Ngan The Protestant whites saw themselves as civilized and

Ngan Lam

Dr. McBane

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History 170

America
and the American West: 1620s-1890s

 

The
group that claimed power over the other groups was the white male Anglos who
declared dominance in order to transform America into the perfect nation that
they imagined. This group acquired and maintained this dominance by oppressing
other racial groups and people, and taking away their rights. The dominant
group viewed other races as inferior, and also believed women to be subordinate
to men, which influenced their citizenship status. Full citizenship included
political, economic, and social citizenship. Political citizenship meant being
able to vote, economic citizenship was defined as having equal access to work,
and social as having equal access to land and organizations. The white men took
away all, or parts of, citizenship from the oppressed groups, which included
African Americans, the Irish immigrants, Native Americans, Mexicans, and women.

By realizing the opinions of white males regarding race and gender, and how
these opinions shaped the oppressed groups’ citizenship status, the
relationship between the white males and the subjugated groups becomes
apparent.

Among
Southern White Protestant Americans and African Americans, the whites were the
hegemonic group, who believed that they were the superior race among the two.

The Protestant whites saw themselves as civilized and sophisticated, and used
these distinctions in order to separate themselves from Africans and organize
themselves with other whites.

As
for citizenship status, Southern male whites were automatically full citizens,
while women did not enjoy the same freedoms. Women could not own land, were not
supposed to work outside the home, and were not allowed to vote.1 Furthermore, regarding gender roles, the Southern white
protestant Americans followed a paternalistic ideology.2 This means that one group is acting superior and attempts to
control another group for their own good. Paternalism made the man the head of
the family, while simultaneously shaping the role of the woman. Manhood was
characterized by an identity of authority and power wealth, as well as a code
of honor that included duels.3 Men
participated in activities that complemented and enhanced these
characteristics. Some of these activities were gambling, hunting, soldiering,
politics, and avoiding physical labor.4 The Southern plantation owners modeled their masculinity
based on being a white owner of land and slaves, which demonstrated his power
and ability to avoid physical labor.5 Another critical aspect of masculinity had to do with the
Southern code of honor, which meant defending the reputation of himself, his
family, and community. Additionally, it was important to be educated as well as
authoritative.6 As for masculinity among Yeoman
farmers, it meant owning land, being independent, performing physical labor,
and taking care of their families.7 Womanhood among Southern whites, however, was defined
through marriage.8 Women were not supposed to work and, therefore, were
dependent on their husband. A “true woman” was characterized as someone who was
beautiful, refined, physically delicate, charming, and welcoming.9 Other things deemed important for women were to be helpless,
leisured, pious, sexually pure, and good at taking care of the home.10 Furthermore, wives of plantation owners were also dependent
on their husbands, were supposed to watch over the slaves, and be graceful,
charming and modest.11 Yeoman farm women, on the other hand,
construed their femininity around being sensible, taking care of her children
and husband, while also being open to working outdoors alongside their
husbands.12 In addition, among the Yeoman women,
there was less focus on beauty since it was more important for them to be
resourceful and help out by performing physical labor. Motherhood was also
defined somewhat differently compared to, for example, plantation wives since
they needed their children to help out with work on the farm. Hence, men held
the power among Southern white protestant Americans, while women were, for the
most part, placed behind the man.

Furthermore,
despite that there were both enslaved and free African Americans, they always
lacked the same amount of freedom that the Southern white protestants enjoyed,
which made them the victimized group. The African American race was based, for
the most part, on their appearance. The Southern whites focused on the darker
color of their skin, and associated it with their morals, claiming that they
were sinful and evil.13 Regarding their citizenship, as slaves
and free they did not have access to complete citizenship until 1869 when the
Fourteenth Amendment came in effect.14

African
American gender roles differed from the Southern whites’ due to their living
situation. Slaves’ moral rights were infringed, and they had very little freedom,
which meant that their experiences as slaves was emasculating for males and
also controlled womanhood for women. Therefore, the definition of masculinity
was altered, where men did their best in trying to support and protect their
families. Examples of ways that they could display a form of manhood were by
stealing more food and building furniture.15 In addition, they established masculinity by taking pride in
the work that they did, and taking up the role as leaders in their communities.16 Slave women, on the other hand, were often cooks, nurses,
and maids, and established a type of femininity based on these roles.17 Because of their living situation of being enslaved, women’s
gender roles changed drastically, since it was difficult for them to perform
the most important role to them as women; being a mother and taking care of
their children. As slaves, women did a lot of field work and strenuous labor,
which meant that they did not have much in common with the gender ideals of
white women of being delicate.18 Instead,
women’s identities revolved around being clean, polite and submissive since
they had to take care of themselves and be independent.19

