Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Check Up from the Neck Up

Curious how white supremacists could arrive at such an extreme position?

I've often wondered why the racial tensions I see in the west are perhaps less severe and expressed differently in other cultures. 

We have an odd history of stumbling along a perhaps different path. Among the colonists who landed in the west were those who weren't looking for a place to live, they were looking to be an extension of the empire, conquering and getting wealthy. When the indigenous folks declined to become their labor force, the elites discovered that they hadn't a clue how to survive, and most of the colonists died.  They didn't have the skills.  Only about 50 lived through the winter of 1609-10 from the original hundreds. 

British merchants began supplying labor from Europe and Africa; teenagers indentured and/or kidnapped and sold for labor as servants (slaves). After a couple of decades, the 'servants' outnumbered the elites by as much as 100 to 1.  It was volatile, and the 'servants' began to organize, to arm, and to revolt. Virginia history documents ten organized rebellions by mixed groups (African, European, other), ending with Bacon's Rebellion in 1676.  The rebels burned the capitol city of Jamestown to the ground, and chased the governor out of town.  They demanded pay and land for their labor.  The elites called in the army and crushed the rebellion; it was the last such major uprising.

Perhaps as an effort to divide and conquer, the laws that followed drew a line between black and white. Black servants were to be slaves for life as were any children born to them, and they were not allowed to marry. Whites were to perhaps be eventually freed from indenture, although many never were. Black free persons were severely constrained. More laws (the slave codes) followed, widening the gap between black and white and laying the legal foundation for today's racism, both subtle and extreme.

How it works:

There's perhaps a common thread in race-based conflict and in a class-conscious culture.[a]  It's our focus on our differences, the deliberate formalization of differences rather than common humanity and mutual assimilation, something perhaps more easily observed elsewhere in the world.[b] 

The media makes it difficult with inflammatory retelling of the alt-right meeting in D.C., as though those 200 men were somehow newsworthy.  You have to wonder if there isn't a more thoughtful response we might make as individuals and as a nation.  The media is a disappointment.[c]  It's a good opportunity for the church.  The key is not our differences, of course.

 [a] The capitalist system ultimately commodifies all workers – one’s own person becomes a commodity that one must sell in the labor market while the profits of one’s work are taken by someone else.  To keep this capitalist system in place… the logic of slavery applies a racial hierarchy to this system.  This racial hierarchy tells people that as long as you are not black, you have the opportunity to escape the commodification of capitalism.  This helps people who are not black to accept their lot in life, because they can feel that at least they are not at the very bottom of the racial hierarchy – at least they are not property; at least they are not slaveable. -Andrea Smith

 [b] Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are among the least racist countries in the world with large percentages of foreign origin, little if any discrimination, and effective community, assimilation.

[c]The millions of Muslims who oppose ISIS aren't mentioned in the news, of course, nor is the fact that the primary ISIS target is other Muslims.  (In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years.)