History 17B Lecture 2 Race and Segregation Page 2

III.  The White Debate Over Race

But while virtually all southern whites agreed that blacks would occupy the bottom of this hierarchy, there was some debate as to what kind of relationship would be formed between former master and slave.  We'll split this into "Conservative" racists and "Radical" racists.  Both Conservatives and Radicals argued that Blacks were a dependent people who needed the guidance of whites.  This was an old idea of Southern thinking with its origins in slavery.  But there were differences between Conservatives and Radicals in this assumption.

A.  Conservative Mentality

sambo.jpg (40021 bytes) Conservatives argued that whites had a duty and an obligation to provide guidance and protection to their dependents.  Blacks were seen as children; if left to their own devices, they would starve.  During and just after Reconstruction, Southern state governments were controlled by conservatives - the elite in society - who did not rush to exclude or disenfranchise blacks.  Instead, they sought a subordinate-paternal role for blacks through which white supremacy would be preserved.

B.  Radical Mentality

But Radicals had a very different perception of black dependency that can be separated into four ideas:
Regression:  slavery was an institution which had provided guidance in the form of discipline - a step towards civilization.  With that removal, blacks would begin to regress.
Savagery:  Blacks were a primitive, savage people.  They were, radicals argued, more emotional, less rational, more violent, more passionate.  They were unable to reserve self-restraint.
Bestiality:  Blacks were a different species from whites.  By nature, they were not equal to human beings.
Sexuality:  This was put at the center of racial rhetoric.  Blacks were unable to control their sex drives, many whites argued.  Thus society needed to constrain those drives.  Laws always were justified to protect the virtue of the white women of the South.

Should whites fail to control Black lives, these racists argued, African Americans would become savage, violent, barbarous - all directed against whites.  Thus to live civilized lives, blacks needed rigid and brutal white supervision and guidance.