It wasn’t always about black and white
There was a time, in America, when color wasn’t the focus of oppression. There were poor black people and poor white people — white servants and black. The divide was less about color and more about wealth.
The rich got richer, and the poor got poorer. And the poor white people did not have much more privilege than the black ones. There were black slaves, but also many impoverished white people and those who owed their lives to indentured servitude. There were indentured, enslaved, and free black people.
Basically, all the poor people were screwed. And there was yet to be a social construct created, forming the division between black and white.
Black and white people lived terrible lives, were mistreated and abused, and suffered from famine and disease. All while the rich and power-hungry thrived.
There was some other drama going on too— you know, plantation owner and colonial drama. Disagreements about if, how, and when to drive out the Native Americans, struggles over power, and other typical Colonial American type stuff.
Then, one day, some of the poor got sick of the shit. They came together — the poor white people, the white servants, and the free and enslaved black people — and they decided to rise against their oppressors. After all, there were a lot of them. And there is power in numbers. Right?
There was this guy named Nathanial Bacon, but everyone called him Bacon. He led the rebellion, arguably, because of some agenda he had about removing Native Americans. But whatever his motives were, it was a big deal. He led the rebellion that would shape the racial paradigm of America for hundreds of years to come — Bacon’s Rebellion.
The alliance between European indentured servants and Africans was a powerful one. They rocked the boat — big time. After torching Jamestown and chasing away their oppressor, pockets of resistance remained and fought for years. So much damage resulted that it shook the colonial upper class to its core. They were shocked, frightened and enraged.
When the poor united, regardless of race or level of servitude, the upper class was outnumbered. They had to find a way to stop such an alliance and the damage it caused from happening again. The only way to do that was to divide the people by race.
And so began the mission of the all-powerful colonists to create a racial divide. They called it black and white.
Then, they began writing laws to harden the racial caste of slavery. They convinced white people that they would have more rights — just for being white. Provided, of course, that they placed themselves above black people.
The master plan was brilliant. Divide and conquer.
And so it went.
Things have changed a lot. The way the rich get richer is different, and the way the poor get poorer doesn’t look the same. But the racial divide was woven into the fabric of our existence. It was written into our lexicon. Centuries older than us, we were born into it.
So, even now, as so many of us fight for freedom and equality — we are controlled by this great divide. The division between black and white is alive, well and strong. And it is us who allow it to thrive.
Hundreds of years have gone by, and we have appeared, many times, to make great strides. But one thing remains that will keep us in everlasting bondage. No matter how many changes we make, we will never be free of those who methodically oppress the masses until we dismantle the great divide — the illusion of black and white.
Written by Holly Kellums
Photo by Alex on Unsplash
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