Discussion:
Fwd: Has anyone measured racism in the USA?
(too old to reply)
Greg McDonald
2008-01-28 14:29:38 UTC
Permalink
Perhaps one 'measure' of racism in the United States will be to
observe the results of Obama's multi-ethnic and broad-based
coalition. Will he succeed in winning southern white states without
large black minorities? (Hmm, what states would these be?). Not
that racism does not exist in northern states. It's just more
subtle, not as crude or virulent . Racism crows in the north mainly
through red-lining and ethnic neighborhood settlement patterns.
Anyway, I think the essay below offers a possible schematic for
observing the interplay of race and class during mainstream
political moments.
Greg McDonald
RACE vis-?-vis CLASS IN THE UNITED STATES
Powell, John A
In his groundbreaking 1903 treatise, The Souls of Black Folk,
W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, "for the problem of the Twentieth Century is
the problem of the color-line." A century later, and a full
generation removed from the battles of the Civil Rights era, many
now suggest that class, not race, is the greatest cleavage in
American society. They fear that talk of race and the evils of
racism obscure the more powerful politics of class and divide those
sharing a common economic interest. Such claims hinge upon what is
meant by race and class, and assume that the two are separable,
conceptually and strategically.
In truth, neither race nor class is well understood. Perhaps the
most critical flaw in our formulations of race and class is that
they are assumed to be phenotypical markers or economic locations
ahistorically derived and acontextually applied. Our current
understanding of race and class did not arrive as the culmination
of inevitable objective, historical logic. Race and class acquired
meaning over time and are not comprehensive outside of that
development.
History Lessons
From the American Revolution to the Industrial Revolution and Civil
War, race and class were uncertain markers in a struggle that
ultimately shaped many of the institutional arrangements under
which we live today. Through the ideology of the American
Revolution, the indentured European servant became a free white
laborer while black slavery remained firmly intact and protected by
powerful economic interests and guarded by our Constitution. To
reconcile the love for liberty with the reality of slavery,
Americans adopted an uncomfortable narrative of black inferiority
and racial otherness. These developments ensured that the newly
emergent industrial working class clearly identified as white.
Immigrants arriving in this country forcibly negotiated a color
line protected by law, custom and ideology. The first Immigration
and Naturalization Act, unanimously passed by the first Congress,
restricted immigration to free whites. The ways in which the Irish,
for example, competed for work and adjusted to industrial morality
in America made it all but certain that they would adopt and extend
the politics of white unity. From this nation's inception, the race
line was used to demarcate and patrol the divide between those who
constituted the "We" in "We The People." It was no surprise when in
March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief
Justice Roger B. Taney, declared in the Dred Scott case that all
blacks - slaves as well as free - were not and could never become
citizens of the United States.
Even when freed blacks were brought into the political community
after the Civil War and granted citizenship, a now well-imbedded
narrative of black inferiority and legacy of separation ensured
that whites did not see themselves as having commalities with
blacks. According to economists Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser,
much of the difference between American and European welfare
systems can be explained by racial heterogeneity. In a pattern that
persists today, opponents of welfare programs deploy racialized
narratives to rouse a majority in opposition. In contrast to the
generous Civil War pensions, provisions to the Freedman's Bureau
were short-lived, meager and stigmatizing. Many believed that
welfare provisions to freed slaves were undeserved, and the Bureau
was characterized as an immense bureaucracy whose programs were
likely to make blacks lazy, de pendent and prone to live off of
"handouts." Racism contributed to the undoing of Reconstruction,
but the failure of Reconstruction to secure Blacks' rights as
citizens and free laborers accelerated racism's spread until, by
the early 20th Century, it had fully pervaded the nation's culture
and politics, with profound class consequences, complicating the
efforts of reformers for generations.
Not only were blacks excluded from the bevy of New Deal programs,
race was carefully used to narrow these programs, limit their
applicability and ultimately to reverse their trajectory, to the
detriment of similarly situated whites. New Deal programs could not
survive the Southern voting block unless they were carefully
restricted to leave the region's racial patterns undisturbed. As a
consequence of our racialized past, Americans live with a
comparatively thin social welfare system.
The phenomenal economic growth of the postWWII period was shaped by
the racially inscribed New Deal institutions to produce the
economic reality and new identity of the middle class, from which
blacks were substantially excluded. The racism that influenced the
New Deal programs and excluded blacks institutionalized racial
disparities and imprinted the emergent middle class as white. The
invisibility of the racial imprint on middle-class consciousness
and institutions makes it possible for rejuvenated narratives of
black otherness and unworthiness, conceived in the antebellum
period, to persist, now explained in cultural terms rather than
biology. The narrative of the American Dream -hard work and fair
play - is the primary explanation for social mobility. Race is a
critical part of the construction of class-as-merit. It is this
individualistic ideology that helps to defeat class solidarity.
Today's Tasks
Race is so intimately intertwined with our class understandings
that a politics of class will ultimately be split asunder by the
subterranean use of race. Today, the race issue undergirds messages
on taxes, government spending, poverty, immigration, crime, rights,
values and even urban development. The racial mythology of the
welfare state has become so entrenched in party politics that it
constrains the policy choices for progressive change that would
benefit all Americans, whatever their color or class. Race was
critical to the development of arrangements that prevent class
solidarity and a political movement hostile to helping citizens in
need. American exceptionalism, characterized by a weak labor
movement, a thin social welfare apparatus and a stronger states'
rights institutional framework, cannot be understood without seeing
the role that race has played as our formative institutions were
developed. Class identity and class consciousness itself has been
thoroughly shaped and limited by our racialized arrangements.
Because class is understood as an individual position, it is an
empty vessel for building up a progressive movement. All but the
most destitute and wealthiest Americans consider themselves
middleclass.
As we move toward a majority/minority nation, the need to develop
and sustain multi-racial, multi-class coalitions will become
increasingly important. The challenge is to link - to integrate -
the interests of people of color with those of the white working
and middle classes without losing sight of race. Race and class
inequalities are inextricably linked, and collective solidarity
across races can be achieved only by fleshing out their
intersections, not by ignoring them. The most successful multi-
racial, multi-class progressive movements in the United States
tackled race directly. Multi-racial coalitions were critical to
Abolition movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and even the New
Deal coalition. The key to whether progressive movements will
obtain widespread support or be vulnerable to the negative use of
race, implicitly or explicitly deployed, has been their commitment
to interracial solidarity.
Full: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4081/is_200701/
ai_n18621981/print
Linda Jansen
2008-01-28 17:38:55 UTC
Permalink
*I think the two articles below are a pretty good indication that racism is
alive and well in the U.S., if the education system is any indication. Has
anyone heard any of the candidates address this? Linda*

