Saturday, September 5, 2009

Race and It's Impact in Defining Florida

In “Constructing Floridians,” author Daniel S. Murphree discusses the ways in which relations between American Indians and Europeans defined both Florida and the Europeans who settled there. The racialization the Europeans implemented in defining the natives that lived in the Floridas, racialization that worsened over time, was also a way they defined themselves. By describing the native population as inherently “barbaric,” “fierce” and “wild,” unable to be civilized or moral, the Europeans distanced themselves from the Indians, showing how the Indians were different from the civilized and moral Europeans. As the European settlers encountered failure and disappointment in their many endeavors, they began to blame the native population for their own mistakes and disasters. The racialization of the Native Americans, as Murphree pointed out, not only led to tension between European Floridian settlers and native populations that lasted for centuries, but also to the bonds Europeans were able to form with one another, regardless of their economic situations, class status or even nationality. Because they all saw the natives as the enemies of European accomplishment and achievement in the New World (blocking possible growth and success) and inherently uncivilized and barbaric, the settlers were able to “achieve common ground through their intellectual conceptualizations of the Indians,” bonds that Murphree asserts they would not have been able to do without this common feeling of moral and cultural superiority. Even in recent decades, descendants of European immigrants and settlers would define themselves and their environment in relation to the native populations still living there. This tension and racialization “evolved into racism…and native resistance led to new forms of genocidal conflict.” Some of this conflict between Native Americans and white Americans still continues today, showing that the race relations that impacted Florida back in the times of Spanish, French and English colonization still continue today.

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