The Truth and A Lengthy Excuse
An essay on Eric Williams and Winthrop Jordan
In Eric Williams' essay, "Capitalism and Slavery", the first thing he stresses is that racism came from slavery, not the other way around. Of course I was immediately put off by this statement after reading Winthrop Jordan's "White over Black: American attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812", which has quite the opposite idea stated in it. Fortunately, Eric Williams' essay nearly tears itself apart on its own without any help from me, as he failed to recognize his own inherent classism and racism. It is his idea that because blacks were not the first to be used for free labor, just the cheapest form of free labor, that it was not racism that made the English, Spanish, and French use them. That, of course, is complete bullshit. Here's why. Eric Williams starts his essay by telling us about the use of Indians as slaves. He mentions that it was attempted to only enslave those Indians that didn't give up their heritage for Christianity. This brings me back to Winthrop Jordan's essay in which we recall the Christians encountering heathenism in Africa which certainly applies here: "Heathenism was treated not so much as a specifically religious defect but as one manifestation of a general refusal to measure up to proper standards, as a failure to be English or even civilized." The first encounter with and eventual poor treatment of the Native Americans was all too similar to the relationship formed between the whites and blacks in Africa. Eric Williams goes onto say: "The Indian reservoir, too, was limited, the African inexhaustible", which sounds as if he was speaking of a resource rather than groups of human beings. Interesting. And as if this were to completely prove his point, Williams speaks of how "not the Negro", but poor whites were used next to make rich whites richer. It started off as indentured servitude, where a person would sign a...
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