were taken from their homes/environments to become slaves for Europeans but with this article it speaks of how blacks were taken from their homes/environments to become slaves for the Englishmen in the Americas. What made the slavery in the Americas different from the slavery in Europe? I mean I do understand the treatment may have been slightly harsher in America against the black slaves than the Indians in Europe but slavery is still slavery. As I was reading this article I felt as though there were some things I was learning for the first time and others I already knew. I thought it was a very interesting article with a great attempt in pin-pointing the root of racism. Although, I never knew of the connection the white servants had with the black slaves and their attempt to help each other. Also, I had always been under the impression that slavery with blacks/Africans begun in the United States. I did not know South America, the Caribbean, Portugal, and Spanish colonies enslaved Africans prior to Englishmen.

Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress

Howard Zinn has, what I have found to be, an interesting perspective on history. I believe
Zinn’s thesis in this article, Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress to be, “If history is to
be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe,
emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief
flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win.” Zinn first
begins with telling of Christopher Columbus’ journey to lands on the other side of the Atlantic
and how he ended up on a island with very generous and kind people. These people were called
Arawaks and it was said they were very much similar to Indians. Columbus has been known as
being this heroic sailor to have discovered new countries and so forth. Based on this article by
Howard Zinn Columbus was also a very cruel and sadistic murderer that allowed his greed to get
the best of him. Columbus tortured the Indians and made them less than human; he treated them
as animals. He then took them back to Spain where the Arawaks were no longer a free people
but instead slaves to people who they would’ve willingly helped if they had only asked instead of
forced. This article tells of how a people has become extinct by other people. Zinn is telling the
untold truths of Christopher Columbus which are not found in our textbooks and schools. Zinn’s
goal is to speak for the Arawaks and other “people” whose side of the story has been left behind
in the past and to provide readers with the unknown facts.
I found a lot of what Zinn stated in this article to be very interesting and some of what he stated I agreed with. I was a little shock to know this truth of Christopher Columbus although I
have heard mention in the past that he really wasn’t this spectacular guy our school textbooks
wanted us to believe but I never imagined it was to this extent. This article has changed my
perspective of Columbus and makes me question why exactly we celebrate a day in his honor.
To me that is like saying we pick one of he slave masters of the Africans that were brought here
to the United States and celebrate their life. This is not to say that I do not think his discoveries
were not something to celebrate but we need to stop hiding the truths about people just because
of their title or the little good they have done in their life.