The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Indentured Servitude vs. Slavery

There was another conversational gambit that took place at Loscon, one that has happened numerous times, and that I would love to put to rest.  Basically, someone made the comment that slaves in America weren't just African.  Well, of course they're right--Native Americans were also enslaved, but it didn't work out to well because they could escape to their homes.  What these folks meant, however, was indentured servitude.  This angers me, because the two, while somewhat analogous, are hardly homologous.  Here's my take on it: Indentured Servitude is to Slavery as Prostitution is to Rape.  O.K., your ancestors chose to lease their bodies to get to the New World.  Great, Fine.  I have no problem with that.  But there is a world of difference between that and being dragged from your village, sold overseas, and the next five generations of your family turned into property without legal rights of any meaningful kind.  They just aren't equivilent, and I hope to never hear this mealy-mouthed reflexive B.S. again.  It   trivializes centuries of human pain, and is an unworthy conversational gambit.

15 comments:

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Anonymous said...

What about the children that were taken from the streets of Britain and sold into indentured servitude (slavery)? You should brush up on your history.

Anonymous said...

The excellent answer, gallantly :)

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This is truth because African Americans weren't the only ones but also the Native Americans, I've read some books an that's so sad, I don't understand why even in these days there is discrimination.m10m

Anonymous said...

You are not that educated if you are trying to suggest that the Irish who were the largest number of indentured servants, were anything other than slaves. They did not sell themselves to get to the new world they traded their bodies for food because they were being systematically exterminated through starvation. You know like the holocaust... ignorance is ugly especially when we play the oppression Olympics.

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Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation. Historically, slavery was institutionally recognized by many societies; in more recent times slavery has been outlawed in most societies but continues through the practices of debt bondage, indentured servitude, serfdom, domestic servants kept in captivity, certain adoptions in which children are forced to work as slaves, child soldiers, and forced marriage.

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