The role of Christianity in creating racism

English immigrants promoted idea Indians, Africans were ‘incapable of becoming genuine Christians’, says Dr Goetz.

Our Correspondent July 09, 2012


Tracing the history of slavery, an American historian said, manipulation of religion laid the foundation of racism and slavery in the United States.

Dr Rebecca A Goetz, an assistant professor of history at Rice University, was giving a talk on ‘How Christianity created a race in America’ on Monday, organised by the department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

The focus of the talk was her upcoming book The Baptism of Early Virginia: How Christianity Created Race. The book is due to hit the stands on September 20. The book’s introduction, she said, is something that you write at the end.

She said she had started research a day after the September 11 attacks in 2001. “I often wonder how all of this is related,” she said while discussing the 9/11 attacks and how she got the idea of working on a book about the role of Christianity in Virginia in creating ‘race’. Religion, she said, had been used in Virginia by the immigrants and as the basis of the 9/11 attacks. It had then been used to target Muslims.

Religion, she said, has been used over the years to justify various policies. Dr Goetz said the English immigrants thought that the native Indians would adapt quickly to their religion. They believed they would be ‘welcomed’ by the natives in Virginia. “They assumed the Indians would feed them their crops and welcome them with open arms,” she said, “only this wasn’t the case.”

When that did not happen, a bloody dispute erupted leading to social alienation of the Indians by the English settlers; Indians and Africans were made slaves and deprived of privileges and rights.

The English then promoted the idea of ‘hereditary heathenism’, she said, according to which Indians and Africans were “incapable of becoming ‘genuine Christians’. The natives were not allowed to marry Christians or be baptised, she said, Christian servants were treated better than Indian servants.

The natives challenged the English – who had thought they would be “benevolent as compared to the Spanish” – leading to brutal wars, known as the Anglo-Indian or the Anglo-Powhatan wars, in the early 17th century. One-third of English settlers in the colony were murdered in a day during the Indian Massacre of 1622.

The massacre was a series of ‘surprise attacks’ that took place on March 22, 1622 in which 347 immigrants were killed. With the killing of most of the Indian priests, many ‘religious traditions’ of the Indians were lost. This, she said, ultimately made them want to embrace Christianity. In the case of Africans, Dr Goetz said, there was a certain degree of familiarity since most of them had been exposed to Christianity in Africa before being brought over as slaves.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012.


hamzah | 9 years ago | Reply

@1984: Your reply deserves a more lengthy response than I can unfortunately provide right now, but perhaps a few thoughts would be a sufficient substitute.

1) You are correct in Malcom’s recant of his racially informed politics: he disavowed that all Whites are evil. However, you are incorrect in saying his views on the various (and insidious) forms racism of in the North changed. What changed – and was the source of his disagreement with the Nation – were his views on how to deal with it. In particular, as he expressed in Nigeria, he was now willing to work with Whites and Black leaders like King to end the racism of the North and the South.

2) King’s legacy is not created in isolation: the role of White America in creating that legacy deserves to be excavated prior to a claim privileging King over Malcom, particularly since Malcom remains extensively popular among more marginalized Blacks in the U.S. Regardless, a King v Malcom discussion is only marginally relevant since both leaders agreed on the various forms of racism of the North. Their disagreement, as I mentioned, was on how to deal with it. Malcom believed that King’s method strengthed the North’s racism; King did not believe it did.

3) Finally, sitting in Washington DC, I can firmly assure you that the thought that Obama’s 2008 election victory is indication of an ebb in racism would be ignored in polite company and be scoffed by any person of color in the United States. Even the fact that most in the US refer to Obama as Black, and not White, harks of the slavery-era practice when having one black grandparent meant you Black and were banished from White society. Please be assured that racism is well and alive here in the United states. Ask Troy Davis’ family. Or, if you’re Brown, go to the airport.

1984 | 9 years ago | Reply

@someone: There are many reasons why India is still a Hindu majority country inspite of Islamic rule 1.Indian Sindh and Gangetic Plains were one of the most fertile places in Asia...Everyone wanted to conquer starting from Alexander to Moghuls Whenever a muslim king conquered India,he was immediately met with an opposing muslim king who wanted the share of the loot...So the muslim kings spent most of the time defending their country rather than try to convert people. The rule of Delhi was replaced by Mamluk (1211–1290), the Khalji (1290–1320), the Tughlaq (1320–1413), the Sayyid (1414–51), and the Lodhi (1451–1526) and later by Mughal rule with cameos from Timur,Sher Shah Suri etc 2.The tyrant ruler Gengis Khan indirectly helped Hindus a lot.A certain Iranian ruler Ala ad-Din Muhammad thought it would be cool to execute the peace envoys sent by Gengis Khan.He armed with a troop of 150,000 soldiers attacked the current Central Asia and killed everyone he could find..This pushed back the strength of the Muslim rulers for atleast half a century 3.The Mughal empire formed a treaty with the local Rajputs and they knew that they can rule India as long as they dont touch the religious demographic as they feared that their empire would fall if all the divided Hindus united.which Aurangzeb saw to his own peril 4.The bravery shown by our Sikh brothers who fought against the mighty Mughal empire to keep them at bay

These are few of the reasons why India is not islamized,please correct me if i'm wrong

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