Correcting (my own) Normativity of Whiteness: 1. From the Arrival of the First African Slaves to “Partus Sequitur Ventrem”

Partus edit
GLC 5111.02.1051. Issac & Rosa. Photograph: Two young slave children, boy and girl arm in arm, n.d. (The Gilder Lehrman Collection, courtesy of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Not to be reproduced without written permission.)

[I do intend to return to my series, “What Is & Isn’t Being Said,” but have chosen to pause for some clarifications. Thus far, the clarifications have included, “Racism Isn’t the Problem, Sin is the Problem!” and “What Does ‘Jew & Gentile’ Have to do With ‘Black & White’?” The following is a further clarification, specifically of Post 2 in the series.]

Having previously discussed the invention of the so-called “Black Race,” cobbled together from various ethnicities, tribes, languages, and nations—for the very purpose of subjugation—I have since recognized a gaping hole in my analysis of the “color-line” as developed in Western history. Presumably due to my own sense of “White Normativity,” I had treated the so-called “White Race” as an historical given, rather than itself likewise a created hodge-podge of differing ethnicities, tribes, languages, and nations—but in this case, for the very purpose of supremacy. I intend to correct that in these clarification posts. I will focus mainly on the English colonies of Virginia and Barbados, each being important representatives of the development of Atlantic slavery and the resulting concept of “whiteness.”

What follows is a simple time-line approach, including primary sources, to the end that we might see clearly the transition from an original group of disparate national and ethnic colonial laborers to a protected white class, accorded all the eventual privileges of American society, intentionally separated from the class of disenfranchised laborers, viz., primarily brown and black Americans. To be sure, there was no such thing as “white people” prior to the 17th century. In fact, the “races,” as we know them, were constructed in the very process of creating, maintaining, and justifying the otherwise unjustifiable practice of race-based chattel slavery.

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