When one examines the past events that have shaped the United States of America into what it is today, he can determine that the English settlers who migrated to this “New World” slowly pushed further west into the new lands as their need for land, wealth, and natural resources became a necessity. After America had defeated the British in 1776 and declared their independence, they began to realize that they were powerful enough to rule the continent.
They also had a strong belief in their concept of “Manifest Destiny”. However, as they expanded their nation further west they would soon face problems that could only be solved through war, and these wars would not only be fought against foreign nations, but within their own Republic. When I look at the struggles that occurred among Americans, African slaves, Mexicans, and Indians, we begin to see a pattern developing in the history of the United States.
Why did Americans fight so diligently and use their power to gain lands further and further west until they were satisfied. I believe that the American Republic between 1787 and 1865 was developing so fast economically, that they had an increased need for manpower through African slaves and unknowingly created a power structure of race, which would soon be even more evident as they moved their territory further west while driving Indians and Mexicans out of their own lands.
However, if one closely examines how the Americans developed the nation, he can see that the government, slave owners, and those settling to the west of the Appalachian Mountains developed a concept that to be white meant power and that meant that they could take over the Indians’ land, drive the Mexicans from their own territory, and enslave Africans to keep their economy thriving. To understand how the Americans developed any form of racialization, we must first look at the way they treated their African slaves and how their system of slavery changed the course of our history.
The period of slavery lasted approximately one hundred sixty five years. In this time, American slaveholders and the government developed a form of racism, which would only lead to war, and the abolition of slavery. The form of racism was unique in some aspects because not all whites developed this racism. I do not believe that whites hated the Africans, however, I do realize that some did have hate in their hearts and outwardly express their hate. One way that slaveholders practiced racism was that they took away slaves’ right to autonomy.
The Africans were not given any chance to practice their culture so it was lost. (E. Chavez Nov. 5th, 1999) The power structure created by slaveholders and Congress was definitely a form of racism. They slowly created a form of government in which African Americans had no rights as any part of the Republic. They purposely denied slaves any voice or even citizenship in the Republic. For example, an African American slave man named Dred Scott moved to Illinois with his owner. Illinois was a free state so Scott argued that he should be freed since he resided in a free state.
His case moved to the Supreme Court in 1856. The Supreme Court ruled that Scott was not a citizen of the United States and could not sue in court because he was African American. (America: A Concise History, Page 385) This decision is a specific example of the white, Republic Congress exercising their racist ideas in America, which proves that the whites who were members of Congress practiced a form of racism. They believed that only whites should be citizens. While this form of racism occurred, another problem was developing in the undeveloped territories.
As whites began to move westward in search of wealth and land, they would soon clash with unique foreign nations who would not give their land to the whites without a fight. Not only did the whites exclude the African slaves from being a part of the Republic; they purposely left the Indians out of any chance to have freedom in their own territory. After the white settlers took over the Indians’ lands, they slowly began to take away their freedom as sovereign nations. The President of the United States at the time of westward expansion was Tomas Jefferson.
It was during his Presidency that westward expansion became conflict with multiple Indian tribes. Indian tribes were no match for the white armies. One American by the name of Henry Knox wanted to civilize the Indians before resorting to war, but this plan was to no avail. (E. Chavez, Oct. 29th, 1999) Soon, in 1830, Congress called for the removal of Indians from their native lands. (E. Chavez, Nov. 3rd, 1999) The government planned to set aside land for the Indians to dwell. These new territories, such as the ones in Oklahoma, were places for the various tribes to live and carry on their culture.
The relationship between the Indians and the whites was a “power relationship”. (E. Chavez Nov. 3rd, 1999) This meant that the whites did not care about the Indians. They did not care about their unique cultures and environments. They simply stripped the culture from the Indians and forced them to move out of the habitats that they thrived in. One horrible example of this power relationship was when the Cherokees were forced to move out of their lands into the territory in Oklahoma. This was yet a horrific method of racism not only because 4,000 Indians died, but also because they had no chance at war to defend their land.
As settlers moved west, they soon found more land that they believed could be “conquered”. The move into Texas would soon become a major conflict with the Spanish, but the whites’ drive for more land and power would push them all the way through Texas. After the whites began to settle and claim Texas as their own, we begin to realize that they are yet once again practicing their belief that their race should rule the continent. Texas was refused a chance to become a state in the Union because it wanted to be a slave state. This would only cause tension between Texas and the Union.
However, when the boundary of Texas was being disputed, Mexicans killed some white settlers in Texas. The Union decided to let Texas into the United States. The annexation of Texas was not a hard task. Mexico had problems in its heart and had no time to put an effort out to prevent Americans from expanding on the Mexican soil. (E. Chavez Nov. 22nd, 1999) I cannot explain why American settlers would simply just drive the Mexicans out of their own land. They must have had an uncontrollable desire for more land, which influence them to do this.
Whiteness and the power that they associated with it must have been strong enough to give them the rights in their minds to take over the Mexican land. Westward expansion was advocated so diligently by Tomas Jefferson. However, Jefferson was the man who advocated equality for all in America. So how could he say one thing and do the other? I wonder if Jefferson was racist? When I think of racism I associate it with a hate in one’s heart for a different race than the person. I realize that whiteness in the era of westward expansion meant power. I do not think that the whites abused their power.
When I think about where they received their power, I cannot understand why a rebellion from the Africans, Mexicans, or Indians could never permit the whites from taking over North America. The Civil War was eventually successful because the major end product of the war was the abolition of slavery. Although the whites pushed the Mexicans out of their land and established a line of expansion permitting any southward expansion in the future, Mexican culture has effected the border region ever since the Mexican War. I believe that the whites acquired the Mexican land at just the right time.
The Spanish had no time to defend their land and it was an easy “take” for the Americans. Black culture has greatly influenced American way of life. Although they are the products of the racist movement of slavery here in America, the African Americans are the reason for America’s economic success. I think that if the Africans had not been enslaved, then our past economy would not have had the methods to keep up with the rest of the world. The black people deserve apology and special thanks for the way they were treated and how they endured their hard times to lay the foundation for a strong economy.
They have, in my view, endured the most extreme and violent forms of racism only to survive and carry on the rich legacy of their ancestors. I wonder what it must have been like for the Indians at the time of westward expansion? Imagine having your own land and environment taken away. The whites not only took away the Indians’ lands, but also their cultures. Although the whites did not enslave the Indians, they still practiced racism by not giving the Indians any rights in their own territory.
I do not what the whites thought about as they pushed the Indians out of their lands, but they must have at least been selfish enough to do it. So when one examines the ways whites developed a power structure, which excluded Africans, Indians, and Mexicans, he is able to determine that westward expansion and slavery were selfish forms of racism. What I mean by that is that the whites used the blacks to keep the economy in the South thriving while pushing west as they selfishly took over Mexican and Indian lands. The selfish form of racism they practiced created their belief that the land was theirs for the taking.