Monday, October 16, 2017

The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class - A Review

On Roediger's Wages of Whiteness

A Review by Theodore W. Allen (

1. David Roediger's Wages of Whiteness -- a psycho-cultural investigation of the development of "white" identity among European-American workers in the North during the ante-bellum period -- was originally published in 1991, and was republished as a revised edition in 1999. The revision consisted entirely of a five-page "Afterword"; the book otherwise remained unchanged. Roediger divides his book into four parts. In Part I, in Chapter 1, Roediger sets forth the conceptual approach to his subject, posing a set of questions of key importance that he has found Marxist labor historians to have ignored, or neglected, or misconceived: 1) "the role of race in defining how white workers look not only at Blacks but at themselves"; 2) "the pervasiveness of race"; 3) "the complex mixture of hate, sadness and longing in the racist thought of white workers"; 4) the relationship between race and ethnicity." "Marxism as presently theorized," he says, does not help us focus on "why so many workers define themselves as white." He classifies Marxist and presumably Marx-influenced writings into two categories, the "traditional Marxists," who are distinguished by their emphasis on class, combined with a subordination of "race;" and the "neo-Marxists," who subscribe to the perspectives of E. P. Thompson in Britain and Herbert Gutman in the United States, whom he credits with opening the way for the emergence of "a new labor history," particularly by "call[ing] into question any theory that holds that racism simply trickles down the class structure from the commanding heights at which it is created." A set of "new labor historians" has emerged who are awake to the viciousness of "whiteness" in the labor movement. These new historians take the working class as a self-motivated agency of history, says Roediger, but their works are flawed by a "tendency to romanticize members of the white working class, by not posing the problem of why they came to consider themselves white. David takes on the task of correcting this error by his thesis that white supremacism was "in part" a creation of the European-American workers, in the early nineteenth century. Chapter two, referring to the Anglo-American colonial period, speaks of "The Prehistory of the White Worker."

2. Part II introduces white identity in "the language of class," wherein the European-American artisans responded to the threat of extinction by capitalist enterprise by an appeal to a "whites-only" republicanism. Part III relates the growing industrialization to the development of a "white" culture, the emergence of "whiteness." Unskilled European immigrant peasant recruits, resentful of the routine discipline of industrial employment, consoled themselves with the social distinction of being free and citizens. Special attention is given to laboring-class Irish-Americans who, the author says, combined their political and economic motives with an "unthinking decision" rooted in repressed sexual fantasies which they projected onto their image of African-Americans. Part IV argues that in the Civil War and Post-Emancipation periods there was a degree of moderation of "white" workers' "tendency to equate Blackness with servility." In the end, however, European-Americans were still governed by "fears" of equality and of "sexual amalgamation." The Black workers had much to contribute to the development of a labor movement, and the struggle for the eight-hour day in particular, but "the gift was spurned by white labor."

3. In his "Afterword" to the second edition, Roediger, with exemplary professional courage and integrity, acknowledges errors committed in the original edition. Some unspecified sections of the first edition, he notes, were "embarrassingly thin." He refers to "many shortcomings," for which he presumes others will be able to make amends without much difficulty. But there is one, major, error that he "sharply regrets," and for which he foresees no simple and easy amendment. That error, he says, was his acceptance of "the dominant assumption...[,] the unexamined and indefensible notion that white males were somehow 'the American working class.'" Reflecting on this "flat mistake," he recalls that he himself had expressed a contrary view. He frankly attributes the error to the effect of his "White Blindspot." This political disability, he goes on to say, incidentally caused the tone of the book to be unduly pessimistic.

4. He takes note of favorable commentaries on his book by Dana Frank and by Staughton Lynd. Both of these reviewers, however, suggest that Roediger's treatment of the complicity of European-American working people in white supremacism, may, contrary to the author's intentions, encourage an abandonment of faith in labor becoming "a powerful agent for social change." Frank tells of her students who, after reading Wages, found that it offered little hope for labor's cause because, they said, "white working people have so consistently and inevitably acted on their racial interests." Frank's misgivings were shared by nearly all reviewers. In addition to the comments of Frank and Lynd, Roediger lists seventeen other reviews. With the exception of the two that I have not yet seen, I have read them all carefully, as well as four that were not listed there. While all but one were sympathetic to Roediger's argument, a frequent conclusion was that Roediger had posed a problem but left no hope for its solution. It would seem that Roediger's reaction to Dana Frank's review should have been reinforced by the tone of these reviews. Although Frank had defended Roediger against her students' despairing interpretation of his work, Roediger is compelled to note that "the fact that it requires such a defense is telling."

