Racial and Gender Inequalities

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Throughout history, the United States has gone through many dynamic changes that have made it the country it is today. There were many labor systems and historical moments that have led to its development over time. Labor systems in US history, such as slavery and wage labor, have influenced racial and gender inequalities from 1820 to 1920 by giving poor treatment to certain people after the war based on uncontrollable human traits. White people were seen as the dominant race while African Americans were seen as inferior, which led to racial inequalities among different races. Both labor systems produced a hostile environment where domestic ideologies emerged for both men and women, and racial inequalities came into view. Through these domestic ideologies, men were seen in the public sphere doing all the labor, while women were seen in the private sphere, doing all the housework and nurturing their children. Slavery didn’t give African Americans a choice other than to be property, while other races were allowed to work for a wage. Labor systems were also crucial for the way Americans produced or acquired their material need. Slaves would, for the most part, depend on their masters for their necessities while on the other hand, wage laborers would produce their own material and only purchase what they couldn’t assemble on their own, such as steel.

Slavery was a labor system that many considered legal for about a century. This system was not proclaimed on the Constitution of the United States of America 1789; therefore, the government decided that it was just to have a system separating people based on race, leading to racial inequalities. White people were seen as the dominant race which led to them being slave owners, while African Americans were slaves. Slaves were considered to be property and were often sold for profit. They were the largest capital investment of the Southern economy and were often traded using The Second Middle Passage. Slaves experienced brutal conditions and were often beat or taken advantage of by their masters. They could not be free unless their master gave them permission, or they had enough money to buy their own freedom. However, many advocates sided with the slaves and wanted them to be free after seeing the role they had after the civil war. An example was abolitionist Fredrick Douglass who was a slave himself but managed to escape.

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He spoke about the issues of slavery and how slaves just wanted justice as individuals. In document 15, Frederick Douglass Advocates Suffrage for African Americans, he states how African Americans are just like any other race. They were viewed as inferior, when in reality they are capable of doing what others can too, just like voting. African Americans simply wanted justice for themselves and did not want to be slaves anymore. They did not see themselves as truly free without their rights. Douglass states the following, “I am not asking for sympathy at the hands of abolitionists, sympathy at the hands of any.… but in regard to the colored people there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice… Let him live or die by that. If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man.” (Page 85). He deciphers that slaves do not want sympathy from abolitionists, they want justice in order to have their liberty. They are just as deserving of it as a white man and they will work just as hard. Their race should not be what determines what they are worthy of as an individual, instead, they should be given the same rights.

As a slave, their liberty is a privilege that they earn, not a right they were destined to have as a human being just like any other race. Therefore, it is equitable to give slaves justice, so they feel just as worthy as other races and they do not feel inferior. Slaves have proved to be just as hard working as any other race. Douglass states that “A great many delusions have swept away by this war. One was, that the negro would not work; he has proved his ability to work…. But the war has proved that there is a great deal of human nature in the negro, and that “he will fight,” …”. (Page 85)1. The misbeliefs of slaves have faded after the war since slaves are now fighting for their rights. They are manifesting their true capabilities that many believed they did not have because of their skin color. Slaves want to demonstrate they are just as powerful as other races and they will fight until others notice and give them their justice. They had revolts, one of the most famous one being the Nat Turner Rebellion were many slaves killed up to sixty people, most of them being White. Other people such as William Lloyd Garrison believed slavery needed to be abolished immediately.

He states the following: “… In defending the great cause of human rights, … Assenting to the “self-evident truth” maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights-among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our population.” (Page 31). Willian Lloyd Garrison believed that slaves shouldn’t be denied their human rights because of their skin color. The Declaration of Independence proclaims that everyone is equal, yet African Americans are being forced into this unjust institution to work for someone considered more superior, a White. Not only did this institution have racial inequalities but gender ones too. Men were confined to skilled jobs while women would work in the fields and produced their material needs or were house slaves. Women were raped by their masters often times and their children would be sold for profit. Even though their father was White, children between a master and a slave would take after the mother and be a slave too. This left women emotionally unstable having to see their children sold off and perhaps never seeing them again. Often times women were despised by their master’s wife’s and blamed for luring them. However, slaves still fought for their freedom and did whatever it took to have their liberty as human.

