“It is remarkable how little the original English colonies that would become the United States resembles the Mother Country of England by the end of the 1600s”
Did prejudice cause discrimination in America, or vice versa?
Today it is impossible to imagine what the world had been like if the future colonists would not have escaped Great Britain and fled to the continent known now as America. It could be expected that the colonies being complied of the former Brits would continue keeping the British traditions and customs. However, this was not so. In my short essay I would like to prove that the British colonies in America did not really resemble their mother country. Additionally, in this essay I will talk about the concepts of “discrimination” and “prejudice” in the American society.
To begin with I would like to provide the reader with a brief insight into the history of English colonies in America. The first British colony was formed in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia. Colonies in Massachusetts, up and down the East Cost were settled as the century progressed. From the first minute the colonists had set their feet on the American land the interaction between them and the Native Americans living in the area became hostile.
Though, from time to time the English settlers had friendly relations with the natives of these lands. All in all, around two million of British people lived in America over the course of seventeenth century. During the first years after the formation of the colonies many of the settlers died because of the unsuitableness to the new environment. However, majority of the English soon started to succeed on the new land (Crapham, 234-235).
It is well-known that people escaped Great Britain fleeing from the religious persecution.
These were the people who were eager to be independent and who were willing to live in the society free of religious and social dogmas. Escaping hostile Britain was a great challenge for them, thus the people had worked very hard to establish themselves independently in America and railed against being told around by arrogant officials from Britain. This can be the first explanation why the style of living in the colonies was very different from the one in Britain. The colonists simply did not want to have anything in common with the country that had made their lives miserable.
Lower I would like to provide other examples of how the life in colonies differed from the life in Britain. Firstly, while in Britain the industrial revolution was showing its first signs in the colonies the settlers were ready to work with their hands for the well-being of the common ideal. The colonists though lacking machinery and tools started to clear the forests, tend the plantations and farms, and work in the developing seafaring industry.
Additionally, the people who settled in the original colonies wanted to keep their family unit together and practice their own religion. Though, not only they were willing to be independent when it came to their families or religion. Unlike the people living in Britain, they were more affected by the ideas of freedom and equality, thus they believed that they had a right to govern themselves. They considered that they should not have to pay so much in taxes to England, especially since they could not serve in the English government and have a say on how high or low those taxes were (Cooke, p 322).
In conclusion of this part of the paper it must be said that indeed the American colonies in the seventeenth century did their best in order not to resemble the mother country – England. This was partly mainly because the colonists were willing to show those living in Britain that they could have a country of their own and that fleeing was a very bright idea.
Now I would like to move to the second question that is the causes of discrimination.
When it comes to determining whether discrimination was caused by prejudice or the opposite applies this question reminds the confusion raised by the question of what was first a chicken or an egg. To fully cover the above question I would like to start by defining the concepts of “prejudice” and “discrimination”. According to Farley (2000, pp 18-19), “prejudice refers to a positive or a negative attitude or belief directed toward certain people based on their membership in a particular group”. Prejudice resides within an individual and is usually passed down to one from his/her family. Prejudice, at times, tends to be the reaction many individuals have toward any out-group. Farley continues describing discrimination as “…any act that leads to the unequal treatment because of race or ethnicity that is directed at a specific individual”. Discrimination is usually built upon the beliefs people have about particular groups (2000, p 20).
The concepts discussed above, though seemingly related are in fact very different. While prejudice is a cultural attitude that is based on negative stereotypes about individuals or groups because of their cultural, religious, racial, or ethnic background, discrimination is the active denial of desired goals from a category of persons. With these definitions it can be clearly seen that discrimination in general and in particular in America was caused by prejudice and not vice versa. Thus, when engaging in discriminative deeds, one is simply putting his/her prejudicial beliefs into actions.
Both prejudice and discrimination are deeply imbedded at both the individual and societal levels. The latter applies even in the country of overall freedom such as the United States of America. The discrimination in this country was caused by many prejudices that arose within people towards immigrants coming to America from different countries. As America is the land of success and opportunities many poor people escape their home countries and flee to America. Though, in America there are strong prejudices against foreigners coming especially from particular countries. Thus, the members of these groups face sever discrimination even these days. In order to eradicate prejudice and discrimination it is vital to deal with prevailing beliefs or ideologies, and social structure.
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Clapham, John, Rich, Edwin Ernest, Postan, Michael Moïssey, The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, CUP Archive, pp 234-235.
Cooke, Jacob Ernest, Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies, C. Scribner’s Sons, 1993, vol. 2, p 322.
Farley, John E, Majority – Minority Relations, (4th Ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, pp 18-20.