5. The "Afterword," be it noted, makes no attempt to explore the possibility of relationships among three major points in David's reexamination of the work. First, how does he explain the lapse that led him to marginalize the Black workers in his concept of "the American working class"? What were the influences and the subjective factors that caused him to make this "flat mistake"? In finding the answer or answers to that question, perhaps David would save himself and others from repeating that lapse. Secondly, what relation may there be between his acknowledged white blind-spot and the consensus among sympathetic critics regarding what Roediger, himself, now calls the "unduly pessimistic" tone of the work? Thirdly, David attaches great importance to the prospect that the increasing proportion of women in the labor force will be a major factor in the struggle against white supremacism. But neither in the Afterword nor in the book proper does David seek to discuss the relationship between the struggle against male supremacism and white supremacism.

6. In the second paragraph of the Afterword, David says frankly that his book "was designed as a provocation," and he generally encourages what his critical readers may offer by way of "elaboration, challenge and correction." This essay is intended as an equally frank and generous spirit.


7. As I started reading David's book, I presumed that as a historian, he was concerned with the degree to which, in E. P. Thompson's phrase, "the working people's consciousness of their interests and of their predicament as a class" has been expressed by European-American workers generally. For a century and more now, general historians, as well as labor and socialist specialists, have sought to explain the disparity of manifestations of class consciousness of workers in the United States, and the level of such manifestations by workers in other industrial countries. This is the abiding problem of American labor history, the problem of the "American exception" to the general pattern of development of class struggle typical of capitalist countries, and the relatively low level of class consciousness in this country. The implicit question concerned the extent to which Marx's theory of class struggle as the driving force of history was valid for the United States -- the subject that has been called "American Exceptionalism."

8. Students of the subject -- such as Frederick Engels, co-founder of the very theory of proletarian revolution; Frederick A. Sorge, main correspondent of Marx and Engels in the United States, and long-time active participant in the United States labor and socialist movements; Richard T. Ely, Christian Socialist and author of the first attempt at a general United States labor history, in 1886; Morris Hillquit, founder and leading figure of the Socialist Party for more than two deades; Werner Sombart, German investigator of the United States political system; John R. Commons, with his associates, compiler of a multi-volume documentary history of the labor movement in the United States; Selig Perlman, one of the original Commons associates, and later author of A Theory of the Labor Movement; William Z. Foster, trade union organizer and leader of the Communist Party; Mary Beard, a labor and general historian; Charles A. Beard, Frederick Jackson Turner, Allan Nevins and Henry Steel Commager have all commented on this question, this peculiarity of United States history, and they have produced and reproduced a classical consensus on this subject.

9. According to the consensus, the relative absence of manifestations of class conscious American labor is to be ascribed to six peculiar factors of United States historical development: 1) the existence, from the very founding of the state, of the right to vote and other democratic liberties; 2) the heterogeneity of composition of the United States working class, a conglomeration of many tongues and kindreds; 3) the "safety valve" for social discontent provided by the availability of homesteading opportunities in the West; 4) the relatively greater access to social mobility in America; 5) the relative shortage of labor, resulting in a higher level of wages as compared with that prevailing in other countries; 6) the historic precedence of the trade union over the labor party in the United States, as contrasted to continental Europe, a condition facilitating the openly anti-socialist anti-labor party policies of the dominant corrupt "aristocracy of labor" within the working class movement.

10. Whatever incidental insights into our history may be provided by the various arguments advanced in this rationale for the low level of class consciousness of American workers, they are all flawed by the failure to consider this rationale in the context of the historically omnipresent factor of white supremacism in United States history. That white blindspot, which is inherent in the doctrine of American Exceptionalism, has historically frustrated the search for an explanation for the degree of class consciousness with which European-American workers have perceived, and still do perceive, their class interests as workers.

11. It would seem that David might have found American Exceptionalism's historiographical tradition of white blindness relevant to his purpose of correcting the tendency of "new labor historians" who fail to pose the problem of why "members of the white working class came to consider themselves white." Yet he ignores it. A close reading of the book reveals why.

