Ngan LamDr. McBaneHistory 170Americaand the American West: 1620s-1890s Thegroup that claimed power over the other groups was the white male Anglos whodeclared dominance in order to transform America into the perfect nation thatthey imagined. This group acquired and maintained this dominance by oppressingother racial groups and people, and taking away their rights. The dominantgroup viewed other races as inferior, and also believed women to be subordinateto men, which influenced their citizenship status. Full citizenship includedpolitical, economic, and social citizenship. Political citizenship meant beingable to vote, economic citizenship was defined as having equal access to work,and social as having equal access to land and organizations. The white men tookaway all, or parts of, citizenship from the oppressed groups, which includedAfrican Americans, the Irish immigrants, Native Americans, Mexicans, and women.By realizing the opinions of white males regarding race and gender, and howthese opinions shaped the oppressed groups’ citizenship status, therelationship between the white males and the subjugated groups becomesapparent.
AmongSouthern White Protestant Americans and African Americans, the whites were thehegemonic group, who believed that they were the superior race among the two.The Protestant whites saw themselves as civilized and sophisticated, and usedthese distinctions in order to separate themselves from Africans and organizethemselves with other whites. Asfor citizenship status, Southern male whites were automatically full citizens,while women did not enjoy the same freedoms. Women could not own land, were notsupposed to work outside the home, and were not allowed to vote.1 Furthermore, regarding gender roles, the Southern whiteprotestant Americans followed a paternalistic ideology.2 This means that one group is acting superior and attempts tocontrol another group for their own good. Paternalism made the man the head ofthe family, while simultaneously shaping the role of the woman.
Manhood wascharacterized by an identity of authority and power wealth, as well as a codeof honor that included duels.3 Menparticipated in activities that complemented and enhanced thesecharacteristics. Some of these activities were gambling, hunting, soldiering,politics, and avoiding physical labor.
4 The Southern plantation owners modeled their masculinitybased on being a white owner of land and slaves, which demonstrated his powerand ability to avoid physical labor.5 Another critical aspect of masculinity had to do with theSouthern code of honor, which meant defending the reputation of himself, hisfamily, and community. Additionally, it was important to be educated as well asauthoritative.6 As for masculinity among Yeomanfarmers, it meant owning land, being independent, performing physical labor,and taking care of their families.7 Womanhood among Southern whites, however, was definedthrough marriage.8 Women were not supposed to work and, therefore, weredependent on their husband.
A “true woman” was characterized as someone who wasbeautiful, refined, physically delicate, charming, and welcoming.9 Other things deemed important for women were to be helpless,leisured, pious, sexually pure, and good at taking care of the home.10 Furthermore, wives of plantation owners were also dependenton their husbands, were supposed to watch over the slaves, and be graceful,charming and modest.11 Yeoman farm women, on the other hand,construed their femininity around being sensible, taking care of her childrenand husband, while also being open to working outdoors alongside theirhusbands.12 In addition, among the Yeoman women,there was less focus on beauty since it was more important for them to beresourceful and help out by performing physical labor.
Motherhood was alsodefined somewhat differently compared to, for example, plantation wives sincethey needed their children to help out with work on the farm. Hence, men heldthe power among Southern white protestant Americans, while women were, for themost part, placed behind the man. Furthermore,despite that there were both enslaved and free African Americans, they alwayslacked the same amount of freedom that the Southern white protestants enjoyed,which made them the victimized group. The African American race was based, forthe most part, on their appearance.
The Southern whites focused on the darkercolor of their skin, and associated it with their morals, claiming that theywere sinful and evil.13 Regarding their citizenship, as slavesand free they did not have access to complete citizenship until 1869 when theFourteenth Amendment came in effect.14 AfricanAmerican gender roles differed from the Southern whites’ due to their livingsituation. Slaves’ moral rights were infringed, and they had very little freedom,which meant that their experiences as slaves was emasculating for males andalso controlled womanhood for women.
Therefore, the definition of masculinitywas altered, where men did their best in trying to support and protect theirfamilies. Examples of ways that they could display a form of manhood were bystealing more food and building furniture.15 In addition, they established masculinity by taking pride inthe work that they did, and taking up the role as leaders in their communities.
