- Indians provided the land, at gunpoint,
- Africans provided labour, at gunpoint, while
- the English got rich, holding the gun.
This slowly took shape from 1610 to 1723.
In 1610, the English saw themselves as Christians, seeing Indians and Africans as unbelievers, possibly in league with the Devil.
By 1723, the English in North America had become “White”. Africans and Indians, many of whom had become Christians, were now seen as separate “races”, lesser breeds of mankind. That gave rise to the White, Black and Native Americans that you still see in the US in 2015.
The English model for North America was Ireland. Informed in part by the Spanish experience in the Americas, the English forced the Irish off their land, created plantations and then tried to turn the Irish into a cheap labour force. This was achieved by war, massacre, genocide and forced labour.
To do all this and remain good Christians, at least in their own minds, they saw the Irish as “savages”, as not truly human, as having no morals, no true religion, as being in league with the Devil, as wanderers wasting perfectly good land, as having no sense of property rights.
So when the English stepped on shore in North America, it was just Ireland, only bigger. Some of the very same people took part in the colonization of both Ireland and North America.
They believed God was on their side because they won wars while Indians were dying of disease.
By the 1610s, plantations had taken root in Virginia, growing tobacco and other crops using forced gang labour.
- pay: little to nothing
- housing: separate, substandard
- food: poor.
- punishment: whippings, maiming
- term of service: generally four to seven years.
Most workers were European: convicts, vagabonds, homeless, “excess poor” and, of course, the Irish. Their labour contracts were bought and sold. Most died before they gained their freedom. They were all but slaves.
Then in 1619, African workers began to arrive. They worked side by side with Europeans, married them, ran away from their masters together – and even rose up against the rich together, with guns drawn:
In 1676, in Bacon’s Rebellion, the poor rose up against the rich of Virginia. By 1723, the law (made by and for the rich) had firmly divided the poor into free Whites and Black slaves. Being born to a slave meant you were a slave, even if you had a parent who was free and White.
By 1700, White American scientists, ministers, thinkers and leaders had dutifully stereotyped Blacks as:
- different looking in skin colour, hair and lips,
- disagreeable in smell,
- being like monkeys,
- uncivilized, alien, foreign,
- immoral, dangerous, given to crime,
- ungrateful, rebellious,
- having disorganized families.
Most of this was just the old stereotypes about the Irish, but it was not applied to Blacks till the late 1600s, after Whites were becoming dependent on Black slave labour.
– Abagond, 2015.
Sources: Mostly “Race in North America” (2012) by Audrey Smedley and Brian D. Smedley; “The White Racial Frame” (2010) by Joe R. Feagin.
- 1500s: White American racism: the 1500s
- 1600s: Read more about racism against Black and Native Americans in the 1600s.
- 1700s: White American racism: the 1700s
- settler colonialism
- White racial frame
- English Americans
- Anglo-Protestant culture
- The word “race”
- “The Irish had it hard too”