12. For one thing, as a disciple of Herbert Gutman, Roediger proceeds on the assumption of parallels, rather than contrasts, between the development of the consciousness of the English working class in the late 18th and the early 19th century, and United States labor history in the 1812-1860 period, even though he believes that adjustments need to be made in its application. That assumption contradicts the predicate theme of American Exceptionalism. Gutman's approach, furthermore, denies the premise that there is a historical role for the working class. When asked by an interviewer, "Why has there been no mass socialist movement in the United States," Gutman replied that that was a "nonhistorical question," because it rested on an assumption that there was a "proper" and an "improper" way for a workers' movements to develop. Having made his decision to align his thesis with Gutman, why should Roediger want to get involved in the issue of the comparatively low level of class consciousness of the American working class?

13. Secondly, David's psycho-cultural analysis finds no relevance in objective factors such as constitute the standard rationale for the low level of class consciousness of workers in this country. Indeed reference to them could only obscure, or even contradict, Roediger's concept of his subject, designed as it is to steer clear of a class struggle interpretation of the etiology of "white" identity. He seems to have as little use for "an historical task that workers faced" as Gutman did.


14. The organic definition of "working class" derives from the analysis of the operation of the general law of capital accumulation, which inexorably reproduces a propertyless segment of society whose very ability to produce becomes the commodity upon which the expansion of capital depends. In Marx's words, "The reproduction of a mass of labour power...which cannot get free from capital....[is], in fact, an essential of the reproduction of capital itself." It has been the custom, however, with most American historians to exclude plantation bond-laborers in their references to the working class.

15. The proposition that the United States plantation system based on chattel bond-labor was a capitalist operation is a widely recognized principle of political economy, as noted in the writings of the otherwise quite disparate array of W. E. B. Du Bois, Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Lewis C. Gray, Roger W. Shugg, and Winthrop D. Jordan. (Eric Williams and C. L. R. James view Caribbean slavery in this light, as well.) Karl Marx invariably referred to the American plantation economy as capitalist enterprise. I, myself have expressed this view, and David Roediger writes that he has "long argued that slavery in the US was part of a capitalist system of social relations..."

16. Those who would cling to the theory that the southern plantation system was something other than capitalism should consult the views of the slaveholders themselves. Writing to a fellow slaveholder regarding the profitability of "breeding women," Thomas Jefferson advised that, "a child raised every 2. years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man...[because] [w]hat [such a] mother produces, is an addition to capital, while his [the male bond-laborer's] labors disappear in mere consumption." Though cotton replaced tobacco as the main staple crop, still, the guiding principle for getting "greater profits" remained "to buy more slaves to make more cotton for the continued purposes of buying more slaves to make more cotton," even as "the capital cost of the slaves" rose.

17. In the judgment of George Fitzhugh, perhaps the most articulate publicist of the bond-labor system, "The success of Southern farming is a striking instance of the value of the association of capital and laborers." Finally, in 1863, the leadership corporate of the slave holders' rebellion, the "Congress of the Confederate States," declared chattel bondage to be the proper relationship of labor to capital.

18. Given this understanding of slavery in Anglo-America as capitalism, and of the slaveholders as capitalists, it follows that the chattel bond-laborers were proletarians. Accordingly, the study of class consciousness as a sense the American workers have of their own class interests, must start with recognition of that fact. But historians guided by the white blind spot have, in effect, defined the United States working class as an essentially European-American grouping. In doing so they have ignored or, at best, marginalized the propertyless African-American plantation workers, the exploitation of whose surplus value-producing labor was also the basis of capital accumulation for the employers of those workers.

19. Roediger's book unfortunately participates fully in the common error of the American Exceptionalists of effectively marginalizing the Black worker by conceptually excluding bond-laborers from "the American working class." Under the compulsion of the dogma of his own making -- that the "white" worker, as a self-conscious social category, could not have existed before 1800 -- Roediger even excludes from the working class European-American workers of the 180 years of the colonial period as "pre-industrial," and not "a wage-earning class." He assigns them to the "pre-history of the white worker."

