Sunday, March 13, 2016

Slavery (a Tool of Colonialism) and Whiteness: a Legacy of Brutality

Part 2 of  a 3 part series on Whiteness and colonialism.

[This post is in no way meant to be an exhaustive historical analysis of Slavery and Whiteness.  It is meant to introduce the topic and is meant as a tool for discussion.  Time limitations prohibit me from writing more extensively on this topic.  Thank you for reading.]

Slave Ship packed with slaves as merchandise
Plan of the Slaver Vigilante.  Image source:
"...northern European settlers and traders, such as the English and Dutch, had less prior exposure to sub-Saharan Africans, or to Mediterranean slavery systems. Their laws for establishing chattel slavery formed primarily in the context of the New World, with a heightened economic incentive to secure slavery for plantation agriculture through rigid racial hierarchies."

Slavery and Whiteness

Slavery and Whiteness go together like snow and skiing.  They have always been with us--since the Europeans came to the US and created the notion of Whiteness--that the world was created for the benefit of White people and their allies.  Whiteness helped form the world of slavery in the Americas, slavery formed the basis for the economies of the America, Whiteness and remnants of slavery are embedded in the world and the economies birthed in American slavery. 

Strict systematic racial hierarchies were created and brutally enforced.  And by brutally enforced I mean whipping, torture, dismemberment, rape, burning alive, family separation,  and other forms of intimidation and force were used to maintain the racist social structure created by Slavery and maintained by Jim Crow and now the New Jim Crow.

Slave auction advertisement

Vast numbers of slaves were imported to the Americas as merchandise

1. 1525 First slave voyage direct from Africa to the Americas
2. 1560 Continuous slave trade from Brazil begins
3. 1641 Sugar exports from Eastern Caribbean begin
4.1655 English capture Jamaica
5. 1695 Gold discovered in Minas Gerais (Brazil)
6. 1697 French obtain St Domingue in Treaty of Rywsick
7. 1756 Seven years war begins
8. 1776 American Revolutionary War begins
9.1789 Bourbon reforms open Spanish colonial ports to slaves
10. 1791 St Domingue revolution begins
11. 1808 Abolition of British and US slave trades takes effect
12. 1830 Anglo-Brazilian anti-slave trade treaty
13. 1850 Brazil suppresses slave trade
14. 1886 Last reported transatlantic slave voyage arrives in Brasil

            In the US, slave owners often treated lighter colored slaves better.  This privilege and other social, educational and economic privileges based on color and an adherence to the standards of Whiteness are still in full effect today and are embedded in ALL us organizational structures.  Those who reinforce the standards, values and systems of Whiteness are rewarded.  These concepts apply to all people of color, not just black people.  The darker the adherent, the more valuable they are to the system.  This is another example where the individual example becomes equated with the systemic examples.  There is a constant logical error when one does this and it leads to false conclusions.  "But professor X is Black. so racism can't be that bad!"  Or some such nonsense will be spouted by adherents to this logical error.
"In his controversial study of the black bourgeoisie, E. Franklin Frazier (195 7a) argued that mulattoes, blacks with white progenitors, led a more privileged existence when compared with their "pure black" counterparts. During slavery, these fair-skinned blacks were at times emancipated by their white fathers. After slavery, their kinship ties to whites gave them an advantage over other blacks in obtaining education, higher-status occupations, and property. Because "the majority of prominent Negroes, who were themselves mulattoes, married mulattoes" (Frazier 1957a, p. 257), light-complexioned blacks passed advantages on to their light children. This process of advantage maintenance by mulattoes lasted well into the 20th century (Landry 1987). So one's position in the community ultimately reflected the amounts of "white blood" in his or her ancestry, and patterns of stratification in the black community included considerations of skin tone."Keith, V. M., & Herring, C. (1991). Skin tone and stratification in the Black community. American journal of sociology, 760-778.
Don't be fooled--brutality was the order of the day. 
            Privilege based on skin color also carried over to the Black community after slavery.  Whites and oftentimes other Blacks treated lighter skinned blacks than their darker counterparts.  Those who adhered to the system of Whiteness were rewarded, as much as their status allowed them to be rewarded, those that didn't were lynched, or imprisoned or otherwise excluded from mainstream (White) society.  Not only did this impact the former slave populations, but it impacted Indigenous and Latino and other people of color.  Those who were lighter skinned and who looked White received greater privileges and were more readily accepted.   This pattern is repeated in contemporary society via the New Jim Crow.  Those POC who don't adhere to Whiteness are disenfranchised and ostracized from mainstream US society.  Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. The New Press.  These people can be killed or beaten at any time as we have witnessed day in and day out.
"...the dominant white society had historically extended social and economic privileges, not available to darker blacks, to light-skinned blacks. Over successive generations these advantages had been cumulative so that the most successful blacks were disproportionately lighter in complexion. " Keith, V. M., & Herring, C. (1991). Skin tone and stratification in the Black community. American journal of sociology, 760-778.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Privilege and Whiteness