Among
free black women, however, it was more common for women to be the head of
household, and relationships were oftentimes more equal than they were among
white families.20 According to Hoffert, it may have been more common for black
free women to stay single since they “did not have the same incentives to marry
as white women.”21 This was due to that although their
living situation was better than the slaves’, they still were not completely
free. Therefore, they did not shape their feminine identities around being a
wife, and instead more in regards to being strong, ambitious and independent,
traits considered to be masculine among whites.22 Moreover, free black men had many restrictions placed on
them, which made it difficult for them to construe their masculinity in the
same way as free white men. Hoffert explains how Ellison, a free black man, was
able to define his masculinity by being independent, own land and slaves, and
being able to support his family.23 However, Ellison still had to act submissive towards the
whites he was doing business with since overstepping the cultural boundaries
that existed could cost him his freedom.

Due
to the differences mentioned between the Southern whites and free and enslaved
African Americans, relations between the groups were tense. For example,
plantation owners’ wives resented the enslaved African American women since, at
times, their husbands would have affairs with them, and give birth to children
resembling their husbands.24 Therefore, white women would take their frustrations out on
the slave women and mistreat them, which intensified animosity from both sides.

The
African Americans would react to their subjugation in numerous ways. For
example, by acting as though they were unintelligent and carefree, called the
“Sambo effect”, in order to avoid being given much responsibility or chores.25 Other reactions included sabotage, spitting in food,
contaminating food with feces, and putting glass in food.26 Moreover, damaging property, pretending to be sick and
slowing down the work process were also common.27 The more extreme mode of reaction was running away, rebelling,
and the rise of the Underground Railroad.28 Another, less obvious, form of expressing their disagreement
with how they were being treated was through Trickster Tales. In these stories
African Americans would create scenarios where the rabbit, the underdog, would
outsmart the fox.29 In the Trickster Tales African
Americans represented the rabbit, and the whites the fox, and displayed how the
slaves would perform discrete and sneaky actions in protesting their treatment.

Furthermore,
Northern protestant Americans, another hegemonic group, possessed full
citizenship, meaning social, economic, and political citizenship.30 Additionally, in 1850, universal male citizenship was
established, where white men in all states became citizens.31

Northern
protestant American manhood was defined by, among other things, civil
virtuousness, individualism, personal integrity, and honesty.32 Another important aspect to masculinity was the fact that
men were more established in the public sphere with regards to work and politics.33 There were different gender ideals for different types of
men during this time, including the patrician, agrarian, artisan, self-made
man, and the evangelical man. For the self-made man it was important to have
economic success and be efficient, the artisan and agrarian were supposed to be
independent and own land, the evangelical man believed in ethics, social
change, equality and not being selfish. The patrician, however, defined his
masculinity by, among other things, “improving himself through reading books
and traveling abroad.”34 Being sensible, selfless, self-reliant, brave, and being a
mother, which were all traits of the so-called “Cult of True Womanhood”,
however, characterized womanhood in this group.35 Significant
characteristics of being a woman also included going to church, and civilizing
men.36 Northern protestant women were not equal to men, although
they had gained a higher position within the family since they now were seen as
moral, and could have a positive effect on men. Furthermore, a reform movement
arose where women began to dress more comfortably, and where women gained
greater presence within education and were able to teach.37 In 1848, the Seneca Fall Convention took place where the
women’s rights movement began, and it was declared that men and women should be
treated equally without injustices.38

Irish
Catholic immigrants, on the other hand, which was the victimized group, was
viewed different racially although they were from the same geographic location
as the Anglos. The British did not consider the Irish to be white, and saw them
as wild savages without proper clothing.39 Therefore, their race was based on how their actions were
different from the British, rather than the color of their skin. This included
the fact that the Irish were Catholic, while the British were Protestant, and
that their way of life did not match the British, which made the Anglos view
the Irish as dirty. The British mistreated the Irish and shipped loads of food
from Ireland to Britain, and evicted around 500,000 families from their homes.40 The British justified these actions by claiming that the
Irish were a “selfish people.”