20. Such disregard for colonial history, serves to gloss over fundamental contradictions in David's psycho-cultural explanation of white supremacism as the creation (oh yes, "in part") of the Irish and other European-American workers in the period between the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Roediger relies on Winthrop D. Jordan for much of his very brief references to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century continental Anglo-America; he obviously accepts Jordan's own psycho-cultural theory of the origin of "racism" as the outcome of the European colonists' need to know they were "white." At the same time, only nineteenth century developments can serve Roediger's theory of the white supremacism being a manifestation of immigrant ex-peasants' revulsion against industrial discipline, and their comfort of not being "slaves." Here, then, is where his characterization of European-American laboring people of the colonial period as "pre-historical whites" serves to bridge over the implicit difference between his and Jordan's explanation of the "roots" of white supremacism. Still, by categorizing those workers as "whites," Roediger implicitly relies on the explanation of "the white race" as natural or hereditary phenomenon, and therefore, not a socially constructed one.


21. By taking "the American working class" as their subject, labor historians necessarily presume that there is a distinct working class interest to be investigated. In the evolution of the tactics of working class movements and organizations, at any particular juncture debates and controversies must necessarily occur over what policy decisions best serve labor's interests. The best fundamental guide, in my opinion, is that set forth by Marx and Engels to the working class movements in Europe a century-and-half ago, and which, on the plane of American history, provides the ordinate and abscissa by which to locate the interests of the working class at any point in its history:

1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries,...point out and bring to the fore the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through,...always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

22. In 1935, W. E. B. Du Bois, having studied and set right the record of Black Reconstruction in the South, with attention to the interests of "the laboring class, black and white, North and South," drew the following somber conclusion:

The South, after the [Civil] war [said Du Bois], presented the greatest opportunity for a real national labor movement which the nation ever saw or is likely to see for many decades. Yet the [white] labor movement, with but few exceptions, never realized the situation. It never had the intelligence or knowledge, as a whole, to see in black slavery and Reconstruction, the kernel and the meaning of the labor movement in the United States.

In my opinion, the insight thus expressed by Du Bois is indispensable for understanding and applying the general Marxist principles in assessing the interests of American labor and the state of American labor's consciousness of those interests.

23. Although David does not mention the subject of labor's interests explicitly, one might possibly draw positive inferences from the fact that he repeatedly speaks of the adherence of European-American workers to "white" identity as "tragic." Furthermore, he notes the contributions to the exposure of the vice of "white" identity made by persons who, from the standpoint of Marxism, see "workers as central to progressive political change." It is apparent that David does not intend to be a white-labor apologist; he condemns any tendency "to romanticize members of the working class, by not posing the problem of why they came to consider themselves white." He cites James Baldwin's admonition, "As long as you think you're white, there's no hope for you." While Baldwin's observation was not directed specifically to laboring-class Americans, it retains a special validity for the analysis of the "white race" in relation to the history and the prospect of the working-class movement in this country. Roediger associates himself with others who earlier have argued that the European-American workers have a class interest in throwing off their "white" identity.

24. He also gives a footnote mention to a pamphlet, Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race (although he does not quote it), which in its summary says:

But their own position [that of laboring-class "whites"] vis-รก-vis the rich and powerful...was not improved, but weakened by the white-skin privilege system.

25. That particular pamphlet is a socio-economic study that places ultimate responsibility for white supremacism on "the rich and powerful." David chose not to quote this or any other passage of it. The reason for this reticence seems apparent. David does not say how the problem of "whiteness" is to be treated as a matter of labor's class interest. Furthermore, his attachment to the "new labor" ideology and method of Herbert Gutman, who expressly rejected the idea that the working class has a historical role to play, leaves unclear what Roediger's thoughts are about why casting off "white" identity should be considered a special, particular, concern of the laboring people. David has no interest in a class-struggle approach to the matter, or in blaming any "rich and powerful" ruling class. That would be to put sand in the gear-box of his argument that "working class 'whiteness' and white supremacy [are] creations, in part, of the white working class itself."

26. It is here that Roediger seizes upon Du Bois's term, "psychological wage," as the "indispensable formulation" for the needed correction in the "new labor history" tendency. Roediger then proceeds -- by what, in my view, is a unique misappropriation of the term, "psychological wage" -- in order to lend authority to his own answer to the problem of the "white" identity by borrowings from psycho-history, and psycho-culturalism. But, in his desire to save the "new history" from "romanticizing the working class," Roediger unintentionally lets the classical white-labor apologists off the hook, by organically linking his argument to theses that he had found in the works of Winthrop D. Jordan and George Rawick; and what appears to me to be a misreading of the intents of Joel Kovel and Frantz Fanon.

