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Slavery Institution as a Source for Victimization

Slavery has been a topic of hot debate throughout most of American history. The process, considered brutal and corrupt by many people, attained even more supporters who considered it the course of nature. It is essential to understand how could this unethical practice survive and thrive for decades. Slavery institution as a concept should be at fault for the distortion of the common principles of morality and victimization of all the parties related to it.

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First of all, it should be mentioned that slavery institutions are not new, and throughout history, they attained different forms. However, the American approach may be considered one of the most dehumanizing and violent. The problem lies, in fact, that slavery, being an amoral practice, is not devoid of positive perks. It usually served as a way of incorporating certain individuals into the host society. Their relationship might not have been equal, but slaves were treated like humans. The American approach defies this concept, presenting slaves like chattel and denying their most basic rights. For example, slaves were not to be educated in order to fulfill their role better. Frederick Douglass describes a situation where his master chides the wife for giving lessons to the young slave with the words, “he should know nothing but the will of his master, and learn to obey it” (Douglass 114). Such attitude only supports the superiority of a master in their relationship with a slave. It means that any manifestations of humanity are deemed not only unnecessary but harmful. Obviously, this proprietor behavior prevents any feelings of mutual respect or acceptance and prohibits the lower caste from entering the life of the society.

Furthermore, such approach changes the slaveholder as he no longer recognizes his slaves as humans. Frederic Douglass argued that “a man’s character greatly takes its hue and shape from the form and color of things about him” (Douglass 62). This sentence illustrates the whole concept of slavery. The sense of morality becomes distorted when slaves are treated as chattel. The problem arises when such attitude becomes a norm. As humans are social beings, they always look for guidance or examples in society. For instance, Douglass says that his master might have been a great man had he been brought up in a free state. The lack of restraints and laws provides people with freedom that may be used in a harmful way. It is difficult to expect moral virtues from a person who has legal rights to inflict pain and suffering on another human being or escape punishment for murder. The very concept of slavery encourages even the kindest soul to overstep boundaries and treat slaves like mere objects. People do not question their actions when state laws and the church itself support them.

Abusive violence may be morally degrading for slaveholders who presented it as a necessary social-engineering tool. A notable passage may be found in My Bondage and My Freedom describing a slave, wounded by some man, returning home only to be punished by her master. The proprietary attitude prevents people from such a simple feeling as compassion. The acts of punishment were carried out not only to impose authority but also to preserve the morality of the owners. For example, corporal punishment became customary and could be provided at any time, not requiring any reasons or justifications. It was just a means of preserving dignity in a cruel society. If abusive acts become normalized, then there is no need for slaveholders to feel agony or remorse. It leads to systematization and intensification of violence, expressing the superiority of not only class but racial hierarchy.

It is important to note that slavery institution distorts the moral values quite slowly. Douglass accounts his meetings with white boys who “believed I had as good a right to be free as they had” (Douglass 122). It is an excellent example of a fact that no man is born vile or wicked, it is a system of common values that may turn him into one. Consolation and compassion were often found in children because they treated slaves as equal beings. Douglass writes an interesting phrase relating to his mistress, which may be applied to the whole concept of slavery: “Nature had made us friends; slavery made us enemies” (Douglass 126). Society considered it important to have human property in order to be respected, and many slaveholders only did what they were expected to do. It is not wrong to condemn or judge individuals who took part in this practice, but the whole system should be blamed in the first place. The whole concept of slavery is twisted enough to distort the values of people who could be great parents of spouses, showing kindness to those they deemed equal.

In conclusion, the slavery institution as a concept was harmful not only to slaves but also to slaveholders. This practice degrades the common values bringing a society to some bestial laws of power and authority. It distorts personality by creating a community where violence comes into the norm. While slaves suffer from physical abuse, slaveholders corrupt their morality. It means that this practice, despite its practical benefits for owners, may never exist in a developed and ethical society.

Work Cited

Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom. Gutenberg, 1857, Gutenberg, Web.

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