Good Essay About The Role Of Skin Color In The Eventual Formalization Of The European Slave Trade
Slave trade in the western medieval world lasted for over 400 years. It started with the first voyage to the Atlantic Sea on the western coast of Africa. The history of slavery began in the late 14th and early 15th century when slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888. Slave traders acquired as many as 12 million slaves from Africa Alone. About 13.5% of the acquired slaves died during the passage across the Atlantic. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to introduce slavery in Africa. Most of the Europeans acquired Africans by buying them from fellow Africans who captured them in the interior. Thus, the aspect of racism to project slavery in Europe involving blacks was justified by the fact blacks sold their people into slavery.
Scholars predict the arrival of African slaves in Iberia and the Atlantic Islands to have occurred between 1441 and 1521. Also, it is important to note that the influx of Africans slaves in the United States between 1502 and 1619 were approximated to be at 300, 000. Thus, the period between 1441 and 1619 experienced a peak in the slave trade as the Africans had spread throughout the Atlantic world (Sweet, 2003 p.3). From the 15th century, Europeans’ perception looked down upon the blacks’ culture and tradition. There was a stiff competition in the Europeans nations during the slave trade as every country wanted to outdo the rest. Interestingly, despite the competition, the nations had an objective to discriminate against the blacks and subject them to forced labor. Europeans perceived black as an inferior species because they had the most number of slaves in the European slave trade.
The European Slave Trade was also shaped by religion supremacy. In most monarchies, the Catholics and Protestants participated in a superiority contest to outdo the other. For instance, the Catholic Church in the Southern European used the humanism to conquer their rivals as the Protestants in the Northern Europe applied the same trickery. At the same time, human philosophy was based on individual rights, and this acted as a game changer. In the late 16th century, Christianity, governance, and humanism conflicted with each other, and this led to the popularity of the term ‘European.’ The “oneness” had an immense impact on the Europeans as they decided to venture across the universe, and they encountered the Blacks from Africa and America. This prompted their decisions to participate in the Slave trade.
As the slave trade advanced, prominent Europeans promoted a racist ideology that was used as a means to promote the trade. Africans were philosophically projected as sub-human, inferior and not worth to be treated with dignity. Asserting that slavery caused racism, Williams must have overstated his theory. The relationship between slavery and race has generated considerable interest; it has also produced undue confusion and false dichotomies. Some scholars, such as Carl N. Degler, argue that existing racial prejudice led to the enslavement of Africans. On the other hand, Williams suggested that racism was an outgrowth of slavery itself. The appropriate questions, perhaps, are instead how slavery and racism become so thoroughly defining the social relations in the slaveholding colonies across the universe. The European world had equated the blackness of the skin with death and evil. The choice of black color as a symbolic representation of evil has long been used as evidence to support this cause harm. Africans were seen naturally as made for hard labor. The Negro, in general, has been advanced as a born slave, meant for hard work and no pay.
Modern day society equated blacks with slavery. Laws were passed in the Caribbean region and in the Americas forbidding marriage, carrying of weapons, owning and acquiring wealth as well as interaction amongst slaves, blacks, and ordinary white people. Karl Marx in his insight capital viewed the use of black slaves to the direct investment in labor whose returns were equated to the price of gold, cotton and sugar according to their production. The impact of slavery on economic and social relations of the South cannot be under looked. It was the starting era of racism and emerging capitalism that deeply thrust blacks into slavery (Eltis, 2008 p.11). Originally blacks were not inhabitants of Europe, America or the Caribbean. The aspect of racism grew in slavery as blacks were viewed as the instruments of labor and economic productivity and not primarily as human beings.
At the culmination of the medieval period, slavery was mostly concentrated in the Southern of Mediterranean compared to Europe. Forced labor was influenced by social and religious stands. The Iberian Christians looked down upon people of other origin, races, and religion as they enslaved the Muslims, Jews, Gypsies amongst others. Jews and Moors were perceived incapable of innovation and creativity and thus destined to the enslavable status (Sweet, 2003 p.5). Moreover, the beginning of the Atlantic Slave trade in 1441 saw the placement of the Africans as the most preferred slaves. The Christians in Europe disliked the idea of blacks’ conversion to the religion, and they considered them as “Gentiles.” Moreover, the human capacities of the Africans were undermined as the whites considered them to be the most “barbaric” people on earth. Royal chronicler Gomes Eanes de Zurara was among the leaders of the Atlantic Slave trade, and he described the Africa slaves as “bestial” and “barbaric.” Correspondingly, the Royal Historian of Spain, Hernando del Pulgar, inscribed that the inhabitants of Mina Coast were “savage people, black men, who were naked and lived in huts” (Sweet, 2003 p.5).The European culture in the 14th century discriminated against the black people and as they disassociated the blacks with humanity characteristics and treated them as animals. To them, the blacks lacked the possibility of spiritual and cultural “redemption.” With time, the Iberians realized that they were not in any way associated with the blacks’ barbarity. Skin color played a major role during the formalization of the American slave trade. The blacks were perceived as sub-humans and inferiors beings, and this made the Europeans subject them to enslavement.
In Portugal, The Pope campaigned for the enslavement of the people of the African origin. The sub-Saharan Africans were subjected to forced labor, and this tendency was encouraged and acceptable across the region. The introduction of the slave trade in Africa did not change this perception as the exploration expounded to deny the blacks of their human rights. Basing the European Salve trade on a social, cultural and philosophical perspective, Europeans practiced slavery claiming that they were trying to bring civilizations in Africa.
It was thus fundamental to note that slavery was not born out of racism but rather racism was born out of the consequence of slavery. However racism is still the consequence of modern slavery in the face of capitalism. As the Trinidadian most famous historian Eric Williams explores the impact of slavery and economic production in the western world deeply. The rise of modern day racism or hate towards blacks and Spaniards, as were, understand them today is not a conquest of slavery but a result of leftist politics that particularly in America. The roots of racism were then primarily centered on religion, culture and economic exploitation. In the United States of America whitely distinguished plantation workers and slaves were racially distinguished from black slaves by the use of the term unfree laborers to mean white workers who received no wages (Azevedo, 1998).
How did slavery in Europe and the rest of the New World become the breeding ground for racism? According to historian and researcher, Barbara Jeanne Fields highlighted the fear of multi-racial uprising by plantation farmers’ advocated racism in order to advance the slavery (Eltis, 2008 p.9). As a result, many of the white plantation farmers hatched a psychological warfare based on racism in order to advance their agenda. The most notable racial conspiracy developed into bacon’s rebellion that consisted of a rebel army of blacks and white militia seeking tax relief from the governor who was later forced into exile before they were captured and disarmed. Many historians propagate that the failure of the rebellion to last a complete conquest led to the disbelief that blacks are inefficient and unlucky and thus cannot handle warfare.
Azevedo, Mario Joaquim, ed. Africana studies: A survey of Africa and the African diaspora. Carolina Academic Press, 1998.
Eltis, David. "A brief overview of the trans-atlantic slave trade." Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, http://www. slavevoyages. org/tast/assessment/essays-intro-01. faces (accessed April 27, 2008) (2008).
Fields, Barbara Jeanne. "Slavery, race and ideology in the United States of America." New Left Review 181.1 (1990): 95-118.
Sweet, James H. "Collective Degradation: Slavery and the Construction of Race." America 1492 (2003): 1619.