About two months ago, following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, I was driven to write what I thought would be a regular newsletter to my small but engaged community of largely white spiritual women on white supremacy, racism, spirituality and the complicity of entrepreneurs who do not speak up on issues of social justice. It was a complete shock and surprise to me when this letter went viral It has now been viewed overtimes at the time of writing this second letter. It has been commented on, shared, criticised, referenced, celebrated, disparaged, upheld, dragged and everything in between. And so have I.
Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise, rev. For more information click here.
We begin with the long history of the British struggle to conquer Ireland and subjugate its people. This structural relation of dominance along with British frustration in the face of stubborn resistance, gave rise to a cultural belief that the Irish were an inferior and savage people, not merely in the organization of their societies, but in their very nature as human beings.
The British came to view the Irish as something like a separate species altogether, possessing inferior traits that were biologically passed from one generation to the next. In this, the British were inventing a concept of race that made it a path of least resistance to see other peoples as subhuman if not nonhuman, making it easier to objectify them and more difficult to feel empathy for them as members of their own kind, both integral to the exertion of control over others.
When the British came to North America, they brought with them both cultural views of race and the expectation of their own position of dominance as a structural feature of any society they might establish.
In the early stages of capitalism, for example, markets were the object of that control as capitalists bought goods in one place and took them to another where they were in scarce supply and could command a higher price than the one originally paid. Later, as capitalists became involved in the production of goods, profit depended more on the ability to control workers and natural resources than on markets — the less the capitalist pays for labor and materials, the more is left over for the capitalist Essays on white privilege keep.
The ecology of North America lent itself to agriculture on a massive scale, and the capitalist demand for land and cheap labor far outstripped the available supply.
Most of the land that was to become the United States was gained through a system of military and political dominance that relied on deceit, broken treaties, and military conquest that included the use of forced migration and genocide, practices that today would be considered crimes against humanity.
Most of the labor was drawn from the population of indentured European servants, Native Americans, and Africans, none of whom were initially held in a state of perpetual slavery.
The structure of the capitalist system, however, and the British cultural predisposition to see themselves as inherently superior as a distinct race of people, combined to lay down a path of least resistance leading in that direction.
Attempts to convert indentured white servants to permanent slavery failed because most were from England and had too strong a sense of their rights as individuals to allow it. It proved equally impractical to enslave Native Americans because they could easily escape and disappear among native populations.
This left black Africans, who were not among their own people in their own land and whose physical features stood out among the rest, leaving them with no place to hide should they manage to run away. They alone were selected for the status of permanent slavery.
Complicating the process, however, was the existence of the sacred cultural texts on which the fledgling U. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with its Bill of Rights clearly contradict practices such as genocide, conquest, forced migration, slavery, the buying and selling of human beings, and the denial of basic rights to dignity, self-determination, and freedom.
Native Americans, whose societies Thomas Jefferson had regarded as equal to those of Europeans — and in some ways superior — were increasingly regarded as socially inferior and doomed either to be absorbed into an English way of life or to disappear altogether.
Unlike Native Americans, however, Africans were held in perpetual bondage extending to their biological descendants, and because of this, the concept of race was carried to an extreme by defining whites as a biologically superior species and blacks as innately inferior and therefore incapable of learning or advancing themselves.
This view, in turn, was used to justify holding blacks in a permanent status of subordination to whites on whom they supposedly were to depend for guidance and discipline. It was a common belief among whites that they were doing Africans a favor by bringing them to live their lives in service to whites as a kind of deliverance from an inferior and savage existence.
Notice, then, how cultural ideas can come into being as a way to justify structural arrangements, and how those same ideas can go on to play a role in shaping other systems in various ways, such as the subordination of Africans and Native Americans when English migrants came to North America to make new lives for themselves.
This kind of interaction among the various characteristics of social systems is basic to understanding how social life happens — everything is connected to and has the potential to affect everything else. Structural patterns of dominance also operate among whites, of course, and the concept of race has played a role in this as well.
At the turn of the twentieth century, for example, when the labor movement was at its peak, unions routinely excluded workers of color. When white unions went on strike to enforce demands for better working conditions, employers often brought in people of color as strikebreakers, hoping white workers would channel their energy and anger into issues of race and away from the reasons that caused them to go on strike in the first place.
Today, similar dynamics operate around issues related to affirmative action and immigration policy. The characteristics of systems produce paths of the least resistance for people to follow, but there is nothing in the nature of those paths that precludes the possibility of people choosing otherwise.
There was overwhelming acquiescence and support for the doctrine of Manifest Destiny and the conquest of new territory and the practice of slavery, but there was also opposition. The abolitionist movement was strong almost from the beginning, for example, and protesters such as Henry David Thoreau were willing to go to prison rather than pay taxes to fund a war against Mexico instigated solely to enlarge the country by taking Mexican land.
People who participate in social systems, in short, are not robots or puppets in relation to them. Most of the choices we make are unconscious, it being in the nature of paths of least resistance to appear to us as the logical, normal thing to do without our having to think about it.
As it turns out, the land he purchased had been taken from the Ho-Chunk Native American tribe several decades earlier even though the federal government had promised to protect their rights to their ancestral homeland. That promise was honored only until white miners showed an interest in rich deposits of lead on Ho-Chunk land and so the United States reneged and called in the Army to force the Ho-Chunk from their land.
From the Ho-Chunk point of view, my grandfather was in receipt of stolen property, but since whites had the power to make and enforce the law, they could also decide what was stolen and what was not, and so he was allowed to purchase the land without a second thought. He went on to be a successful farmer in the midst of the booming U.
When my grandfather died, the farm was sold and my mother and her four siblings each received a share of the proceeds.
And when my parents bought their first house inthey used her modest inheritance for the down payment. They also obtained an affordable mortgage from the Federal Housing Administration set up after World War II to help returning veterans buy their own homes.A pillar of contemporary Leftism is the notion of “white privilege.” Given that a generation of high-school and college students are being taught that a great number of “unearned privileges.
Whiteness studies is an interdisciplinary arena of inquiry that has developed beginning in the United States, particularly since the late 20th century, and is focused on what proponents describe as the cultural, historical and sociological aspects of people identified as white, and the social construction of "whiteness" as an ideology tied to social status.
The British were certainly not the first to believe that they were superior to other groups. What they introduced, which is at the core of the concept of race, is that superiority and inferiority were located in the body itself and passed on through reproduction. Bus Drivers Wanted! If the sound of children's laughter is something you enjoy, please consider a rewarding career driving one of the buses that serves the Appoquinimink School District.
White: Essays on Race and Culture [Richard Dyer] on kaja-net.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. White people are not literally or symbolically white; nor are they uniquely virtuous and pure.
Racial imagery and racial representation are central to the organisation of the contemporary world but. Powerful essay! The Apostle Paul taught us that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. By extension, there is neither black nor white in Christ.