27. As far as Jordan's views are concerned, what more apology could one need for "white" labor's white supremacism than his argument that Europeans come to these shores naturally endowed with white supremacism?

28. Although David apparently has little acquaintance with seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Anglo-American happenings, he confidently praises George Rawick's, treatment of the history of white supremacism in the colonial period as presented in chapters 7 and 8 of From Sundown to Sunup.

29. Upon reading of those chapters, however, one finds that Rawick presents nothing new, no new evidence or substantial argument, about the beginnings of the "white" identity. Just as David handed off to Rawick, Rawick hands off to Jordan, author of White Over Black, with its psycho-cultural theory of the origin "of American attitudes toward the Negro," which Rawick swallows whole, with a brief reference to Genovese's idea that "previous ideological conditioning made possible a racially based slavery" to help it go down. According to that scenario, it would seem as if the reduction of African-Americans to lifetime hereditary bondage was just a matter of convenience that the ruling class got around to in their own good time. Perhaps some readers will take issue with that assessment, but in any case it is clear that Rawick, like Jordan, offers no basis for David's suppositional role of European-Americans workers as creators of "white" identity.

30. David names Joel Kovel's White Racism as one of the sources of the "method and evidence" for Wages of Whiteness. But if, as Kovel at one time said, it were simply a matter of the Western id working its purpose out by aggression against, or aversion to, its dark "other," then might not that serve as ammunition for the white-labor apologists, who simply take the "white" identity as a given?

31. It is unfortunate that Roediger did not take notice of the second edition of Kovel's book, published in 1984, seven years before the publication of Wages of Whiteness. Kovel begins with a 48-page reconsideration of his first edition. That edition, he says, was the product of his salad days, when he was "immersed in training at a medically orthodox Freudian psychoanalytic institute....[so that] I had absorbed...entirely too much of what is called Ego Psychology, and I had chained my discourse up in it." But his revised view is that

One no longer blames racism on....lower middle class or working class whites -- but assigns responsibility according to real power over the racist society. I do not mean to exonerate the hate-filled, rock-throwing racial bigot....But....[o]f far greater significance is the man in control.

Kovel concludes his introduction to that second edition by saying, "if racism can change" [as from slave patrol to Jim Crow, he might say -- TWA] "it can be made to go away....The cure for white racism? It is quite simple, really, only get rid of imperialism."

32. One may agree or disagree with these latter-day remarks of Kovel, in matter or in manner, but the view they express cannot possibly be made to support Roediger's argument, which avoids invidious refrences to the ruling class, while ascribing white supremacism to the "creative" powers of the European-American workers.

33. Roediger cites only one of Frantz Fanon's books, Black Skin, White Masks, and cites that book only once. He uses it, not to establish a substantial relation with Fanon's work, but merely in the effort to validate his own argument for psychic origins of white supremacism among "white" workers in the ante-bellum North.

34. References to the ante-bellum political and economic environment may help explain Irish-American Catholics' "embrace of whiteness," David writes, but analysis along that line, he believes, is "altogether too utilitarian." That is as far as Roediger goes in the direction of a hinting at a possible ruling class involvement in the creation of the "whiteness" syndrome among European-Americans of the laboring classes. Even so, he borrows a notorious Jordanism to call this option "an unthinking decision." Such socio-economic factors, he argues, cannot explain why "Irish-American Catholics would, for example, mutilate the corpses of free Blacks they lynched in the 1863 Draft Riot in New York City." That would be explained by -- and here David uses two widely separated phrases from Fanon -- "'the prelogical thought of the phobic'....[that led the Irish-American Catholic into] [p]rojecting his own desires onto the Negro'...."

35. I do not question the literal accuracy of the citation, but I do question David's use of it. Acts of extreme sadism occur during wars, "religious" frenzies, and in "racial" pogroms, such as were committed in the 1863 Draft Riot. Fanon's own case-notes provide confirmation of such acts in colonial Algeria, including those practiced by French colonial police. But he does not explain these acts as an alternative to struggle against class oppression. That is what David does, and does so in the context of his rejection of what he thinks of as "overly simple economic explanations" of white identity.

