Race, Education and Religion

Nik Bunton/Noemi Cocone/Bora Plaku

To most west Africans their religion stems more from their spirituality than from a socially constructed idea or belief. Africans are closely tied to dance and “celebrating is part of religious expression” (Doudou), they can’t see a separation between the two. They celebrate their spirituality. Also, according to them, “[t]he power of the word is such that in some groups people believe words can kill: when they are spoken in a certain way at a particular time, they can paralyze someone, but they are also believed to heal” (Doudou). Words definitely have a lot of power in them and they are able to instill emotions in people that cause them to actually think outside of themselves. 

Slavery is an institution based on abuse. It is easier to abuse someone who is ignorant. It is no wonder then, that slaveholders, white society in general, were so ardent in preventing slaves from obtaining any education.  Educated slaves were potentially dangerous because through knowledge they could gain self worth and self respect, and become eager to revolt. Depriving them education was also another way of disenfranchising slaves from the rest of the society. At some states there were laws forbidding whites to teach blacks how to read and write. Blacks were also beaten if their masters discovered that they were not illiterate. Even when the government began to encourage the education of African Americans, there was still violent resistance from the whites, especially in the Deep South. In many instances schools for blacks were burned immediately after being built. Overall, for African Americans the right to education seems to have taken longer to obtain than the right of freedom.

Throughout the slave narratives and racially inclined novels we’ve read over the course of the semester, the theme of morality—whether it be slaves who are forced into breaking their moral codes or slave master’s who inevitably become hardened and morally detached from their ruthless suppression.  Addressing the latter aspect of morality within the context of 19th century slave culture, slave master’s would often mislead their slaves into believing that they were constantly on the cusp of freedom, while in reality the owner would use this pseudo-reward to placate the slaves with false promises, sort of like a donkey-rider wielding a carrot on a stick.  By deceptively guaranteeing them freedom once some task is accomplished or something momentous happens—for example, the promise of freedom once the slave owner dies—those owners harness an immoral mental domain over those slaves; and motivating them with the façade of hope, slave owners or the heirs of dead slave owners, whether initially genuine or not, tended to fall back on those oaths of freedom in lieu of the economic gain they would be immediately tempted by.  Perhaps the most disturbing issue of morality within these texts would be the sexual objectification of women (such as the “breeders) who were put through the horrendous experience of rape and sexual enslavement; needless to say, this was morally taxing on both the slave woman and the slave-owner, despite the fact that the women were defenseless against their masters’ lecherous endeavors.  In the end, however, the institution of slavery as a whole represents a system of moral corruption, one in which black people are forced to go against their moral domain and white people are taught to “love thy neighbor” while simultaneously pummeling their slaves on a daily basis (who were technically the master’s closet neighbor).  Slavery, as portrayed in these narrative accounts and socially geared novels, is a sooty machine of moral extermination. 

Noemi’s Source: http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA66031195&v=2.1&u=mora54187&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w

Bora’s Source: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=4a2ad925-cfd7-4e7f-8c9b-64b13d7d25ed%40sessionmgr15&vid=1&hid=9&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=234330

Nik’s Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/opinion/14Reynolds.html

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