Friday, September 25, 2009

The Problem of Racism in Florida

I'm doing my research paper on racism in Florida. One of my primary sources is Marjory Stoneman Douglas' book The Everglades: River of Glass. From the earliest times, Native Americans faced discrimination. From the 1490's to the 1700's, Native Americans had been misunderstood as savages. They were subject to being forced into "slavery, torture,hard work, homesickness and disease, thousands after thousands of men,women, chiefs, children priests, fishermen, warriors, had been blotted
out" (Douglas 92). During the 1492, Columbus discovered Florida and claimed it for Spain. Little did the Spanish know how difficult living there would be. The Spanish assumed that Florida would be lush and beautiful. Douglas explains how the beauty of Florida was demonized as Ferdinand and Isabella's men grew disgusted with their indigenous neighbors. The Native Americans received little respect partly because the iron fist of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella's radical form of Catholicism did not tolerate anything considered "un-Catholic" or polytheist. There was many reasons pertaining to the problem of religious differences during the late 1490s and early 1500s. One of which, was the indoctrination and propaganda that Ferdinand and Isabella's Spain was considered to be superior in education, culture, beauty and civility. I chose this source primarily because it gave me direct knowledge on why the Native Americans were mistreated and for my understanding of how a difficult life the Natives had under domination by extremism. The source tells me that the Native Americans of Florida were not given a chance to show their humanity under Ferdinand's rule. Rather, they were treated below the quality of dogs because of their appearance, matrilineal views, polytheism, and open society. Douglas also points out how warped the "civilized" the followers of Ferdinand viewed Catholicism during the mid 1500s because of their efforts to convert, humanize, and change ancient, harmonious Florida tribes such as the Timucuan tribes. As a lack of cultural understanding increased, so did the problem of slavery and authoritarianism. Native Americans were degraded as inhuman and were given the worst kind of cruelty at the time. The Native Americans "died too readily, unable to bear the unremitting toil, the lash,
the starvation, the overcrowding, the disease, but most of all
slavery" (Douglas 91). Douglas shows that racism was not just caused by disgust, disrespect or fear during the time the Spanish ruled. The reason was because of a radical doctrine related to superiority the King of Spain enforced from the 16th Century to the 18th Century which gave rise to tyranny and slavery, rather than peace and negotiation.

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