The Development of Colonization and Imperialism in the United States

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Colonialism can be a sensitive topic for many. Many atrocities have been committed through the colonization of foreign lands and people. Those who have practiced colonization might have received economic and political gains, giving them a motive to continue expanding their empire and overthrow foreign territories. Indigenous people might have been forced to alter their beliefs, they might have been exploited as slaves, or they might have even been killed off by colonizers. Colonization is simply a way for countries to acquire control and dominate foreign countries. Colonization permits countries to exploit, racially segregate, and influence foreign people.

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Colonization has been occurring throughout the existence of mankind, however when most people think about colonialism they think about Western colonialism. There are many examples of western colonization, such as the colonization of Africa or the colonization of the North American Natives. With the rise of colonization there was also the rise of imperialism. Like colonization, imperialist ideals also gave counties a reason to exploit other native lands and people. The film “Colonization, Genocide, and Manifest Destiny” by Dr. Myla Vicenti Carpio describes imperialism as a function that is based around the “exploitation of a colony.”

During the late 1800’s The United States began a movement that many refer to as the “Age of Imperialism.” A growing United States country decided that it must expand its country both economically and politically. The United States wanted to become a world power. After defeating Spain in the Spanish American War in 1898 the United States would imperialize the Philippines. And through a bloody war they would eventually colonize the Philippines. From 1898 to 1946 the United States would exploit the Philippines by taking advantage of them economically and strategically using military power. Colonization has allowed countries to exploit seemingly weaker countries and the colonization of the Philippines is just one example.

While the exploitation of people is an obvious feature of colonization, another issue that appears is how countries justify colonization. And how a country welcomes foreign people into their country. This usually leads to racially tense feelings towards native people. Colonizers may believe that foreigners are inferior or a threat to their country. The document by Natalia Molina called “Borders, Laborers and Racialized Medicalization” Molina argues that the ideology of the Manifest Destiny movement allowed American’s to justify colonization of the South West. Believers of this movement felt that White Americans were superior to Mexicans and Native Americans.

This idea of white supremacy is the driving force that is used in colonization. Andrea Smith, author of “Indigently, Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy” believes that for colonization to work, colonizers must feel they are superior to the people they are controlling. “The logic of orientalism marks certain people or nations as inferior and deems them to be a threat to the wellbeing of the empire.” (Indigently, Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, Andrea Smith). Once the United States had gained control over the South West and immigrant work was crucially needed, America began enacting federal immigration laws. These immigration laws of the late 19th and early 20th century was based around segregation and racism. To legally work in the United Sates only Mexican migrants had to undergo “Intrusive, humiliating, and harmful medical examinations.” (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, Natalia Molina). Colonization creates racial tension by considering those who are different to be inferior and sometimes a threat.

A distinct type of colonialism is settler colonialism, while settler colonialism is like colonialism there are some differences. For example, the colonization of North America can be seen as settler colonialism. Europeans arrived in North America and began decimating native people until the native population almost disappeared. The native population became the minority and the settler population became the majority. White settlers took away native culture and replaced it with their own. A perfect example of settler colonialism is the annexation of Hawaii.

In the lecture video “Settler Colonialism in Hawaii” by Dr. Joanne L. Rondilla, Rondilla states that before American and European intervention, Hawaii was a flourishing native territory with over 1 million inhabitants. They had a simple economy and lived a simple life. However, the United States saw an opportunity to exploit growing industries in Hawaii such as the sugar cane industry and in just a short amount of time Hawaii’s native population had decreased from 1 million to just over 200,000. Later the United States would control the Hawaiian Islands and grant Hawaii statehood in 1959. On the other side, standard colonization usually does not involve the extreme decimation of native people. One could argue that the colonization of Africa could be seen as a standard form of colonization. The majority of Africa’s population remained African, but colonizers still dominated the territory and exploited African tribes.

Settler colonialism doesn’t have just a profound affect on the population of native peoples, it also has an intense affect on their society. After the annexation of Hawaii, the Hawaiian natives were forced to be reeducated. Indigenous practices were outlawed, white settlers didn’t allow natives to read, write, or even speak in their native tongues. Dr. Karen Leong in the lecture video “Citizen, or Not” speaks about substantive citizenship, a type of citizenship that gives people the “right to be culturally recognized and treated as full members of society.” (Citizen, or Not, Karen Leong). The problem with settler colonialism is that it did not give these rights to native people and people of color. Native Hawaiians were treated as second class people, they were thought of as inferior savages that had to be taught to behave correctly. Native Americans after the colonization of North America were considered dangerous people. Natives that had been colonized by white settlers had their culture taken away and at the same time were excluded from white culture.

Colonization has permitted countries to get ahead while putting other people down. Millions have had their culture taken away by settlers and colonizers, many have been the recipients of racism and hatred from settlers, many more have had their lives taken through this cruel and vicious form of exploitation and expansion. It’s not surprising that many feel uncomfortable talking about colonialism and the destruction it has caused.

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The Development of Colonization and Imperialism in the United States. (2022, May 29). Retrieved July 2, 2022 , from
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