Monday, September 24, 2007

Takaki: Chapter 3

In Chapter 3, titled The “Giddy Multitude”: The Hidden Origins of Slavery, Takaki talks about the origin of slavery and how it came about. He starts off by talking about The Tempest and the characters whom played a role in this play and relating them to what really happened in the coming of slavery. I believe that Takaki’s main thesis for this chapter is the fact that the “Giddy Multitude” which is “a discontented class of indentured servants, slaves, and landless freemen, both white and black” (63) constantly threatened the social order that constructed slavery.
I this chapter Takaki starts with the stating that some of the first slaves where Indians but in the play The Tempest, the slave was portrayed as an African. He then states that twenty Africans had been brought to Virginia by a Dutch man and although they had been sold, they were not exactly slaves because they were not reduced to property. They, in fact, were more like the white indentured servants who were bound by contracts to serve a certain number of years and then they were set free. Slowly more slaves were brought over to the Virginia colony from places like Germany, England and Ireland. Like the Africans the white indentured servants were brought to the Virginia colonies unwillingly. They were typically of the low class of society, brutish, vagabonds, whores and cheats.
Because the blacks and the whites were coming from different places, to the Virginias and serving as slaves and indentured servants together, they had no negative feelings toward each other. These white and black servants would runaway together and worked together everyday. However, finally Virginia legislators spoke up and started to make relations between the blacks and the white come to and end. They were strongly punished if they ran away together, or if they had any kind of relations with each other.
Once they started to separate the blacks and the whites, they started treating them differently as well. The whites were not punished as harshly as the blacks were for disobeying their masters. Also, the whites did not have to serve for life like the blacks did. Another thing that was happening was that the Africans were being degraded into the status of property.
Now that the white servants were free, they wanted to own land but the current merchants would not give them any land. So the “giddy multitude” became a threat to social order. They led conspiracies, revolts, and other rages that caused the upper and middle class to become frieghtened of this group of people. Large landowners, such as Thomas Jefferson, realized that the social order would always be in danger if they had to depend of white labor so they decided to go strictly to slaves.
Virginia wanted to let some of their white servants go so they brought more blacks over to become slaves. They saw the value of having slaves for life however, something else had happened too that opened the way for a switch from indentured white labor to black slave labor (61). This is something is the fact that the hidden origins of slavery were indeed rooted in class (61).
By having blacks strictly as slaves, they wanted to make sure they did not make the same mistakes with them as they did with the whites by allowing them to have too much power. In order to keep the blacks as socially low as possible, they passed many laws restricted blacks from doing things such as voting, or having the freedom of assembly or movement. These laws made the cultural gap between the blacks and the whites much larger.
Thomas Jefferson felt guilty about the slave situation and said that he would abolish slavery once his debts were paid off. He said that once slavery was abolished all of the slaves would have to be removed from America because he believed that blacks and whites could never coexist in American because of “the real distinctions” which “nature” had made between the two races (71). Jefferson also believed that nurture would not improve the nature of blacks (74) and that blacks were not as smart as whites.
So what would happen to a president today if they said that they believed that whites and blacks could never coexist in American because of “the real distinctions” which “nature” has made between the two races and that blacks are inferior to whites in such things as intelligence? If such a thing was said today, by almost anyone, it would be greatly refuted. First of all, the only “real distinctions” is the skin color and the only reason it has any meaning in our society today is because we have socially construed it to be that way. Second of all nature has not made the blacks inferior to whites, it was our social class that made us believe that they were, and treated them as though they were. And finally, it is very obvious to us now, that blacks are not less intelligent than whites. There are many intelligent, successful of both races.
I didn’t particularly care for this chapter. I felt that it was long and drawn out. I also thought that it was laid out weird. I felt as though it wasn’t necessarily in chronological order. He would talk about how they changed to having all black slaves, and then it went back to having white indentured servants. I just felt that it could have been written better and more smoothly.

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