Ronald Takaki, a History of Multicultural America
Throughout history many ethnic cliques have experienced abuse and distrust from our American society.The people in America seem to be less understanding, and less willing to accept cultures different from their own, at least years ago.Groups such as the Indians, the African Americans, and the Immigrants, fall deeply into this category.
The situations and struggles they have gone through are greatly explained in Ronald Takaki’s novel, “A Different Mirror, A History of a Multicultural America. Although they have experienced a lot, particular financial and social configuration have changed, helping change our perspective of each civilization, for better or even worse. When the New England people set off to America to, “cultivate the Lord’s garden,” [pg. 26] and farm arable land, they knew the Indian people had already inhabited the area, but did not fear them. When first viewed the Indian people were believed to be savages, living as uncivilized as the Irish.
To the New England people, the Indians were in deficit of all it took to be urbane, lacking attire, writing, Christianity, and urban areas, and indulging in passion and lust beyond the New England belief. Even when the Indian population tried to help the New Englanders, by bringing, “food and rescuing the starving strangers,” [pg. 35] the New England appreciation only lasted so long. The two groups soon became hostile as the New England people tried to exploit the Indian’s food supply, and fighting broke out almost immediately.
With the constant fighting the governor of Virginia, Thomas Gates, decided to have the Indian people be forced to labor for the New England people. This decision was not taken lightly, but yet powerfully and unsympathetically. Even the children were treated cruelly; they would bring them to the river where they would, “put the Children to death … by throwing them overboard and shooting out their brains. ”[pg. 39] Eventually a peace treaty was negotiated by Captain William Tucker, but the wine served to the Indian people was poisonous, killing around 200 instantly.
This was just the beginning of what was to come to the Indian people. The leader of the Cherokee tribe personally wrote a letter to President Jackson acknowledging the fact that his people will abide by the federal law, even though they had settled on this land first and established their own set of rules. This letter was ignored by Jackson, and instead the opposite occurred. Jackson wrote a letter to Commissioner J. F. Schermerhorn, in negotiation of the removal of the Indian people.
When the Indian people denied this treaty they were forcibly removed from their homes, and embarked on a journey to a new land for them to settle. “The Cherokees were nearly all prisoners,” [pg. 46] stated by Reverend Evan Jones, they had no choice but to leave their homes or be killed for not. The journey in which they set upon was a long and very different weather than what the Indians were used to. Many Indians became ill from the trip, as well as many died. The idea behind this was to keep America “white” and free of people who were not what the New England people believed to be civilized, out of their new found land.
The Indian culture was one of which the New England people were not familiar, and their need to expand their land, in search of new areas to populate and produce food, made them willing to do anything to obtain the area. The American people had this idea of a manifest destiny, in which the ideas of expansionism were expressed. This idea was a major goal at the time, and whatever needed to be done to achieved it would be. The government was the key role in the Indian removal, and maltreatment, but did this for their own personal gain.
At the time it was more important for America to achieve what they wanted to achieve than to worry about who they were hurting in the process. This falls true with other ethnicities also. The Indian people were not the only ones treated unfairly for the personal gain of Americans. The African American people also experienced this pain. The typical white male in America was always protected by the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments of the constitution. These rights included, freedom of speech, religion, petition, and press, along with right to bear arms and the right of privacy.
Along with these rights was a mishap, these rights only applied to the typical white male. This allowed the white American people to enslave the African American members of its society. People often made comments about the color of an African American’s skin as, “this blackness proceedeth rather of some natural infection of man,” [pg. 49] or they were, “deeply stained with dirt,” ”foul, dark, or deadly. ” [pg. 50] People were often afraid of the differences in the skin color that it turned to hatred. The color white to them represented, “purity, innocence, goodness. [pg. 50] The white Americans feared that they might lose control over themselves such as the Africans already had. This fear led to hatred, and rejection of anyone this color. As this hatred grew, colonizers started capturing African people from their homelands, and bringing them to the United States to sell as property. Most were sold first as indentured servants, people who are stuck by a contract to serve their leader for seven years in order to pay them back for the expense of them to come to America.