16 Slave women, on the other hand, were often cooks, nurses,and maids, and established a type of femininity based on these roles.17 Because of their living situation of being enslaved, women’sgender roles changed drastically, since it was difficult for them to performthe most important role to them as women; being a mother and taking care oftheir children. As slaves, women did a lot of field work and strenuous labor,which meant that they did not have much in common with the gender ideals ofwhite women of being delicate.
18 Instead,women’s identities revolved around being clean, polite and submissive sincethey had to take care of themselves and be independent.19 Amongfree black women, however, it was more common for women to be the head ofhousehold, and relationships were oftentimes more equal than they were amongwhite families.20 According to Hoffert, it may have been more common for blackfree women to stay single since they “did not have the same incentives to marryas white women.”21 This was due to that although theirliving situation was better than the slaves’, they still were not completelyfree. Therefore, they did not shape their feminine identities around being awife, and instead more in regards to being strong, ambitious and independent,traits considered to be masculine among whites.22 Moreover, free black men had many restrictions placed onthem, which made it difficult for them to construe their masculinity in thesame way as free white men. Hoffert explains how Ellison, a free black man, wasable to define his masculinity by being independent, own land and slaves, andbeing able to support his family.
23 However, Ellison still had to act submissive towards thewhites he was doing business with since overstepping the cultural boundariesthat existed could cost him his freedom. Dueto the differences mentioned between the Southern whites and free and enslavedAfrican Americans, relations between the groups were tense. For example,plantation owners’ wives resented the enslaved African American women since, attimes, their husbands would have affairs with them, and give birth to childrenresembling their husbands.24 Therefore, white women would take their frustrations out onthe slave women and mistreat them, which intensified animosity from both sides.TheAfrican Americans would react to their subjugation in numerous ways.
Forexample, by acting as though they were unintelligent and carefree, called the”Sambo effect”, in order to avoid being given much responsibility or chores.25 Other reactions included sabotage, spitting in food,contaminating food with feces, and putting glass in food.26 Moreover, damaging property, pretending to be sick andslowing down the work process were also common.27 The more extreme mode of reaction was running away, rebelling,and the rise of the Underground Railroad.28 Another, less obvious, form of expressing their disagreementwith how they were being treated was through Trickster Tales. In these storiesAfrican Americans would create scenarios where the rabbit, the underdog, wouldoutsmart the fox.
29 In the Trickster Tales AfricanAmericans represented the rabbit, and the whites the fox, and displayed how theslaves would perform discrete and sneaky actions in protesting their treatment.Furthermore,Northern protestant Americans, another hegemonic group, possessed fullcitizenship, meaning social, economic, and political citizenship.30 Additionally, in 1850, universal male citizenship wasestablished, where white men in all states became citizens.
31 Northernprotestant American manhood was defined by, among other things, civilvirtuousness, individualism, personal integrity, and honesty.32 Another important aspect to masculinity was the fact thatmen were more established in the public sphere with regards to work and politics.33 There were different gender ideals for different types ofmen during this time, including the patrician, agrarian, artisan, self-mademan, and the evangelical man. For the self-made man it was important to haveeconomic success and be efficient, the artisan and agrarian were supposed to beindependent and own land, the evangelical man believed in ethics, socialchange, equality and not being selfish. The patrician, however, defined hismasculinity by, among other things, “improving himself through reading booksand traveling abroad.
“34 Being sensible, selfless, self-reliant, brave, and being amother, which were all traits of the so-called “Cult of True Womanhood”,however, characterized womanhood in this group.35 Significantcharacteristics of being a woman also included going to church, and civilizingmen.36 Northern protestant women were not equal to men, althoughthey had gained a higher position within the family since they now were seen asmoral, and could have a positive effect on men. Furthermore, a reform movementarose where women began to dress more comfortably, and where women gainedgreater presence within education and were able to teach.
37 In 1848, the Seneca Fall Convention took place where thewomen’s rights movement began, and it was declared that men and women should betreated equally without injustices.38 IrishCatholic immigrants, on the other hand, which was the victimized group, wasviewed different racially although they were from the same geographic locationas the Anglos. The British did not consider the Irish to be white, and saw themas wild savages without proper clothing.39 Therefore, their race was based on how their actions weredifferent from the British, rather than the color of their skin.
