Frequently Heard Claim: “Indentured servants were slaves too!”
A section of “Becoming Anti-Racist in Barbados: Q&A”, a resource list for ALL white or ‘pass-fuh-white’ Bajans, and other white people living in Barbados.
“Indentured servants were slaves too! “
White indentured servants experienced hardships, and some may have even been forced into labour. However, there are many important distinctions:
- Their children were not born into indentured servitude, as Black peoples’ children were born into enslavement.
- Legally the European laws which governed the Caribbean did not consider any whites as enslaved peoples. This provided many protections, such as being able to use courts of law if they were wronged, something to which African descended people who were enslaved did not have access. Importantly, White people, no matter how badly they were actually treated during their indentureship were always recognized as fully human individuals, with legal rights. Enslaved Africans were not. This has had long lasting repercussions.
- Most had contracts, after which they would have land or be compensated financially. Even if not all were fairly compensated and were trapped in cycles of poverty, it is not the same thing as being enslaved without even the option of a contract or compensation.
- When slavery was “over”, the whites were more likely to be given opportunities in society such as “management positions”, were allowed to own land, join certain clubs which gave them access to other opportunities, etc. Their status as ‘white people’ gave them opportunities for upward mobility that was not as available to freed Black individuals.
In summary, comparing indentured servants to enslaved people discounts the past and current experiences of African descended people.
For more reading on this:
Frequently Heard Claims
- “Racism is more of an American issue…”
- “I’m white and I’m not wealthy, I don’t have white privilege…”
- “Slavery happened years ago, why can’t people get over it?”
- “I have Black family and friends etc. I’m not racist…”
- “As a ‘white minority’ I’ve experienced more racism than Black people…”
- “I don’t see colour… Why don’t we just spread positivity?”
- “It’s not about race, it’s about class issue etc.”
- “Indentured servants were slaves too!”
- “Black workers are lazy.”
- “My Black friends & family agree with me on this…”
- “Every race segregate and hire their relatives and friends, not just White people”
- “There are many Black people who have done very well for themselves”
- “All Lives Matter”
- “The Nelson Statue should stay, we can’t change history!”
- “ Having conversations about race in Barbados is divisive and will only stir up hatred and violence…”
- “I don’t like the tones of these conversations when they become angry and extreme!”
- “Black people sold others into slavery; other cultures enslaved people throughout history”
- “Some Black people were treated well under slavery”
- “I’m not a fan of Blackout Tuesday. What does it accomplish?”
- “Changing all of these brand names is foolishness”