Our readings this week begin with the chapter overview of “How it Happened.” This chapter contemplates the obvious Declaration of Independence “all men are created equal.” But it goes much further than that by asking many interesting questions such as “What counts as a “fact,” and who decides which facts are important?” and “Whose interests are served or furthered by these decisions?” I believe that these questions are very important in determining the social constructions of race, class, and gender because the question authority and power which is intrinsic to study their interplay within society. The piece further goes on to state that the “savages” or Indians/Native Americans were not considered equal because they (must have been) were inferior. I also found the interesting bit about women basically being property of their husbands which obviously impeded their independence.
The following piece by the U.S. Commission on Human Rights for “Indian Tribes: A Continuing Question for Survival” was very intriguing because I did not know much about the plight of Native Americans aside from the Europeans nearly eradicating their population. Also striking was the separation of the depiction of Native Americans as either the “romanticized noble savage” or the “vicious savage” which the piece claims that “at all times the view is racist.” I feel like these two constructions can also be applied to other minorities like blacks because the technique is an easy measure of ostracizing the groups. It was also disheartening to read that the government gave Indians the rights to land then took them away then gave different (less important/fertile) land back to them and then stated that they believed the Indians were too inferior to handle the management of the land themselves.
“An Act For the Better Ordering and Governing of Negroes and Slaves, South Carolina, 1712” is really unsettling. It basically constructs slavery and the inherent slavery that goes along with it as such a normal thing in society. It also plainly states multitudes of rules in order to insure the docile, obeying nature of the “negroes.” I found a couple parts to stand above the rest like “all negro houses [are] to be searched diligently and effectually, once every fourteen days” for various items and people. I suppose, in that sick and twisted way, that this makes sense on the part of the slaveholder in order to keep his property in check, but I never really considered it before this piece. The other part that stood out to me was the punishment section. I found it macabre that the whipping could not have 40 lashes or more so that 39 seemed as if they were being humane. Yet, the other punishments include forehead branding and nose slicing which are pretty scary.
The first main feminist piece (manifesto?) from the Seneca Falls Convention was very intriguing on an argumentative level because they state their claims as “He has [done this] and he has [done that].” This listing makes their arguments sing off the page with a sort of cadence that builds and builds to the final section of resolutions. Then, the Antisuffragists papers are overwhelming with their claims of the lack of female authority. They relagate the women to the typical role of the housewife who keeps her opinions, desires, needs, and dreams to herself because they have fallen for the myth of marraige. The claims within these papers are so broad and grand that it secretly covers the point that women should not have any power. Such as in the Brownson article where he claims that “the greatest danger to American society is, that we are rapidly becoming a nation of isolated individuals, without family ties or affections.” The argument is for women to fulfill their roles as housewives in order to preserve the sanctity of marriage.
The next few sections are court cases and other important historical information on the plight of black people which are interesting to read in actuality but pretty self-explanatory. This section of laws leads into W.E.B. Du Bois’s history of inherent racism in the court systems and other areas of social life following the irradicating of slavery. I found it interesting that he claims that “Negroes were no longer real estate” but they still were only allowed to appear in court “as witnesses only in cases in which Negroes were involved.” Then, the confusing part happens. I constantly had to remind myself that this is an account of reconstruction but blacks are still considered tied to their owners and could be punished for deserting their owners for another job. The owners became simply a translation into “employers” which made everything seem okay.
The California Constitution of 1876 was fascinating that it specifically stated in section three that “No Chinese shall be employed on any State, county, municipal, or other public work, except in puishment for crime. For a piece to be so specific in its racism is startling. Other pieces follow as more court cases that similarly challenge and constrain various depictions, responsibilities, and freedoms of outgroupped individuals.