Race And Racism: A Historical Look (9 of 15)

(If you want to read the full version you can go HERE,)

Race Now Becomes An Issue

Let me go back to my 3/3rds view of society. The bottom third are people who are working class blokes uninterested in politics, sociology, philosophy mostly because they are too busy working for a living, not that they can’t be both interested in such things and understand issues, they just don’t have a lot of time to think about it. The middle box of people are more free to think about such things because they’ve had more economic success in life that gives them time to think and so some are involved with what the upper box is thinking and acting on it. The top box is made up of intellectual, ideologues, elitists who believe it is their role and right to think for society and make decisions about society. Some of these ideologues have become radicalized in their thinking and philosophizing and while they don’t represent certainly the bottom tier of people, and some of the middle tier, they are the influencers of policy that affects every person in their respective nation, and through their writings other nations, as well.

It’s important to understand this because we are dealing here with “some”, not “all”, and in our (the U.S. in particular) zeal of outrage we misconstrue issues of concern in terms of “all”, not “some”. The men I’m looking at in Europe represented some of the intellectuals, aristocrats, and elitists in Europe, and while they would have some influence on policies what they believed and taught only represented a minority in their societies. They are hung up on the “idea” of decline ignoring the progress going on in their respective societies. They don’t represent all of their societies but the top tier does influence and make the rules.

The mythical Aryan race, like the mythical continent of Atlantis, is the promise of perfect people creating a perfect society. In particular the German intellectuals believed they were the inheritors of this Aryan race. But like the healthy guy going to the doctor for an annual checkup has a heart attack along the way, this perfect race succumbed to decline just as every people had. When they became the Germanic people they carried with them their flaws that became German flaws, and all of European’s flaws. But their foundation of perfect being was always there, it just needed cleaning up and we would know what a perfect people and perfect society looked like.

So what was their downfall? It was that they let others outside themselves into their society. The mythical Aryan people let others not Aryan into their society and those people diluted and duped the Aryans into thinking impure thoughts and creating impure ways of living that dirtied their pure Aryan nature. Ah, said the German and French, and to an extent the English, we let the “them” into the “us” and they changed “us”. What we had built would have been perfect if not for the foreigners. As Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “all culture, art, and civilization were the achievements of the culture-bearing Aryan race, . . . all great cultures of the past perished only because the original creative race died out from blood pollution.”

So the “them” wasn’t limited for the Germans to blacks and browns, it was Jews, Christians that didn’t accept the ideology of the State, those mentally ill and disabled. Herman writes about this: “The progenitors of civilization were emphatically and exclusively white Europeans, and specifically German.” But again, race didn’t mean just skin color. “Belonging to a race meant having ‘a special way of thinking and feeling.”

Here is another ideologue muddying the waters, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, a British-born German philosopher who wrote works about political philosophy and natural science; he is described by Michael D. Biddiss, a contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, as a “racialist writer”. One of Chamberlain’s contributions on this subject is: “we have the right and the duty to take—without unfriendliness—strenuous measures against such a dangerous alien.” The “without unfriendliness” is like saying this isn’t personal, just business, then you are shot in the head. Either way you’re dead.

Another member of top tier society, and in his mind an elitist, stands Cesare Lombroso, an Italian criminologist, scientific racist, physician, and founder of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology. It’s not uncommon for scientists to study the brains of serial killers looking for the “why” they were pathological killers, that thing that distinguished them from those who didn’t kill. Lombroso was in the middle 1800s the precursor to that, though it wasn’t the brain only that interested him, it was the whole body believing he found distinguishing differences in killers as opposed to non-killers. In his book written in 1871, The White Man And The Colored Man, he moved into sociological and philosophical conclusions from his work and wrote this:

“How can we distinguish these savages in our midst? Lombroso pointed to certain physical signs or ‘stimata’ that revealed to the trained observer the atavism of the born criminal [to] include a low, sloping forehead; hard, shifty eyes, large, handle-shaped ears; a flattened or upturned nose and a forward projection of the jaw.” (Herman, The Idea of Decline.)

If, at least in their minds, God created the African (or Oriental for that matter) evil it had to do with forces of historical development. “Modern civilized man stood at the point of intersection between two inexorable evolutionary processes; his biological ascent from the apes, and his progress as a social being from barbarism to civility.” (Herman.) The African could, though they didn’t, improve all men’s ascent from the apes into civility. They got stuck in savagery. Primitive.

Coming To America

I’ve looked at in this study members of the intellectual class in different Western societies who thought themselves elites, above the common man, and therefore knew what the common man needed because they didn’t really know for themselves, and who supposedly understood the reasons why their societies were in decline. This intellectualized literature I’ve covered in the past few pages wasn’t the reasons why nations like England, France, and Germany colonized Africa, and the English and French added to their empires India, Asia, and parts of China (Hong Kong). It mostly was, as we saw, really an economic cause, because the less technologically advanced nations were easier to takeover for that reason. And again, in slave trading it wasn’t because Africans were black that they were so subject to being taken into slavery, but were easy targets. Note that while the Portuguese and the English captured Africans making them slaves in their enterprise to make money, primarily they didn’t keep them as slaves in their nations, and England was one of the first people to stop slavery. To make it all about being black, the reason for taking and keeping them slaves, is to mischaracterize what was happening. It was never all subsumed under “color racism.” As time went on it did play a bigger reason.

Africans were first brought to the English attempt at establishing colonies in the New World in the settlement known as Jamestown. They came not as slaves but as indentured servants. Slavery has been a practice almost from the beginning of time and has nothing to do with racism. While it is a historical practice it was not everywhere accepted as moral. A way was found around that which was more morally acceptable, indentured servitude. We read this from Encyclopedia Virginia:

“Indentured servants were men and women who signed a contract (also known as an indenture or a covenant) by which they agreed to work for a certain number of years in exchange for transportation to Virginia and, once they arrived, food, clothing, and shelter. Adults usually served for four to seven years and children sometimes for much longer, with most working in the colony’s tobacco fields. With a long history in England, indentured servitude became, during most of the seventeenth century, the primary means by which Virginia planters filled their nearly inexhaustible need for labor. . . By the end of the seventeenth century, the number of new servants in Virginia had dwindled, and the colony’s labor needs were largely met by enslaved Africans.

“Servitude had a long history in England, dating back to medieval serfdom. The Ordinance of Labourers, passed in June 1349, declared that all men and women under the age of sixty who did not practice a craft must serve anyone requiring their labor. Parliament updated the law in 1495 and 1563, with the latter version, the Statute of Artificers, still being in effect when the English founded Jamestown.”

Many of the Irish immigrants were brought to the colonies as indentured servants. The practice of indentured servitude and slavery was well known to the English settlers, both in Jamestown, and those who later came and successfully settled the New World. Having grown up for part of my childhood on a peach ranch and worked through high school in farm related jobs I know how labor intensive farming is. Even today when human labor has been given to machines there is still much of harvesting that can only be done by people.