Slavery continues after some time; however, a new labor system dominated the United States which was wage labor. This system not only had racial inequalities but gender inequalities too. George Fitzhugh was a slaveholder who saw slavery as an institution that would benefit slaves. However, he was opposed to wage labor and spoke out on why it should be abolished. “The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. … The woman do little hard work, and are protected from despotism of their husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on average, in good weather, not more than the nine hours a day. … He is more of a slave than the negro, because he works harder and longer for less allowance than the slave, … He has no liberty, and not a single right.” (Page 34-35).2 Fitzhugh strongly felt that slaves had more liberty than those doing wage labor. Workers in the factories had to work long hours in terrible work conditions where they didn’t keep any of their production. In addition, workers were paid very little for their time, making it difficult to sustain their families and be financially stable. Wage labor was also a labor system in which a worker sells their labor for profit. It is the only method they are able to make an income to support their families. Although, for the most part, they made most of their material needs while slaves had to rely on their masters to give them their material needs or produce them on the cotton fields.

African Americans, in this case, had no other option than to obey their masters, while wage laborers of other races decided on whether they wanted to work for a wage. The wage labor system led to domestic ideologies between men and women. These domestic ideologies created two spheres where it placed men in the public world, while women were in the private world. Men were responsible for the labor to sustain their family and women did the reproductive labor by giving birth and taking care of the children.

Gender norms emerged in which men were considered competitive, corrupt, and ambitious, while women were caring, sentimental, and self-sacrificing. Women had to provide moral value and educate their children. However, domestic ideologies did not apply to all women, slave and white women in the south were excluded along with most rural women in the West. This later led to reform movements in which people, mostly women, would bring to light these issues. Sarah M. Grimké was an advocate for human rights in which she believed women were capable of much more if they were simply allowed to take part in society. “I deeply regret such a state of things, because I believe that if women felt their responsibility, for the support of themselves, or their families, it would add strength and dignity to their to their characters, and teach them more true sympathy for their husbands, that is now generally manifested,-a sympathy which would be exhibited by actions as well as words…. Equality of the Sexes, and would find that woman, as their equal, was unspeakably more valuable than woman as their inferior, both as moral and an intellectual being.” (Page 17). This quote illustrates how she believed women should have been equal to men. They were paid much less than men if they did factory or were often told to stay indoors. They felt guilty for solely going outside, which shouldn’t be the case. The only thing differentiating them from men is their gender and that shouldn’t be the case. If women saw themselves as much more and fought for their rights, then they wouldn’t be seen as inferior in this society but equal. They have to be moral leaders in order to bring genders together.

Racial and gender inequalities were very common in US history, especially labor systems. Slavery was an institution where African Americans were seen as property because of their skin color. They were owned by slave owners who identified as White and had many brutal experiences. Men did more of the skill work while women were on the plantations or where housewives. However, women faced more unjust conditions. They were raped by their master and saw their children be sold off with the possibility of never seeing them again. Some people didn’t see this system as unjust because their master gave them their material needs or they produced them in the fields. They saw wage labor as an unjust system that was using people for their labor under terrible working conditions. African Americans were more slaves while other races were wage laborers. This system actually developed a system of domestic ideologies were women were seen as inferior and had fewer benefits than men who were working. They often produced their own material since their labor products were only allowed to be sold. Although, they did purchase a few items that were impossible or difficult to make. Overall, both labor systems were very unjust and split people up because of their race and their gender. It took away opportunities for many and today we still see these inequalities taking place right in front of us.

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Racial and Gender Inequalities. (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/racial-and-gender-inequalities/

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