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8/31 Blog Post Elina Bhagwat

While reading Zinn’s “Drawing the Color Line” chapter, many ideas stood out to me. The first thing that surprised me was how graphic many of the excerpts were. Zinn included several quotes and texts that went into very detailed visualizations of the punishments and treatments that black slaves encountered. I think that this plays into the whole idea of how biased history is. Until college I hadn’t read any slavery literature that included mature topics and descriptions. This makes me wonder if my other history teachers didn’t think that the students were mature enough to read graphic, yet truthful history. Or I wonder if my teachers didn’t want to acknowledge the extremely violent and aggressive actions of white Americans. This leads to another topic that was also interesting to think about. Zinn mentions that white settlers were angered by the “Indian superiority at taking care of themselves,” almost feeling jealous at their own lack of abilities and skills (p. 25). For this reason, white settlers transitioned from enslaving Native Americans to enslaving black people.

It seems as though there was a fear that the Native Americans were too smart and advanced that it would be harder to keep them enslaved. So instead, settlers turned to the enslavement of blacks thinking that they were helpless and unintelligent, making this enslavement much easier. This brings about question of where did these ideas of white superiority come from. Is racism deeply rooted in our beings or is it a learned trait that society has contributed to? Zinn offers evidence to suggest that these ideas of racism and white superiority might be more of an innate, deep rooted issue. Zinn says that both “literally and symbolically…the color black was distasteful” (p. 31). This implies that there are several connotations oof the word “black” that contributed to the treatment and enslavement of people with darker skin tones. In the same sense, the word “white” also has several connotations that can appear to be more positive which again made white settlers believe that they hold power and superiority over the people of color.

Zinn starts the chapter by saying that the United States has had an extremely important history of racism, but even with this long history of racism the United States still has a large amount of racism. This makes me wonder why the United States over other countries has had such a long and deep-rooted history of racism and oppression of people of color. I think learning the information that Zinn includes and his perspective that advocates for the oppressed, although still biased, is a step in the right direction of changing the innateness of racism. Teaching younger generations to listen to and respect the perspective of the minority is one way to introduce ideas of equality not regardless of skin color but taking skin color into account so we can recognize that there has been a history of oppression. Rather than forgetting this oppression we should teach it and let it be known so we learn from our long history of racism.

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2 Comments

  1. Margot Roussel Margot Roussel

    I am also wondering, “Is racism deeply rooted in our beings or is it a learned trait that society has contributed to?” Personally what I took away from the text was that it was learned. That people may have had biases but the idea of race wasn’t fully formed until there were laws created that subjugated the African American community.

  2. Zariah Chiverton Zariah Chiverton

    Similar to your thought, I also questioned why the United States was different from other countries. They weren’t the first ones to have slaves, nor were they the first ones to enslave people from Africa, but why did it turn into an issue about race? But why did racism stick and become so ingrained in America’s infrastructure?

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