Don’t judge the people of the past by today’s criteria
I have heard and read this comment several times, both by indigenous people and American blacks. “They believed we were not human.”
This is their perception and it results from trying to perceive yesterdays society in today’s terms. The clash between European culture of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the tribal cultures was not just a cultural clash, it was also a structural and philosophical clash.
In the European society of this time there was a rigid class system. Each class believing that belonging to this class was a God-given right.
The aristocracy firmly believed that they were superior beings to the class below them. They did not agonize about decisions that did not affect people of their class and stature.
This attitude is what caused the American Revolution, but don’t for a moment think that the people who fought this war did not hold similar beliefs to the royalty they overthrew.
The phrase we believe that all men are created equal, should be translated as, people like ourselves. This means, educated, property owners and so on. They were simply getting rid of the class of being born to privilege and moving themselves to the top of the heap.
It is no accident that the United States established an electoral college to elect their president and vice president. If you also believe that everyone could cast a vote you are sadly mistaken. We were no better when we set up our system with the Senate being unelected, but composed of people of wealth or substance.
Neither country wanted the great unwashed being able to influence elections of their betters.
Did the Europeans believe that the black slaves and Indigenous people were not human? This is not the right question. The right question is did they believe these people deserve to be recognized by their society as part of their society?
The answer to that is probably, no. They were the lowest of the low and as such deserved no recognition, or rights. The southern states seceded from the union because they thought their right to self determination were being hampered by the northern states and of course one of their god given rights, was to own black slaves.
Lincoln declared war because as he stated a house divided can not stand. The slaves were freed, but were given no help to survive by the north. They were left to compete with the poor whites of the south, who were poorer than the poorest slave.
They thought they were above the slaves because they had freedom, now they didn’t even have that advantage and so the class struggle goes on even to this day. The Indigenous people were treated as an inferior people who would be looked after by a superior race. So today we reap the past, but don’t judge the people of the past by today’s criteria, they are not the same and condemning them only shows our lack of comprehension of the world we live in.