Thursday, January 21, 2016

Why US big business prefers the term White Privilege to Racial Discrimation

 Because it helps them to divide and rule.

“The whole system of separation and subordination rested on official state terror. The exigencies of the situation required men to kill some white people to keep them white and to kill many blacks to keep them black.  In the North and South, men and women were maimed, tortured, and murdered in a comprehensive campaign of mass conditioning. The severed heads of black and white rebels were impaled on poles along the road as warnings to black people and white people, and opponents of the status quo were starved to death in chains and roasted slowly over open fires.  Some rebels were branded others were castrated. The exemplary cruelty, which was carried out as a deliberate process of mass education, was an inherent part of the new system.”  Lerone Bennett The Shaping of Black America Chapter 3 p 74 Johnson Publishing Company Chicago, 1975

Blocking the Bay Bridge. What's Next?
b y Richard Mellor
Local 444, retired

I commented on Monday’s blockade of the Oakland San Francisco Bay Bridge that made the rounds of the mainstream local news stations, those media outlets that are owned, controlled, and represent the interests of the US ruling class.  Any person or activist group that has a basic understanding of what we are up against in our struggle against capitalism and the rule of the 1% is aware that when you talk to these news agencies you are talking to the enemy and should be on your guard.

My local Fox News station interviewed one of the organizers/leaders of the protest and within 5 seconds it was clear why she was chosen, the US ruling class is not stupid enough to look a gift horse in the mouth. The snippet, or teaser before the ad, you know, the “we’ll be right back” clip, was a classic introductory sentence, the racist US ruling class couldn’t have scripted it better, “I get that being stuck on the bridge for an hour is an inconvenience but what’s really an inconvenience is hundreds of years of white supremacy.”

Oh well, that said it all. I decided it was time to go to bed rather than subject myself to this. It was not going to get any better, for Rupert Murdoch and the white racist bosses, yes, for workers’ and the struggle against racism and capitalism, no. It could have been an isolated statement taken out of context for propaganda purposes as the mouthpieces of the 1% are good at that, it’s their job after all.  I’ll check it out in the morning and share my thoughts later.

Well, here I am. I had a look at the rest of the interview the next morning and I was right. There was nothing in what this woman said that was aimed at the thousands of working class people whose daily lives were disrupted by their actions.  Not an inkling of any orientation to workers at all.  As for the term white supremacy, which is the philosophy of the US ruling class, it has become so fashionable among white liberals and privileged leftists that even the Ford Foundation, a bastion of white supremacy, is organizing conferences on it. See here.

It’s no wonder the newscaster praised the woman for her comments and explaining her reasons for the disruption. It was too good to be true.  There is no doubt that the philosophy of the supremacy of the “white race” is the ideology of the dominant European white skinned ruling class and it has been adopted by many working class whites to their own detriment, but the basis for that has been severely weakened and to use this term devoid of class content, without pointing to the ideological origins of it, does not serve the interests of either black or white workers. I am European and have white skin but until I came to the US I never identified it as my race, whatever that means.

While I believe very few honest white workers would deny that being white has its advantages in society it is not likely some white worker sitting in the traffic Jam having to get to their $12 an hour job considers the term really applicable to him or her, or even better paid workers who are hanging on by a thread. In Ireland, religion played this role and it was the Catholics that got this treatment as a colonized people as they are the same color as the colonizers. West Virginia is a basket case, in a state of extreme depression where unemployment, drug addiction and poverty are rife. Approaching these victims of capitalism with accusations of white supremacy, as if there are no class divisions within this group will simply not get an echo. If one accepts as some do, that the white working class is lost as an ally I suppose that it doesn’t matter---I think that is a mistaken viewpoint. though I certainly can’t fault some black folks for coming to that conclusion.

There were probably many people angry at the disruption, not simply white workers.  The disruption didn’t affect the people who really profit from the white supremacy philosophy and who are in fact its incubator. They don’t go back and forth across the Bay Bridge every day except by helicopter. If were going take an action like this, there has to be appeals made to those workers whose lives are inconvenienced, no matter what their background. The struggle against racism must be linked to all forms of discrimination and exploitation. This does not mean that we lessen or ignore the brutality of US history as far as people of African descent are concerned.

But the truth is that the woman/group that addressed the white supremacists’ news media had no intention at all of appealing to those whose lives were disrupted by the closure. Uniting the working class is not part of her agenda.  She is always “planning for black liberation” she told Murdoch’s news agency and what she means by that is the black petty bourgeois, the black capitalist class.  She is not interested in ridding ourselves of the system that perpetuates racism and white supremacy; in fact she never mentioned it, unless it was censored. Most likely she wants more opportunity for black capitalism within it.  A major force in society that could offer a working class alternative is absent as the trade union officialdom says and does next to nothing in the face of the continuing effects of institutionalized racism.  Many black folks have also drawn the conclusion that the white working class is lost as an ally. I don’t accept that.

