Race As A System Of White Supremacy

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Most people today might assume that our society’s concept of race—as a system of white supremacy—formed as an inevitable conclusion of the idea of white superiority. However, while the two concepts are indeed intrinsically linked, the order of the relationship is often misunderstood. One did not beget the other; in fact, the two concepts arose simultaneously in the late 1600s, following Bacon’s Rebellion. If one examines the history of race in America, one will find that our idea of race has its roots in the ruthless capitalist pragmatism of the elite, with white supremacy simply serving as an effective means to an end.
In Colonial Virginia, the growing tobacco economy required ever increasing numbers of workers to manage such a labor-intensive crop. For much of the 1600s, the large portion of farm laborers consisted of European indentured servants, with the lesser portion made up of African indentured servants, and an even smaller number of slaves. This early Virginian society was surely aware of racial differences; indeed, some racial disparities did exist. For example, Europeans and Africans were often punished differently for committing the same crime. However, the majority of colonists identified with one another not on a racial basis, but on the basis of class and shared experiences, and the idea of white superiority was largely peripheral. Servants, slaves, and laborers of all races worked together, “married each other, ran away with each other, lived as neighbors,
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