Whiteness is often championed by POC in defense of their positions in a culture that benefits those who adhere with Whiteness.   This can be conscious or unconscious on the part of said POC.  POC in leadership positions often behave in puzzling manners to the general population POC.  They believe in the concepts of Whiteness unconsciously (in most cases)--that they got to where they are because THEY deserve it--that if other POC worked as hard as them that they would advance as well--that Whiteness is not the problem...
"In defining whiteness, we want to start by saying that we do not directly equate whiteness with white skin. Indeed, people of color sometimes perpetuate whiteness because they may receive benefits if they serve as role models of color perpetuating whiteness (Delgado, 2009). Yet, any benefits received by people of color are always exceeded by those received by whites in alignment with Bell’s Critical Race Theory (CRT) of interest convergence (1980). "  Nishi, N. W., Matias, C. E., Montoya, R., & Sarcedo, G. L. (2016). Whiteness FAQ: Responses and Tools for Confronting College Classroom Questions.Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis5(1), 4.
Hypocrite Bill Cosby
Most often POC who break the rules of the White supremacist stratified society are vilified by their own kind.  Bill Cosby's attack against Hip-hop is a good example of this kind of house slave attack against those who don't adhere to the rules of the racist society they are forced to deal with everyday.  The society that treats them like criminals--even in preschool and elementary school.  POC are criminalized in the world of Whiteness.  Anyone who is not white is suspect.  The darker the person, the more suspect they are.  This not only holds with Black people--this is how all POC are looked upon by the general White society and those who uphold this society's views.  
"For example, social actors were involved in constructing laws, rules, and regulations that created structured social relations during Slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights eras. Both black and white people, both enslaved and free people understood the racial rules that ordered their day-to-day routines in everyday life. Across time and space, racial routines in social interaction became institutionalized practices that ensured social distance and geographical separation between black and white population groups. The duality of structure concept suggests that, “people in interaction use the rules and resources that constitute social structure in their day-to-day routines in contexts of co-presence, and in so doing, they reproduce these rules and resources of structure."  Guess, T. J. (2006). The social construction of whiteness: Racism by intent, racism by consequence. Critical Sociology, 32(4), 649-673.

Paul's Boutique could not be made today.
The rules of copyright for instance--the White rules of copyright prohibit the free production of art that characterized early Hip-hop.  Hip-hop has adapted, but this attack and resultant change in Hip-hop music production is a good example of an attack by Whiteness on culture created by POC.  The educational system is full of rules and regulations and punishments that make it nearly impossible for many POC to succeed academically--which is directly related to economic success and "criminality."  Capitalist gangster rap also reinforces Whiteness.  This type of music reinforces the myths of Whiteness:  self-made men, rugged individualism, self-defense against POC and that money is the meaning of life.  These myths serve to keep POC divided, self-loathing and sexist to the extreme.  Whiteness is embedded in almost every aspect of US culture.  It co-opts cultural creations like hip-hop, rock n roll, jazz and anything else it encounters. 
Hip-hop has been used and abused to reinforce Whiteness
Up until very recently, not looking away from a White person, or staring a White person in the eye was grounds for lynching in the south.   This is a form of brutality that enforces Whiteness physically.  There are, however so many forces that are just as brutal that are not physical.  For instance, teachers charging that a student is upsetting the class with their behavior, that they are combative and do not obey the rules, that they are a bad student.  The student I am speaking of here is in preschool.  This is the beginning of the prison to pipeline route of the New Jim Crow (which seeks to disenfranchise by imposing criminality on POC and poor White people).  Where a White student might be looked at as inquisitive, free thinking, or rambunctious, a POC student is most often looked at as a troublemaker, a rebel or a delinquent.  What am I talking about--this is STILL grounds for lynching--not just in the south,  but nationwide.

Mike Brown, contemporary lynching
Whiteness has rules that must be maintained.  These rules have everything to do with slavery.

As a person of color, one may not:

Be arrested

Question any sort of systematic abuse

Be poor

Dress Casually

Think for themselves

Disbelieve in Whiteness and the rules of Whiteness

Be confident around White people

Be a thinker, academic, nor other type of philosopher

Be a practitioner of self-defense

Describe Whiteness in detail to White people


ramontrane said...

Very important topic to generate discussion, especially nowadays with the racism explicitly shown by a large sector of the white (entitled, and republican and liberal)population and also smaller sectors of some of the emergent majorities (some Latinos and Asians in position of power).
Thank you for sharing this article. Just one correction, the abolition of slavery in Brasil was the last one in America, in 1886.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Max. A lot of us liked to believe that 'things are getting better' and, lucky us -- we don't have to do anything to make it happen! It's just ... getting better. But it isn't. Racism is just evolving. For white people the rules haven't been tools of white supremacy. They're just the rules. My sense is that it's getting harder and harder for whites to look away because of the videos of unarmed black people gunned down by white cops, articles like this one, books like The New Jim Crow and the spectacle of arenas full of white people giving Trump the Nazi salute. I hope so.


How to solve the illegal immigration problem