It is perhaps hard for a 21st century audience to believe that ideas concerning race and the superiority of whites over blacks were so strong in our ancestors that they dictated what kind of actions were acceptable by whites towards blacks and whites towards whites. For Armand, he is able to beat his slaves and treat his wife terribly because of (he thinks) their black heritage, which makes them, in his eyes, less than human. It was thought that to have black blood was to make that person inferior to whites which therefore justified their subhuman treatment. However, Chopin, in her surprise ending, suddenly reverses what both the reader and Armand think about Desiree and his own heritage. Note what Armand finds out when he discovers his mother's old letter:
"But above all," she wrote, "night and day, I thank the good God for having so arranged our lives that our dear Armand will never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery."
This sudden reversal of what the reader believes to be true also reveals that race and the terrible racism that derives from this concept is created by men rather than being a biological fact.