Takaki Racialization Questions on Race and Culture Thesis

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Takaki Racialization

Questions on Race and Culture in America

For Takaki, the racialization of savagery was a critical part of emergent Anglo-American culture. What does he mean by "racialization," and does it differ from ordinary prejudice? What impact does he assign to that attitude on American society and politics in the colonial era and the early republic? Do you agree with Takaki's assessment?

The United States would be founded on the genocide of a people. As the colonists increasingly came to occupy and proclaim ownership for the 'New World,' they would be emboldened in their cleansing of native inhabitation by a sense of racial superiority. Takaki (2008) describes this phenomenon as racialization, which allowed the colonists to approach the continent's preexisting residents as somehow destined for extinction.

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The Takaki text refers to this perspective as the racialization of savagery, in which a specious connection is drawn between the distinct tribal cultures of the Native Americans and their ethnicity. In European literature, art and political culture, there was a tendency to emphasize certain perceived traits of the tribal culture as being inherently backwards and directly implicated by the racial makeup of the newly encountered peoples. A primary example is drawn in Takaki's text, which evaluates the Shakespearean play The Tempest and its characterization of Caliban. A savage inhabitant of the island on which the play takes place, his base and untrustworthy nature are underscored by a childlike simplicity suggesting a less-than-favorable characterization of those encountered as native inhabitants of the newly found lands.

Thesis on Takaki Racialization Questions on Race and Culture Assignment

As Takaki says of The Tempest, "the timing of the play was crucial: it was first performed after the English invasion of Ireland but before the colonization of New England, after John Smith's arrival in Virginia but before the beginning of the tobacco economy, and after the first contacts with Indians but before full-scale warfare against them." (Takaki, 28) It would demonstrate both the degree of unfamiliarity of the colonists with this new set of peoples and the increasing likelihood that unfamiliarity would breed contempt and dominance.

2) Write 2 editorials, one arguing for, the other against. The removal of the Cherokees, using laws, constitutional principles, and prior government policies to justify either course.

Against Removal: The treatment which we have visited upon those previously inhabiting the lands that our ships are now arriving upon with increasing frequency and purpose is nothing less than abominable. We are guilty of grave mistreatment of men, as is more than evidenced by the aggressive extermination of the Narragansett, the Mohigan and the Delaware Indian. The notion that removal to another land will spare the Cherokees this same fate is nothing short of ludicrous. Quite in fact, this aggressive 'reservation' of a people is only a graduating step toward their eventual extermination by our own hand.

By isolating and differentiating the lives of the natives to our own imperial posterity, we are committed a most egregious act of horror against whole nations of settled and civilized people, though they may not be considered so by our ethnocentric standard. President Jackson has perhaps summed up best the inhumane correlation between our progress into the future and their simultaneous recess in the annals of history, denoting that "What happened to the native people, he argued, was moral and inevitable. Indian graves represented progress -- the advance of civilization across America." (Takaki, 82) This is a premise which is deeply immoral and inconsistent with the founding rhetorical principles of our nation and which will guide the Cherokee to a slower and perhaps more ignoble extinction.

For Removal: Perhaps President Jackson, long-time champion for the cause of overcoming our Indian problem, had said it best in justifying the necessary removal of the Cherokee people. Though there may be those who would argue this removal to be divergent from the principles of humane treatment and natural rights. However, a closer understanding of the dynamic between the colonists and the natives suggests this to be the only way to stem the tide of an overwhelming cultural and military force.

Jackson worried that without seeing to the removal and protection of the Cherokee people, their names would be added to the list of native tribes already totally disappeared by the progress of settlement. As Jackson noted, of the Cherokee, "ike the tribes before them they would disappear. Driven by 'feelings of justice,' Jackson declared that he wanted 'to preserve this much-injured race.' He proposed a solution -- the setting aside of a district west of the Mississippi 'to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes as long as they shall occupy it.'" (Takaki, 81) This is the only way to ensure peaceful coexistence between our two peoples.

3)Describe the growth of racial laws in 19th Century America. Which group was affected by them, and in what ways? Were there differences between the laws and application to different groups?

The racially-rationalized genocide and oppression visited upon the Native Americans would be a window into the future racial orientation of the United States. By the transition to the 19th Century, the fledgling nation would have vanquished to assimilation, reservation and mass graves its Indian precursors. It would thereafter proceed to establish a nation made of a highly segmented racial hierarchy, with European descended whites at the top of the order.

At the other end of the spectrum would be those most directly afflicted by the permeation of racial laws, which functioned both through bodies of legislation and through social convention in order to relegate African-Americans to an explicitly subordinate status. Naturally, the system of slavery which persisted in the South leading up to the Civil War in 1861 would denote the most powerful of these legal institutions. But throughout a nation that was always expanding westward, racial laws emerged in states throughout the union as a way of strengthening and maintaining this hierarchy. According to Takaki, "blacks were seen as threats to racial purity. Indiana and Illinois prohibited interracial marriages. Everywhere, white social sentiment abhorred white and black relationships. 'It is true,' observed de Tocqueville, 'that in the North. . . marriages may be contracted between Negroes and Whites; but public opinion would stigmatize as infamous a man who should connect himself with a Negress." (Takaki, 101)

Increasingly, prewar immigration would create a multitude of classes relegated to lesser statuses with Eastern Europeans, Jews, Chinese, Japanese and Latino immigrants populating the nation with a wide-ranging set of American experiences. By the late 19th century, laws would be instated in cities specifying an unwillingness to hire certain ethnicities for work; policies would be tacitly maintained which prevented certain groups from taking up residence in predominantly white communities; and in a general sense, those who could be characterized as 'others' in the United States would find themselves at the receiving end of a cultural distaste of difference.

4) While individual circumstances can be unique, certain generalizations can be made about broad groups in specific times. Why did Irish and German immigrate in the 19th Century before the civil war? To what extent were there motives and circumstances similar, to what extent were they different, and how did this show in their choice of settlement patterns?

The United States represented a host of opportunities to those coming from a Europe in increasing economic and political disarray. Centuries of colonial expansion, territorial conflict and the unsustainable inequality of feudalism has produced by the mid-19th century a continent move toward implosion. If we are to view today the conflicts of World War I and World War II as one single and sustained period of deconstruction, it would be the experience of common Europeans during the mid-19th century to witness the unraveling of a way of life.

But for the Irish and Germans who would immigrate to the United States in the lead up to its Civil War, different aspects of this unraveling would be the cause for their flight. For the Irish, British occupation and prejudice, combined with the instigation of the Irish potato famine, would create a deep and devastating poverty for the Irish. Starvation and desperation would push the Irish in higher numbers than all other immigrant groups toward the U.S. At that time. Their experience upon arrival to the U.S., though, would reflect their homeland experience in many ways. As the Diner (1983) text reports, "on a national scale, in 1910 sociologist Edith Abbott computed that among Americans of Irish birth, 1,048.5 paupers were found for every 100,000 population. Natives of Switzerland were the closest rivals, making up 410.9 per 100,000. Although the numbers might be skewed by the possibility that other immigrant communities provided relief to their own more extensively than did the Irish, Hibernians still encountered a deep and pervasive poverty in the United States." (Diner, 108)

By contrast, the Germans would leave their country to escape a more general dissolving of civil order. For many German farmers and peasants, the chaos of a falling government and border conflict would lead to the threat of constant violence. Thus, Germans would leave this… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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