However, Zinn does find evidence that the races coexisted with a degree of harmony in spite of the way the blacks were brought to America, at least in the beginning. He cites evidence that the races found themselves with common problems, common concerns, common work, and a common enemy in the form of their master. Black and white servants showed little concern about their physical differences in the seventeenth century, and this fact led to the imposition of racially divisive laws by the government to prevent the fraternization that was taking place.
Zinn feels that the reasons why such laws were imposed can be found in historical conditions rather than in any innate antipathy between the races. The economic system clearly had much to do with it, and slavery was a way of gaining cheap labor while these laws were a way of controlling that labor and assuring that it remained enslaved. The imposition of laws segregating the races were also valuable as a way of separating the cultures, with the intent of suppressing as much of the culture the slaves brought with them as was necessary to adapt them to their new way of life and work.
For that matter, it was probably considered a good idea to keep the blacks separate from the white servants because of the frequency with which servants of both races were escaping together. Court records demonstrate this, and many laws were passed to stop it. There was a growing fear of a slave rebellion, and institutionalized racism was a way of enlisting a broader public in service of the goal of keeping the slaves under control. Whites were to be convinced that their interests were different from those of blacks, and such divisions became codified in the law and in time became totally accepted as a belief system. Such a system was self-propagating and clearly has lasted far beyond the laws that were originally passed to create it. Zinn describes racism as "practical," and this means that it fu...
Who is Howard Zinn in American History?. (1969, December 31). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 23:19, January 28, 2015, from http://www.collegetermpapers.com/viewpaper/1303547908.html