Summary and Response to: Gendering, Racializing Classifying: Settler Colonization in the United States, 1590-1990 – by Dolores Janiewski
It makes perfect sense that the USA would be considered a colonized area. This chapter focuses on the experiences of Native Americans, Mexican Americans, African Americans, and Euro-Americans from 1590 to 1990. Ignoring the fact that America and many white Americans have fallen under the classification of “American exceptionalism” there is still good reason to investigate the United States government of the same atrocities across the gender, racial, and class divides as any other conquers peoples. The trend of land use ranged from mixed settlements, plantations, and then pure settlements. The colonists came to this country to discover a new land but instead found an inhabited one. Though it was inhabited, the current people had few land rights recognized by the conquering government. Now if only they had the power to take away such land and all the rights that go along with being a ‘man’.
The Naïve peoples, who occupied the land now known as the United States, played a crucial part in the early survival of the Euro-Americans. The Native Americans as well as the settlers lived together and lived almost entirely off the land. As more people immigrated over standards of living, life, and society were imposed by the British government as more women started to travel as well as men. Women were sent with the idea that they would raise a new and proper, not to mention loyal, next generation in the American frontiers. Gender divides traveled from Europe to the ‘new world’ and came into conflict with the not patriarchal society of the Native people. This and many other non-Christian/heathen characteristics called for these ‘founders’ to use their new power and “simultaneously legitimated and perpetuated…the plural society of a racially bifurcated colonist America regulated by the normative code of a racial creed.” The colonies changed from integrated to more plantation type style living as there were now more people to ‘properly’ own land. These properties though required people to work on them and to have empty to own.
Systematically Native people where civilized, killed or both. In all occurrences the land that was once native owned was taken and giving to white landowners, ignoring the claim of the indigenous peoples. This land was used to further the travel westward and towards expansion of monetary gains. Tribal governments were abolished and the rights of all Native people where nullified for their were no longer considered people. As compensation the government set up missionaries on land that forced Native Americans to live there hoping for further assimilation. The language, religion, caste ideals, and social interactions where all expected to change in accordance to the local mission. ‘Positive patriarchal’ ways had to be astablished and the only way to do this was to put Native women down as low as possible. Under such strong pressure of assimilation the trend was to do the opposite at any possible point. Their revolt included the survival of Native language, spirituality, identity, and cultural practices that are still to this day shared in communities.
The African-American story has few positives it seems. With the need for cheap labor and low class Euro-Americans immigrants not immigrating fast enough to service the entire need Africans where captured and transported to the ‘new world’. I found it interesting that the way in which slavery operated is very vast. I had always seen simply a rich white land owner and his property. Early on slaves where not considered full property but could pay their way out of servitude. The ownership of the slaves children and bodies was not as extreme in the beginning as it was later on. It seems the main confrontations started to occur when ‘free blacks’ would travel around towns, want to earn money in occupations other then domestic/physical labor, own land, and fill positions that where previously for the European settlers. This fear of successful people who didn’t hold true to the British/Christian, and white ideals would become successful caused for laws to be passed that limited the knowledge/education permitted to slaves, they became indentured property making their children, their bodies, and any possible recourse for mistreatment unavailable. They were no longer allowed to purchase land and the social prejudice kept any person of American decent locked in a box with little to no opportunities. In such conditions rebellion was guaranteed. Some more overt gestures such as physical violence, running away, and destruction of property were less heard of then rebellions of cultural submission. Keeping songs, stories, and even languages alive on plantation as well as slow downs and crafts that held knowledge in pictures and colors of histories. The idea that Africans were ‘naturally’ adapted to be slaves and nothing more infiltrated the majority of the culture. When slavery was abolished the south decided to lock its doors and keep it’s ideals in slavery and the caste strong. When Civil war broke out more then 20,000 free black men where enlisted. They fought for a country where everyone was free and that every man had the right to vote. This war would determine if they were allowed access to land, education, mobility and citizenship. But nothing is every that simple. A backlash occurred within the white community and organizations such as the KKK believed it their duty to keep old ways and thought in place. Even though slavery was abolished doesn’t mean that the law recognize people as equals. To this day the African-American community struggles for acknowledgement as true citizens in the US. Organizations brought to light suffrages during the civil rights campaign and continue today to educate and find a road out of the dark hole that was dug so long ago.
As American settlers found the need for more and more land the travel west was the only option. Eventually settlers ran into a new form of native peoples. Those that lived in what we would now call the SW United states. Just 40 years after the United States had established it’s independence Mexico established their independence from Spain. With the influx of white settlers crossing the country Mexican officials tried to control the number of Anglo-American settlers coming into their land but traders managed to come and soon flowed settlers. With these new settlers came new ideologies of what was proper and the caste system, which was established in settler colonies put Mexicans at the bottom just above the African slaves, which were used to work their lands. Of course in the patriarchal system established Mexican women where even lower in the caste. With all of this tension soon a war erupted ending in more then half of Mexican land being incorporated into the United States. Treaties and agreements where signed and made that should have insured the safety of Mexican native ways, language, and customs but the way the Anglo courts interpreted the agreements differed over time in the end resulting in the loss of so much that Mexican self determination was near impossible. They were now in the American economy but placed at the very bottom of it.
Immigration issues and boarder conflicts now encompass the majority of issues between the United States and Mexico. With the interventions of NAFTA Mexican debt keeps rising and rising with no end in site. The creation of sweatshop on the Mexico-American boarder where created to attract business to the area with the promise of low costs and minimal regulations. To this day there is a fight to maintain Mexican rights as people and the indigenous peoples of a good portion of this country