White Superiority During the Colonial Period

Topics: Slavery, Colonialism, Atlantic slave trade Pages: 7 (2364 words) Published: March 18, 2014
Max Bender
Ms. Rackley
5 August 2013
Essay 1B:
At the beginning of the colonial period, many, if not all Europeans had started to develop a sense of white superiority. This view allowed them to justify their subjugation and ultimate takeover of the natives and their land. With many similarities and differences between the Spanish, English, and French methods of subduing the natives, including the employment of missionaries and captivation and selling of natives, they all produced the same outcome: a universal belief in white superiority.

In the Spanish colonies located in the new world, the conversion of the native population, including the prosperous Aztec Empire, stemmed from the recent union of Ferdinand and Isabella. They were the Christian monarchs that sought new converts who would supply them with a new stream of tax money. The Christian Spanish saw the religion of the natives as savage and pagan, justifying their treatment of the naive Indians. In attempt to convert the native population, the Spanish, like the French, employed missionaries in the new world, and because they were responsible for this, the Spanish felt that if it was not for them the natives would not be saved. Also, the Spanish viewed the native value of gold as a waste. The natives only used gold in ceremonial and religious cases whereas the Spanish relied upon the shiny substance as the base of their monetary system. Since the natives did not possess a form of currency, they were viewed as sub-human because all Europeans used money. The Spanish, looking for a quick return of capital, also raided villages for gold and quickly began to take the natives themselves in order to sell them as slaves to turn a profit. Because the natives were now viewed as a source of money, the Spanish viewed themselves as superiors to the natives, creating a sense of white superiority.

Unlike the Spanish, the English took a different approach to subjugating natives and Africans. The English did not employ the help of missionaries for they thought that with a sense of faith, the slaves would rebel, causing the loss of crops and therefore the loss of money, which the English valued more than their slaves. In the English Caribbean, the plantation owners viewed blacks as brutes, or lesser beings, that required severe punishment in order to gain their obedience. Around this time in England, parliament had settled a debate that in turn revealed a new emergence of “whiteness”. This settlement ultimately caused the replacement of the previous social structure, based on social status, with a new one, based on skin color. Because whites were located at the top of the new social structure, the English viewed themselves as greater beings, which caused them to see those of color as inferior. This is evident in the Barbados Slave Code, in which the slave masters are only required to supply the slaves with minimal clothing and are allowed to treat the slaves however they please. The Barbados Slave Code also led to the emergence of white superiority due to the fact that slaves were viewed as property and therefore substandard which was very similar to the Spanish view of slaves.

The French arrived on the scene as a result of the new fur trade. Unlike the Spanish and English colonists, the French developed a mutual dependency with the native population. This meant that the French relied upon the natives to provide them with the best furs while they would supply manufactured goods from Europe to the natives. Both the French and the natives did what they could to please one another. The natives would always bring thick furs and trade for a low price while the French would help their new trading partners with wars on the home front. This did not last long, however, due to the change of the French traders’ view of the natives. Most of the Indians living near the fur trade were hunter gatherers because of the temperature in present day Canada. The French, on the other...
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