This gathering planned on completing their time as workers, and then eventually being able to own a house of their own, since the idea of coming to America offered the possibility of hope and starting over. When the rebellion of Nathaniel Bacon occurred everyt hing was about to change. Bacon was a white indentured servant who was frustrated in the ways of society. He decided to rebel creating the ” giddy multitude, ” [pg. 78] a group of white and black indentured servants who had enough, due to not being able to succeed in the fantasy life people created in America.
This group greatly threatened the social order of Virginia. When the group had been defeated it became obvious to Captain Thomas Grantham that they needed to reduce their dependency on white laborers and focus more on Africans of which they could capture, and exploit. This also worked out in the best interest of the people of Virginia because they could deny the Africans right to bear arms due to their race. Africa became their primary source of labor. In 1674 slaves represented only 20% of households and by 1694 slaves represented about 48% of households, nearly half the population.
The American people did not see the African American people as people; rather beings that they could make plow their land, or farm their crops. It was always about them. As it was with the Indians, the American people used the African American people for their own personal gain. They also still believed in their theory of keeping America “white” and having people different from them served as a threat they decided to squash before any damage could be done. The Immigrants that came to America experienced much similar situations with American abuse.
Although one of the main differences of these situations was that the Immigrants were still “white and therefore still had more opportunity than the Indians, and the African Americans. Still there were stereotypes of the people that came, such as the Irish were seen as savages, and as Frederick Douglas said, “our degradation. ” [pg. 131] They suffered from potato famines at home, and had no choice but to move toward a land that had a promise of prosperity. Even when the Irish became laborers for the canals and railroad being built, they were still seen as much lower class.
They helped build Connecticut’s Enfield Canal, Rhode Island’s Blackstone Canal, and New York’s Erie Canal, which according to Reverend Michael Buckley is, “ proof of Irish talent,” [pg. 138] since the Erie Canal is seen as a very impressive piece of architecture, but back then they did not receive the credit they should have. They built thousands of rail lines, including the Western and Atlantic railroad, and the Union Pacific segment of the transcontinental railroad, in which they lived in miserable conditions and worked ridiculous amounts of hours.
They could “still feel the vibrations of the sledgehammers at night. ” [pg. 138] The Irish were also forced to fight for America, when America decided to take over parts of Mexico. They were treated just as badly as slaves were treated. This was only one group of immigrants, others were treated just as bad if not worse. The Chinese, Jew’s, Russians, all immigrants who came to America experienced some kind of oppression, each in their own way.
The Irish people were seen to Americans as workers also, people whom they could exploit, because living in America was better than living in their homeland. It was all about money. They were “disposable” [pg. 138] to the American people. The history of ethnicity coming to America is a complex situation. Years ago people were not accepting to new cultures coming to their land, but when the price of labor was seen as much lower it became a possibility. The American people exploited the Indians, the African Americans, and the Immigrants because they knew they can.
They had this idea that the land was “theirs,” when the Indian people were settled here first, but they knew they had the man power and gun power to take over such a land, and anyone who didn’t approve of it, wouldn’t be a part of it. Americans tortured and ridiculed the people that came here because they were different than them, and they were seen as a threat because the Americans didn’t know what they were capable of. They figured they had to put them in line, before the Indians, Africans, or Immigrants, did that to them. It was all because of fear of what was different, what was unknown.
The American people liked having power, and liked being able to control what was going on and they took advantage of that to the point where it hurt many cultures and newcomers, but not enough to make them stop coming. What they did here in America was no worse than what was happening in their homelands. Times eventually changed, and people eventually realized their mistakes. Although things are not one hundred percent better, the Indians, Africans, and Immigrants have made great strides to overcome the oppression and due to this have made them the people they are today.