Jonathan Kozol's "Still Separate, Still Unequal"
http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2005/American-Apartheid-Education1sep05.htm

1997 Harvard Study on "Deepening Segregation in American Public Schools"
http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/1997/04.10/NationalStudyFi.html
Ruthless Critic of All that Exists
2008-01-28 23:19:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Linda Jansen
*I think the two articles below are a pretty good indication that racism is
alive and well in the U.S., if the education system is any indication.
1997 Harvard Study on "Deepening Segregation in American Public Schools"
Some work in complex systems theory suggests, though, that racial
segregation is not necessarily a consequence of racism. For example,

"Schelling's model implied that even the simplest of societies could
produce outcomes that were simultaneously orderly and unintended:
outcomes that were in no sense accidental, but also in no sense
deliberate. "The interplay of individual choices, where unorganized
segregation is concerned, is a complex system with collective results
that bear no close relation to the individual intent," he wrote in
1969. In other words, even in this extremely crude little world,
knowing individuals' intent does not allow you to foresee the social
outcome, and knowing the social outcome does not give you an accurate
picture of individuals' intent. "

<http://www.mywire.com/pubs/TheAtlantic/2002/04/01/377401?page=2>
Mark Lause
2008-01-29 04:00:52 UTC
Permalink
In this area, there's no community control of schools, but how much
funding a school gets depends on the community's tax base. So the
white middle class (suburban, mostly) schools are naturally creating
tremendous segregation in the system and underfunding the black
schools. The institution is set up to allow those with the best
circumstance to plunder those in the worst circumstance. So
institutionalized racism deepens, all in the name of "their children."

ML
Ruthless Critic of All that Exists
2008-01-29 16:12:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark Lause
So
institutionalized racism deepens, all in the name of "their children."
If institutionalized racism is deepening in the USA, why are we not
seeing a downward trend in interracial marriages? Why is there an
upward trend, in fact? This is an anomaly that needs explaining.
Néstor Gorojovsky
2008-01-29 18:06:18 UTC
Permalink
Well, a Marxist should not be astonished at these contradictions.

That's where our hopes lie.

If interracial marriages gather enough momentum, a moment shoudl come
when institutionalized racism can become a social issue. And not to be
solved by "politically correct" language, or by "separate development"
AKA "multiculturalism", but by the destruction of the social bases of
racial segregation...

But I don't know anything about the US of Am. So that just don't give
me too much credit here.
Post by Ruthless Critic of All that Exists
Post by Mark Lause
So
institutionalized racism deepens, all in the name of "their children."
If institutionalized racism is deepening in the USA, why are we not
seeing a downward trend in interracial marriages? Why is there an
upward trend, in fact? This is an anomaly that needs explaining.
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Mark Lause
2008-01-29 21:23:48 UTC
Permalink
There's probably less a contradiction than it seems and always has been.

People can reject the assumptions of white supremacism in overwhelming
numbers and still live under instituions that embed those assumptions
because they are enshrined by long practice and, most importantly,
permit labor to be gotten more cheaply through an established
underclass.

Moreover, to posit a necessary connection between individual views on
race and the institutional weight of racism would be to assume that
the people generally control those institutions and manage what they
do, right?

ML
Greg McDonald
2008-01-30 12:15:11 UTC
Permalink
Nestor wrote:

<If interracial marriages gather enough momentum, a moment shoudl come
when institutionalized racism can become a social issue. And not to be
solved by "politically correct" language, or by "separate development"
AKA "multiculturalism", but by the destruction of the social bases of
racial segregation...>

I second Mark's response. The weight of institutional, or structural
racism, far outweighs people's personal choices regarding marriage or
any number of other personal choices, such as whether or not to vote
for a black candidate.

In terms of the labor market, the ranks of the working underclass is
now being filled primarily by immigrant labor, with black and white
lumpen elements mixed in to some degree. I'm not so sure about the
reserve labor force per se, but it's probably a mix as well. But
since Latino immigrant workers have moved to fill the demand for
cheap labor, we see all the institutional weight reinforcing the
color line and the dual labor market brought to bear to shore up the
situation for the benefit of the employer. Thus we have ICE acting as
modern-day pinkertons in situations where unionizing efforts threaten
to undercut the line of demarcation for the dual labor market. This
is the real threat to the system at the moment. Interesting that ICE
even raided union offices in Hartford just the other day.

One would think that Obama, or his multi-racial coalition, would
begin to address some of these issues. But that would perhaps be too
much to ask for a mainstream candidate. If Obama wins, and the
coalition remains intact, then some real movement could happen, but
it would require quite a bit of pressure from below. It would require
a new civil rights movement taking up where King left off before he
was shot, on the picket line with striking workers trying to forge a
poor people's movement.

Greg McDonald

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