Reid Luhman’ View on History of Immigration to the US Essay
The reading material under analysis is devoted to immigration and slavery as a landmark episode in human history. Reid Luhman examines the issue from different sides letting the readers evaluate the significance of this phenomenon in the context of the relevant epoch. The author tries to address the problem complexly, describing all the aspects of a human life that were influenced by slavery. Thus, in the course of reading, the readers learn that slave ownership had a powerful impact not only on the economic side of Americans of the relevant period but also on the nation formation as it was, first, and foremost, a global migration wave.
One of the most valuable insights that Luhman provides is his analysis of slavery as a global business. Whereas there is a widespread tendency to regard slave ownership as a historic event and the example of the suppression of the black race, Luhman focuses on the financial side of the problem. Hence, according to the author slave trade was considered to be one of the most beneficial business activities in Europe in the 1700s and 1800s (Luhman 109). It is particularly curious that the unethical side of the trade was successfully overlooked even by such conservative and right-minded social groups as, for example, Quakers. Thus, it did not take long for society to stop personifying the character of this bargain and begin treating people like goods. It is essential to note that the business was indeed profitable. Thus, Luhman reports on more than three millions of slaves imported to the New World in the 1700s (Luhman 110).
Another surprising aspect elucidated by the author is that Africa was one of the most active slave traders at that time. Luhman explains this phenomenon by the fact that slaves were “the only commodity” that this country could offer the world (110). Therefore, whatever paradoxically it might seem, the slave trade became the main economic support in those countries the residents of which were its immediate victims.
Luhman, likewise, puts a particular emphasis on the question of slaves’ integration and assimilation with the local people. He provides a detailed description of the interdependence that existed between a slave and an owner. On the face of it, the latter had the legal right to set the terms, whereas the former was to obey without question. However, Luhman notes that “slaves could exercise some control” (115). Thus, the owners often had to adjust their behavior in accordance with the slaves’ responses in order to achieve the best result. It is particularly interesting how the author draws a parallel to business management, in this case (Luhman 115). Therefore, it turns out that people tend to employ similar patterns of control and motivation in every situation that is connected with profit and work efficiency.
Finally, Luhman shows how deeply the African culture penetrated into the local traditions regardless of the fact that the Americans had no intention to assimilate the culture of new-comers. Contrary to the modern situation, when immigrants are often welcomed and assisted in adapting to the new environment, at that time, slaves were ultimately rejected by society. Nevertheless, there are such important features of the African culture as religious trends, folk literature and medical treatments that were assimilated by American society in a hostile environment and managed to survive in it (Luhman 117). Thus, one might conclude that migration and assimilation are not always controllable; some of their processes follow independent laws and results regardless of all the obstacles.
Luhman, Reid. Race and Ethnicity in the United States: Our Differences and Our Roots, Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2002. Print.
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