An ideology of paternalism grew out of the master-slave relationship of slavery. It helped justify the system in the minds of slaveholders and their apologists by defining the slaves as too weak and inferior to survive without the benevolent dominance of a master. The master was the father and the slaves perpetual children. Slavery was a particular system of class relations in racial form. The whites had hegemonic power in paternalism, which allowed the volatile relationship of conflicting class interests to avoid self-destruction by providing an ideology both blacks and whites could subscribe to, albeit with different interpretations. The blacks subverted paternalism by thinking of it as a reciprocal relationship in which they had earned, were owed or were entitled to certain things from masters. The evolving black religion provided slaves with the moral power to survive as individuals and groups, and with a weapon that challenged the ideological basis of slavery by recognizing the basic, equal humanity of all people. Blacks had some degree of class consciousness, or at least group awareness, under slavery, but they lacked the political and institutional means (of freedom) to establish a true political consciousness until after slavery. Genovese described their condition as a “protonational consciousness” under the old regime.
Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, 1972
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