In
regards to the Irish citizenship status, they were at first not considered to
be white, which meant that they were not eligible for full citizenship. The
Irish were not able to own land, make court appearances, or have any job they
wanted, which meant they did not have economic, social or political
citizenship.41 In the 1790 Naturalization Act, anyone
who looked white theoretically could naturalize and become a citizen.42 However, it was not until after the New York Draft Riots
that the Irish “became” white, and could become full citizens. As for gender
roles among the Irish, in the 1800s-1840s the male and female roles were equal,
and men and women were treated the same.43 Irish women believed that it was important for women to be
self-sufficient, being a mother, cooking, and being economically dependent.44 Additionally, Irish men did not equate manhood with being
the “sole breadwinner”, and often worked alongside their wives and children
although work was still important for them to express their manliness.45

The
British viewed the Irish as subhuman and, at first, as not being white, which
created a great degree of tension between the two groups. The Irish resented
the British because they were being treated as lesser beings, and were not able
to enjoy the same freedoms.46 Furthermore, the Irish were forced to
live in segregation alongside the African Americans, and were called derogatory
terms when the two groups would mix.47 In 1863, during the Civil War, the Irish were strongly
opposed to the war, largely due to the fact that they could not afford to pay
themselves out of being drafted, as wealthier white men could.48 This meant that the Irish anger towards the government
intensified, and they began to plunder the city. Additionally, during the New
York Draft Riots, frustrations grew so intense that the Irish murdered many
people, most being black, who they believed to be the cause of the problem and
the root of everyone’s anger.49 Consequently,
because of how the Irish acted towards the African Americans during the riots,
and because they joined the Democrats and became pro-slavery, the British
became more accepting of them.50 These
events improved the fragmented relationship between the British and the Irish.

Among
the white American East and Midwest immigrants to the American West, and the
Mexicans of the Southwest and the Native Americans of the West, the hegemonic
group was the white Americans. The white American race was seen as superior,
and they believed it to be the most developed race. During this time the
definition of white was somewhat altered to include people with European
ancestry, and at least looked similar to the Anglos and spoke a European
romance language, i.e. Spanish.51 In
addition, these white immigrants treated those with fairer skin better, even if
they were not technically white, which further demonstrated their preference
for white skin. Moreover, the male gender role among these white Americans
involved being arrogant, along with the expectation that women should be pure
and chaste.52 For men, it was also important to be
courageous and protective of their families.53 The feminine ideals of white women were to look good, be a
good housewife and mother.54

Mexicans
of the Southwest, however, were the victimized group. Their race was, in some
ways, divided into several groups. One of these groups was the ranchero class,
which included families who owned large amounts of land, and held a dominating
political and economic position in California.55 In addition, according to Almaguer, another part of the
Mexicans of the Southwest was rancheros that owned less land, and were skilled
laborers, artisans, and local officials.56 This group included the mestizos, who had mixed racial
ancestry, as well as the middle class. At the bottom of the Mexicans of the
Southwest was the subjugated Indian population and mestizos.57 Furthermore, certain Mexicans were considered to be part of
the white race. Mexicans that were included in the white race were those with
European ancestry and a good social standing, while skin color was of less
importance in this case.58 Darker skinned Mexicans, who were
without proper social standing and European heritage, were called “gente sin
razon”, meaning people without reason, and were seen as being similar to the
Indian savages. 59

Concerning
the citizenship status of Mexicans, it was altered over time. In 1849, when the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was created, Mexicans were able to attain U.S.

citizenship.60 The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided Mexicans with
social, political, and economic citizenship, which meant it was the same
citizenship that the white Americans possessed. As Almaguer states, this meant
that Mexicans were able to vote, hold public office, offer testimony in courts,
and own land.61

Regarding gender roles, white Americans
stereotyped lower class Mexican men as being lazy, and lower class women as
available and sexually promiscuous.62 Upper class women, on the other hand, were seen as
beautiful, chaste, and charming.63 In
actuality, in the Mexican culture, manhood and womanhood were defined by the
upper class. Therefore, since it was a patriarchal culture, men were supposed
to protect the family, control their wife and children, and focus on honor.64 Women, on the other hand, were not subordinate to men, and
it was important for them to practice religion.65 However, Mexican women were also treated as a business proposition
for their fathers, and had to be virgins, meaning they were objectified to an
extent.