This includedthe fact that the Irish were Catholic, while the British were Protestant, andthat their way of life did not match the British, which made the Anglos viewthe Irish as dirty. The British mistreated the Irish and shipped loads of foodfrom Ireland to Britain, and evicted around 500,000 families from their homes.40 The British justified these actions by claiming that theIrish were a “selfish people.” Inregards to the Irish citizenship status, they were at first not considered tobe white, which meant that they were not eligible for full citizenship.
TheIrish were not able to own land, make court appearances, or have any job theywanted, which meant they did not have economic, social or politicalcitizenship.41 In the 1790 Naturalization Act, anyonewho looked white theoretically could naturalize and become a citizen.42 However, it was not until after the New York Draft Riotsthat the Irish “became” white, and could become full citizens. As for genderroles among the Irish, in the 1800s-1840s the male and female roles were equal,and men and women were treated the same.43 Irish women believed that it was important for women to beself-sufficient, being a mother, cooking, and being economically dependent.44 Additionally, Irish men did not equate manhood with beingthe “sole breadwinner”, and often worked alongside their wives and childrenalthough work was still important for them to express their manliness.
45 TheBritish viewed the Irish as subhuman and, at first, as not being white, whichcreated a great degree of tension between the two groups. The Irish resentedthe British because they were being treated as lesser beings, and were not ableto enjoy the same freedoms.46 Furthermore, the Irish were forced tolive in segregation alongside the African Americans, and were called derogatoryterms when the two groups would mix.47 In 1863, during the Civil War, the Irish were stronglyopposed to the war, largely due to the fact that they could not afford to paythemselves out of being drafted, as wealthier white men could.48 This meant that the Irish anger towards the governmentintensified, and they began to plunder the city. Additionally, during the NewYork Draft Riots, frustrations grew so intense that the Irish murdered manypeople, most being black, who they believed to be the cause of the problem andthe root of everyone’s anger.49 Consequently,because of how the Irish acted towards the African Americans during the riots,and because they joined the Democrats and became pro-slavery, the Britishbecame more accepting of them.50 Theseevents improved the fragmented relationship between the British and the Irish.
Amongthe white American East and Midwest immigrants to the American West, and theMexicans of the Southwest and the Native Americans of the West, the hegemonicgroup was the white Americans. The white American race was seen as superior,and they believed it to be the most developed race. During this time thedefinition of white was somewhat altered to include people with Europeanancestry, and at least looked similar to the Anglos and spoke a Europeanromance language, i.e. Spanish.51 Inaddition, these white immigrants treated those with fairer skin better, even ifthey were not technically white, which further demonstrated their preferencefor white skin.
Moreover, the male gender role among these white Americansinvolved being arrogant, along with the expectation that women should be pureand chaste.52 For men, it was also important to becourageous and protective of their families.53 The feminine ideals of white women were to look good, be agood housewife and mother.54 Mexicansof the Southwest, however, were the victimized group. Their race was, in someways, divided into several groups.
One of these groups was the ranchero class,which included families who owned large amounts of land, and held a dominatingpolitical and economic position in California.55 In addition, according to Almaguer, another part of theMexicans of the Southwest was rancheros that owned less land, and were skilledlaborers, artisans, and local officials.56 This group included the mestizos, who had mixed racialancestry, as well as the middle class.
At the bottom of the Mexicans of theSouthwest was the subjugated Indian population and mestizos.57 Furthermore, certain Mexicans were considered to be part ofthe white race. Mexicans that were included in the white race were those withEuropean ancestry and a good social standing, while skin color was of lessimportance in this case.58 Darker skinned Mexicans, who werewithout proper social standing and European heritage, were called “gente sinrazon”, meaning people without reason, and were seen as being similar to theIndian savages. 59 Concerningthe citizenship status of Mexicans, it was altered over time. In 1849, when theTreaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was created, Mexicans were able to attain U.S.
citizenship.60 The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided Mexicans withsocial, political, and economic citizenship, which meant it was the samecitizenship that the white Americans possessed. As Almaguer states, this meantthat Mexicans were able to vote, hold public office, offer testimony in courts,and own land.61 Regarding gender roles, white Americansstereotyped lower class Mexican men as being lazy, and lower class women asavailable and sexually promiscuous.62 Upper class women, on the other hand, were seen asbeautiful, chaste, and charming.
