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Separate and unequal: Blacks and White women.
Many may say that blacks and white women had more in common than people thought they did in the pre civil war era. A point worth arguing is that there are a few similarities and too many differences to list. No matter how you twist reality to make it seem the worst for women, they were at least treated as humans and not like barn animals. Before 1861, many white males valued their farm animals higher than their slaves. Although white women were not treated with the equality to white men that we see in the world today, they should not even be classified with blacks of the pre civil war era.
Blacks and white women were treated in a common manor, because neither group was really free. Both had to listen to what the white males told them to do without haste or incompetence. At the time, it would be safe to say that America was for the white males. Because they were the only people who had any say in the rules that governed peoples lives. Even from day one, the Constitution of the United States of America contradicts the way that things were and the way they would continue for some time. The first amendment grants freedom of religion, speech, and assembly. It states
Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise, thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or the right of the people to assemble. (Primis, 95).
Even with this being law both blacks and white women were not allowed to choose what church to attend or allowed to voice their own opinions; both conditions violate the 1st amendment. The 9th amendment also states something contradictory to the way life actually was, it says: The enumeration in the constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. (Primis, 96) This means no person can deny any other person his or her rights given in the Constitution of the United States of America. Evidently the forefathers who founded our government did not consider white women or blacks to be members of our country. But each state sure decided to recognize them when it came time to decide the number of delegates that each state would have in congress. Although blacks only counted as 3/5 of a person they were being acknowledged as members of our society and were denying them their freedom given to them in the 1st amendment and made illegal to deprive in the 9th amendment. So white males have already acknowledged both groups to be members of our country but denied them the unalienable rights given to them at birth. This would allow us to say that both are treated unequally compared to white males but hardly makes a case saying that white women had things in common with slaves.
The physical treatment between slaves and white women should be more than enough evidence to discredit the theory that they had things in common. When Douglass recalls the sleeping arrangements on the plantation. He says,
The sleeping apartments-if they could be called such-have little regard to comfort or decency. Old and young, male and female, married and single, drop down upon the common clay floor, each covering up with his or her blanket, -the only protection they have from cold or exposure (MBMF, 102).
Now I would find it hard to believe that a white woman would be forced to even see living conditions like this let alone be forced to live in them. Nor would a white woman be forced to eat the same food as a slave, if it may be called food. Such as ash cake and a small piece of pork (ash cake is what the slaves used to call dough that they covered in hot ashes to cook it, MBMF, 102).
It was bad enough that these two groups were treated as underclass to white males, but if they tried to interact they were shot down. For example such as an educated white women trying to teach a black person how to read or trying to teach them anything that a white man didn t want them to know than that women might as well be a slave her self. She can not think or act under her own abilities without the approval and consent of her husband. Douglass recalls when he was first being taught to read My mistress-who, as the reader has already seen, had begun to teach me-was suddenly checked into her benevolent design, by the strong advise of her husband (MBMF, 151). This just shows the power that the white man had over women, especially his wife. She was afraid to speak back to him or afraid to voice her opinion if it differed from his opinion. Other than not having a voice in our government and having to take the ideas of their husbands women had life pretty good compared to blacks. For the times, the husband of a white woman worked and supplied for her and she would do all the housework and chores unless they had slaves to do the work.
White women had such a better life than any of the blacks including the slaves of the south, and the blacks of the north that were free or separate but equal . What they should have been called is sorda-free and separate and unequal . They were free in the aspect that they had no one to call master but they were still not granted the same rights as whites. They could not even eat in the same restaurants, ride the same busses; everything was just separate. White women had the same rights in the north as they did in the south. They were free, except their ideas, thoughts and property became under their husbands control after marriage.
According to feminist Sarah Grimke, a South Carolina Quaker, the very being of a woman is like that of a slave, is absorbed in her master. All contracts made with her, like those made with slaves by their owners, are a mere nullity (Primis, 141). She feels like a slave. Why? It is because her husband now owns what she used to before they wed. But how many white women were actually treated like slaves to say that the very being of a woman was like that of a slave? None, if any. What husband would make his wife eat dough out of ashes or sleep on the clay with only a blanket to cover her? To say that white women had even half of the injustices and struggles that blacks had would be unfair to the accomplishment achieved through their fight for equality. Although there are many arguments saying that blacks and women had more in common in the pre-civil war era than normally assumed, I think that there is more than enough evidence to state the opposite. Blacks had so many more injustices than women did and the similarities between the two groups are few and far between.
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