The
interaction and relationship between the white Americans and the Mexicans
varied. Partial integration existed between the whites and the Mexican upper
class, which the middle class, the mestizo, could not partake in. According to
the white Americans, the reason for this was that the middle class was
“unassimilable.”66 Furthermore, Almaguer states, “Mexicans
spoke a romance language, held Christian beliefs, and practiced traditions that
placed them closer culturally to Anglo Americans than Indians or Asian
immigrants.”67 Hence, unlike other groups the Anglos
came in contact with, the Mexicans had parts of their people and culture
accepted to a slightly greater extent.

The
Mexicans were mistreated by the Anglos when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was
violated and had their land taken away from them, and they reacted in several
ways. In 1867, the Mexicans and Juarez fought back against the invasion and
won.68 In addition, because the Mexicans were
able to defeat the invasion, they were able to regain at least some of their
land, and could become citizens of the United States.

The
second victimized group by the white American East and Midwest immigrants were
the Native Americans of the West. Their race, according to whites, had less to
do with their skin color, and more to do with their actions and how they acted
like “savages.” Europeans also defined Native Americans as “wilderness nomads
utterly devoid of any religion or culture.”69 This
further demonstrated how the whites saw the Native American race as uncivilized
and unsophisticated.

Native
Americans did not have access to any form of citizenship since it was only
offered to free men, which meant that they did not have rights to freedom or
the land that they called home.70 Natives
were also not allowed to vote, and the Anglos attempted at first to use them as
slaves and had no rights to equal work, meaning they did not have economic or
social citizenship either. Therefore, Native Americans did not possess full nor
partial citizenship.

In
regards to the relationship between the whites and the Natives, it was
strained. Whites associated Native Americans with attributes they did not want
to associate with themselves. For example, nonwhite people were described as
impure, unintelligent, viceful, and a barrier to civilization.71 These were seen as very negative and immoral characteristics
to possess, which led to that they associated these words with those different
from themselves. Whites also believed that Natives needed to be educated and
trained to become civilized. The Europeans constantly attempted to change the
Natives way of life, tell them what to do, and move them from their land. Due
to this, the interaction and relationship between the two groups was tainted
with conflicts and hostility.

Moreover,
the Native Americans reacted to the European subjugation in numerous ways. The
Natives tried to decline treaty offers, participate in battles, and refuse to
do what they were told. However, this often led to the Natives being
threatened, kidnapped, murdered, or having their children sent to boarding
schools. During the Homestead Act of 1862 when the whites wanted to convert
“Indianness” to Americanness by giving away Native American land to whites, the
Natives tried to resist.72 A negative consequence that occurred
when the Pawnees did not move when they were told was that they came under attack
from the Sioux, which eventually forced the Pawnees to move to a reservation in
Kansas.73 Native Americans also tried to protest
how the white people were treating them by dancing the Ghost Dance, which they
believed would make them disappear.74

In
conclusion, the white male asserted dominance over the African Americans, Irish
immigrants, Native Americans, Mexicans, and women by taking away their rights.

For all groups, they were denied full citizenship, which meant that they had no
rights to political involvement, certain jobs, or land. Consequently, the
dominant group could treat the victimized groups however they wished, and could
use their land as well as the people to further their own interests of gaining
and maintaining power. In addition, as discussed, gender was a major factor
too, since the role of women as being subordinate aided in the white males
being able to assert themselves as dominant and authoritative. Race was a
significant aspect as well, since white males stated that the white race was
superior. The African race was seen as evil, the Irish as nonwhite selfish
people, the Native Americans were described as uncivilized, and the darker
Mexicans as savages. White males viewed other races and people as inferior, and
believed that they needed to be educated by whites in order to improve society.

Therefore, the dominant groups utilized this reasoning in order to gain and
sustain their power over the victimized groups.