63 Inactuality, in the Mexican culture, manhood and womanhood were defined by theupper class. Therefore, since it was a patriarchal culture, men were supposedto protect the family, control their wife and children, and focus on honor.64 Women, on the other hand, were not subordinate to men, andit was important for them to practice religion.65 However, Mexican women were also treated as a business propositionfor their fathers, and had to be virgins, meaning they were objectified to anextent. Theinteraction and relationship between the white Americans and the Mexicansvaried. Partial integration existed between the whites and the Mexican upperclass, which the middle class, the mestizo, could not partake in.
According tothe white Americans, the reason for this was that the middle class was”unassimilable.”66 Furthermore, Almaguer states, “Mexicansspoke a romance language, held Christian beliefs, and practiced traditions thatplaced them closer culturally to Anglo Americans than Indians or Asianimmigrants.”67 Hence, unlike other groups the Angloscame in contact with, the Mexicans had parts of their people and cultureaccepted to a slightly greater extent. TheMexicans were mistreated by the Anglos when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo wasviolated and had their land taken away from them, and they reacted in severalways. In 1867, the Mexicans and Juarez fought back against the invasion andwon.
68 In addition, because the Mexicans wereable to defeat the invasion, they were able to regain at least some of theirland, and could become citizens of the United States. Thesecond victimized group by the white American East and Midwest immigrants werethe Native Americans of the West. Their race, according to whites, had less todo with their skin color, and more to do with their actions and how they actedlike “savages.” Europeans also defined Native Americans as “wilderness nomadsutterly devoid of any religion or culture.”69 Thisfurther demonstrated how the whites saw the Native American race as uncivilizedand unsophisticated. NativeAmericans did not have access to any form of citizenship since it was onlyoffered to free men, which meant that they did not have rights to freedom orthe land that they called home.
70 Nativeswere also not allowed to vote, and the Anglos attempted at first to use them asslaves and had no rights to equal work, meaning they did not have economic orsocial citizenship either. Therefore, Native Americans did not possess full norpartial citizenship. Inregards to the relationship between the whites and the Natives, it wasstrained. Whites associated Native Americans with attributes they did not wantto associate with themselves. For example, nonwhite people were described asimpure, unintelligent, viceful, and a barrier to civilization.71 These were seen as very negative and immoral characteristicsto possess, which led to that they associated these words with those differentfrom themselves.
Whites also believed that Natives needed to be educated andtrained to become civilized. The Europeans constantly attempted to change theNatives way of life, tell them what to do, and move them from their land. Dueto this, the interaction and relationship between the two groups was taintedwith conflicts and hostility. Moreover,the Native Americans reacted to the European subjugation in numerous ways.
TheNatives tried to decline treaty offers, participate in battles, and refuse todo what they were told. However, this often led to the Natives beingthreatened, kidnapped, murdered, or having their children sent to boardingschools. During the Homestead Act of 1862 when the whites wanted to convert”Indianness” to Americanness by giving away Native American land to whites, theNatives tried to resist.
72 A negative consequence that occurredwhen the Pawnees did not move when they were told was that they came under attackfrom the Sioux, which eventually forced the Pawnees to move to a reservation inKansas.73 Native Americans also tried to protesthow the white people were treating them by dancing the Ghost Dance, which theybelieved would make them disappear.74 Inconclusion, the white male asserted dominance over the African Americans, Irishimmigrants, Native Americans, Mexicans, and women by taking away their rights.For all groups, they were denied full citizenship, which meant that they had norights to political involvement, certain jobs, or land. Consequently, thedominant group could treat the victimized groups however they wished, and coulduse their land as well as the people to further their own interests of gainingand maintaining power. In addition, as discussed, gender was a major factortoo, since the role of women as being subordinate aided in the white malesbeing able to assert themselves as dominant and authoritative. Race was asignificant aspect as well, since white males stated that the white race wassuperior.
The African race was seen as evil, the Irish as nonwhite selfishpeople, the Native Americans were described as uncivilized, and the darkerMexicans as savages. White males viewed other races and people as inferior, andbelieved that they needed to be educated by whites in order to improve society.Therefore, the dominant groups utilized this reasoning in order to gain andsustain their power over the victimized groups.