Nurture Causes Prejudice

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Throughout the history of the United States, there has been racism. Even though the Civil Rights movement was a success, people still have bitter feelings towards other races. The question of why there is racism is often left out of many history texts, as they seem to focus on the different wars of our time instead. However, the question of why racism exists is a very important one, as racism has been causes of many of the problems throughout history and today, such as the Civil War or the War in Iraq. In Howard Zinn's book: A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present, he explores the different reasons of why racism exists and how it may be stopped if possible. The big debate about racism is nature versus nurture, whether we are born racist, or whether people, events around us cause the problem. Zinn believes that nurture is the cause of racism, and the researcher agrees with this statement. He explains in the chapter how legal problems, economics, fear of rebellion are all main factors in causing racism. What Zinn doesn't mention, but what the researcher thinks is also important is religion was a main factor as well.

Many of the laws that were enforced in the colonial times contributed to racism. Before these laws began to pop up, the colonies were in turmoil. The Virginians were in their starving period and were desperate for food. They needed labor quickly to make enough food to survive. The Virginians were so desperate in fact, that during 1609-1610, they would dig up graves and eat the corpses. Many of these colonists were not fit to work in fields, John Smith declared a sort of martial law to organize the colonists into work gangs and forced them in the fields for survival. When the slaves started rolling in, laws began to pop up about the slaves, despite the fact that slavery was not yet legalized. In 1639, a law was passed that allowed "all persons except Negroes" to obtain arms and ammunition to fight off the rogue Indians. When three servants tried to escape in 1640, the white servants were penalized with additional years on their contracts, but the Negro John Punch was forced to serve the rest of his life. Another example of how laws caused racism was in 1640 when a Negro woman begot a child by a white man. The woman was sent to the whipping post, and the man had to do public penance. Despite the fact that black and white servants often worked together and became friends, laws were created to forbid those relationships. An example of this would be in 1661 when a law in Virginia was passed that if any English servant would run away with a Negro, the servant would be forced to do a special service for the master of the Negro. Another such law was in 1691 that declared banishment of any "white man or woman being free who shall intermarry with a Negro, mulatoo, or Indian man or woman bond or free." The Virginia slave code read on escaping slaves "if the slave does not immediately return, anyone whatsoever may kill or destroy such slaves by such ways and means as he…shall see fit." These laws basically forced the white colonists, whether free or a servant, to not have any type of relationship with Negroes, thus extending the racial barrier.

Zinn also contributes racism growing due to economic conditions. In the poor south the plantation system was beginning to grow rapidly. Indentured servants were becoming more scarce as the economic conditions in England were improving causing less people to come to the colonies. The servants in the colonies were not enough to meet the needs of the plantations. Due to this, the colonies began to import slaves from Africa at a large rate. In 1700 there were only 6,000 slaves. In 1763 however, there was 170,000 slaves, which was about half the population. The black slaves were a lot easier to enslave than the Indians or whites. Eventually the number of black slaves in the south was 3 million. The greedy and mostly illiterate...
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