Malcolm X made it very clear when he said, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.” and I believe he was right. Eliminating capitalism is the only path to ending racism and class unity is a prerequisite for that. There is no doubt that white workers have a special responsibility here too, but activists and socialists in particular can play an important role.

I am not saying in any way that whites have not bought in to the white privilege view to varying degrees. But in the 40 years I have been in this country, the white worker has been savaged.  The white racist ruling class has not been able to offer the same perks they could in the past. The workplaces are far more integrated and class consciousness is stronger there among white and black workers. The only black worker that I ever heard use the term “white supremacy” in my workplace is now a boss.  His protestations had a different purpose, to advance his interests as an individual, not the interests of the black working class as a whole.

The US ruling class was not threatened at all by this action that blocked the bridge which is why their news media gave the organizers of it so much air time and why they praised their explanation for it. One can argue over the effectiveness of a particular action or disagree with the politics and goals of the organizers while respecting their courage and the righteousness of their cause.

We can see how the origins of the white supremacist ideology was created by the ruling class in this country as a means of undermining working class unity and of maintaining its control and exploitation of both groups.  The concept of “white” as a race definition was not used until the 1690’s, after Bacon’s Rebellion, in order to overcome the class unity that existed and that naturally develops between those whose lot it is to do the dirty work. Prof.  Jeffrey B Perry has some useful information on these developments here.

White Supremacy is a ruling class ideology.
Almost two centuries after Bacon’s rebellion, Andrew Johnson, a man from humble beginnings who
came to represent the interests of the rising US bourgeois as President after the American Civil War, what in reality was the second half of the bourgeois revolution in the US, made it very clear what sort of society was being built and on what foundations. In his 1867 annual message to the Congress he stated, that blacks possessed less “capacity for government than any other race of people. No independent government of any form has ever been successful in their hands. On the contrary, where ever they have been left to their own devices they have shown a constant tendency to relapse in to barbarism.”

Johnson told California Senator John Connes two years earlier that “White men alone must manage the South. *

We should also not forget that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation didn’t include half a million or so slaves in the North and he supported the hanging of John Brown.

There were many genuine northerners and military people who supported equal rights and universal suffrage for freed slaves after the war. Colonel Samuel Thomas who was the director of the Freedmen’s Bureau in Mississippi described the problems he faced and his understanding of the influence of the white supremacist ideology in the South:

White public opinion could not “Conceive of the negro having any rights at all…. …..Men, who are honorable in their dealings with their white neighbors, will cheat a negro without feeling a twinge of their honor; to kill a negro they do not deem murder; to debauch a negro woman they do not think fornication; to take property away from a negro they do not deem robbery….They still have the ingrained feeling that the black people at large belong to the whites at large.” **

When Charlie Daniels whines about Southern Heritage is this what he is referring to when he defends the flag of the Confederacy? And white workers need to be conscious that most black people understand this history simply through experience, just like Irish Americans have a view of the British brought to them from parents and grandparents who emigrated here to escape famine. Personal relations and marriage between black and white Americans is much more common now but up until recently, the existence of many light skinned persons of African descent was the product of legalized rape. Black folks don’t need to learn that at school, I'm sure it exists deep in their mass consciousness.

The white ruling class in the US will always use racism to divide the workers' movement. They will always play the “race” card. But the privileges are not so easily come by as society has changed somewhat. The white racist capitalists that own the mass media got some help the other night.  It’s a good lesson for all of us to remember that when we’re talking to these people via their media, we’re talking to the enemy.

As far as the Black Lives Matter movement, I wrote previously on why I think this is an appropriate slogan in the wake of the almost daily state sponsored murder and killings of black people. But there is arising in the universities a whiteness movement as an alternative. This is a damaging process that sets European workers apart from workers of color and is harmful to our economic and material welfare. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, those that appeal more directly to us for racial unity on the basis of our white skin are not our friends.  White and black are skin tones not races.  That the US ruling class created them as such is a concept we must abandon if we are to survive.Class unity is paramount.

* Quoted in: Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution, Eric Foner p180
** Ibid, page 150

1 comment:

George Fish said...

Tremendous! I agree 100%, solid analysis. A little conspiracist, yes, because I think a lot of history happens by blunder & chance, not by nefarious planning beforehand, but strong and accurate. I know I take personal offense as a $12/hr. white worker in Indianapolis feeling lucky to finally have a union job after 14 yrs. of only temp agency work (inc. work in the brutal Amazon warehouses. Black people lack much that we whites consider normal, but that's just what we need to give to all workers of all races and colors, not fight invidiously over "privileges" that don't really exist. As Bernie Sanders pointedly noted, the wages of "white privilege" are not even worth counting, they are so paltry, & only "psychological," i.e. illusory sense of supremacy, of somehow being 'connected" to the Trumps & the Kochs because of skin color, but when layoffs come, the Ttrumps and the Kochs won't give a fig.