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Wed Apr 24, 2013, 05:17 PM

Uprooting Racism By Paul Kivel

I haven't read the entire book, but this beginning is a great beginning: "Racism is based on the concept of whiteness....a powerful fiction enforced by power and violence." BOOM...there it is, succinct, accurate, and undeniable.

I am always looking for ways to introduce the topic of race here without eliciting the standard knee-jerk responses, so I may post this in GD later.

Racism is based on the concept of whiteness — a powerful fiction enforced by power and violence. Whiteness is a constantly shifting boundary separating those who are entitled to certain benefits from those whose exploitation and vulnerability to violence is justified by their not being white.

Racism itself is a long-standing characteristic of many human societies. For example, justifying exploitation and violence against other peoples because they are inferior or different has a long history within Greek, Roman and European Christian traditions. The beginnings of biological racism go back to the Spanish Inquisition. Trying to root out false Muslim and Jewish converts to Christianity but unable to reliably do so, the courts ruled that anyone with a Jewish or Muslim parent or grandparent was not a Christian. Soon, the courts were ruling that any person with any Muslim or Jewish blood was incapable of being a righteous Christian because they did not have clean blood (limpieza de sangre).1

In more recent historical times in Western Europe, those with English heritage were perceived to be pure white. The Irish, Russians and Spanish were considered darker races, sometimes black and certainly non-white. The white category was slowly extended to include northern and middle European people, but still, less than a century ago, it definitely excluded eastern or southern European peoples such as Italians, Poles, Russians and Greeks. In the last few decades, although there is still prejudice against people from these geographical backgrounds, they have become generally accepted as white in the United States.2

The important distinction in the United States has always been binary — first between those who counted as
Christians and those who were pagans. As historian Winthrop Jordan has written:

Protestant Christianity was an important element in English patriotism …. Christianity was interwoven into [an Englishman’s] conception of his own nationality, and he was therefore inclined to regard the Negroes’ lack of true religion as part of theirs. Being a Christian was not merely a matter of subscribing to certain doctrines; it was a quality inherent in oneself and in one’s society. It was interconnected with all the other attributes of normal and proper men.3


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Reply Uprooting Racism By Paul Kivel (Original post)
noiretextatique Apr 2013 OP
Number23 Apr 2013 #1
JustAnotherGen Apr 2013 #2

Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Wed Apr 24, 2013, 08:09 PM

1. Really interesting post, noire

(And I am so glad to see you post again I don't know what to do with myself. Personally, I've got one foot and three toes off the other out the door here, I'm so incredibly sick of and bored with this place)

The thing is, people have conducted wars and been either the conquered or the defeated for eons. That's nothing new. In the past, slaves were even able to become assimilated into the wider culture.

But the concept of European (particularly English) slavery and supremacy is a whooooole 'nother thing altogether. It's not just "yeah, we won the war" it's "yeah, we won the war and we will now create "science" that supports our inherent physical, intellectual and cultural supremacy, and entwine that with a religion that we will use to support that "supremacy" as we steal from and decimate societies and cultures all over the world." The violence the author mentions is a compelling bit of that "supremacy" and we still see that today with many of the "I loves my guns!!" idiots running around taking AK-47s to the grocery store in order to prove some inane point.

And the ramifications of this are STILL being felt, centuries later. It's in everything from the utter lack of history of non-European cultures being taught in schools, to the systemic racial discrimination that people of color still deal with, to the "light is right" concept that has absolutely blanketed the beauty industry in Western cultures and leached into others. It's as if the conquerors convinced everyone that no other continent, no other group in the world's history has done anything of note, and so everyone but them should be ignored. And everyone has suffered as a result, in my opinion.

If you do post this in GD, let me know and I'll have your back. This site has gone completely to the dogs and this is pretty much the only space for me left in it, but if you do venture out I've got your back.

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Response to Number23 (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 25, 2013, 09:54 AM

2. What Number23 said

Post in GD and I will support -

And I'm chomping at the bit to read this book.

Thanks so much!

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