Chattel Admittedly, indentureship was also very deceptive

Chattel slavery is a slavery system characterized by the treatment of people as property that can be bought and sold. This system of slavery existed in the Caribbean in the 19th century. These slaves were forcefully captured and enslaved through five ways: as prisoners of war, payment of debt owed, victims of raids, gifts and by birth. These slaves were deprived of basic human rights such as the ability to decline work, or to be paid after working. They lived under atrocious conditions, as they were beaten, maimed and sometimes even killed as punishment for attempted escape. Admittedly, indentureship was also very deceptive and terrible, but it was not equivalent to chattel slavery. For one, the indentured servant voluntarily contracted his labour for a specific period (usually 5-7 years), and under specific conditions, for example, salary, accommodation, rations and free travel to and from India to the country where the worker was assigned to go (“Indenture: A new system of slavery?”).

Although slavery existed in West Africa long before the Trans-Atlantic slave trade started, West African slavery and Caribbean chattel slavery differed in so many ways. Perhaps the most important distinction is in the way slaves were treated. Slaves in West Africa were not dehumanized the way the slaves in the Caribbean were. Ottobah Cuguano, a former slave, remembered slaves as being ‘well fed … and treated well’. Olaudah Equiano, another former slave who wrote an account of his life, noted that slaves might even own slaves themselves (“Slavery in Africa”). Also, there was no dominant race factor to it. Since master and slave shared the same skin colour, the basis for enslaved status was more determined by other social, political and economic criteria (Campbell). Furthermore, slaves in Africa might eventually become part of their master’s family and become free. This was unlike chattel slavery, in which enslaved Africans were slaves for life, as were their children and grandchildren (“Slavery in Africa”).

The issue of colorism that pervades the Caribbean dates all the way back to its colonial past. Colorism is basically discrimination against people with darker skin. It is a preference of lighter skin among people of the same ethnicity and race. Colorism existed in Caribbean slave society and that was evident in the way dark skin was demonized and light skin treasured. Slaves were categorized and assigned posts according to their skin tone. Slaves who had a lighter complexion were permitted to work as servants for the slave master and his family while slaves with darker skin were sent to perform intense manual labor in plantations for extremely long periods of time. The correlation between light skin and increased social opportunity stigmatized dark skin as a curse and eventually produced a distain for any phenotypic traits that were characteristic of the black race (“Colorism: A Deeply Rooted History”).

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