36. Fanon's central concern was to help Africans overcome self-abasement resulting from experience with colonial oppressors. As he says, "We shall try to discover the various postures adopted by the Negro in the face of white civilization." The self-hatred and the mental disorders acted out in individual violence by the Algerians are "not the consequence of the organization of his nervous system or of characterial originality, but the direct product of the colonial situation....[H]e [the Algerian] ought to pay attention to all untruths implanted in his being by oppression." White "racism," as Fanon had observed it, is regarded as being simply a projection of Europeans' desire to exploit African people more effectively.

37. Fanon was able to base his psychoanalysis on direct observation and interviews, and on his personal involvement in the struggle against French chauvinism. And, unlike Roediger, he proceeded from Marxist economic determinist premises:

The analysis [of the "white masks" problem] that I am undertaking is psychological. In spite of this it is apparent to me that the effective disalienation of the black man entails an immediate recognition of social and economic realities. If there is an inferiority complex, it is the outcome of a double process: -- primarily, economic; subsequently, the internalization -- or better, the epidermalization -- of this inferiority.

38. David, on the other hand, depends upon inferences regarding the ante-bellum "white" workers drawn from his Freudian studies, perhaps from his own biography, and from his individual interpretation of Du Bois's phrase, "psychological wage." His disparagement of economic determinism, and his thesis of the "creation" of white supremacism by "the American working class," contrast sharply with the economic premise, and the theory of internalization of Fanon's investigations.

39. I am just one of the many Americans who admire Fanon's courageous determination to put his professional capacities at the service of Algerian national liberation, and the liberation struggles of the people of Africa, in general, from colonialism and its neo-colonialist residue. He was rigorous and energetic in exposing and denouncing any attempt to apologize for "white" colonial oppression. It would not have strengthened his case to have suggested that racial oppression was an id-driven "creation" -- and he did not. Perhaps David, by his resort to the language of psychoanalysis, does score some points against the tendency which he finds in the works of some "new labor historians" to "romanticize" the "white" worker. But, instead of challenging the white-labor apologists' denial of the class-struggle meaning of "white" identity, he only gives them more wiggle room.

40. Thus, of these four sources of "methods and evidence," two -- Kovel and Fanon -- fail him because of their class-struggle orientation." The two others -- Jordan and Rawick -- present arguments that run counter to David's notion that the nineteenth-century European-Americans created "white identity." David appears unmindful of the shakiness of the support afforded him by these sources. He proceeds with full confidence in his theory that the "white workers" did not emerge until the nineteenth century, at which time they created "white racism."

England and U.S. -- Same Anxieties, Different Responses

41. According to Roediger, European-American workers "created" their "white" identity as a response to a fear of dependency on wage labor and to the necessities of capitalist work discipline." Artisans' "revolutionary pride" and fear of being reduced to a dependent status as wage-laborers for capitalists was expressed in "white republican equalitarianism." Unskilled immigrants' nostalgia for the halcyon life in their homelands, found solace in "white identity," which made them "free citizens," shielded from being compared to "slaves." A sort of Freudian, rather than Du Boisian, "psychological wage" was provided for the European-American laboring people, according to David, in the form of release from sexual repression by projecting their sexual fantasies onto African-Americans, most commonly in blackface minstrel shows, but also on occasion in sadistic behavior toward Black people. Even in his somewhat self-critical "Afterword" in the second edition of Wages, David still "decidely argue[s] that white identity has it roots both in domination and in a desire to avoid confronting one's own miseries."

42. E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class takes the English artisans and the working classes generally through that same metamorphosis in the period 1790-1830, and describes and analyzes various responses of English working people to the social degradation and factory discipline visited upon them by the vaunted Industrial Revolution. One form of response was found in Wesleyan Methodism, which tended to sublimate hatred for the exploiters into sin-inspections and guilt. Another response sought solace in chiliastic anticipation. The nearest English analog to the European-American "white" identity phenomenon was in the line drawn between "sinners" and the "saved," with "backsliders" subject to exclusion from Christian fellowship. But, unlike "white" identity in the United States, and unlike "Protestant" identity in Ireland, being "saved" did not confer social status in England. Another line of response, expressing a class-struggle orientation included the machine-wrecker Luddites, trade union organization, and the struggle for political reform, which was to culminate in the Charter movement of the 1830s that expressed the "working people's consciousness of their interests as a class."

43. In 1872, the First International rejected a proposal to deny the request of Irish workers in England to form their own Irish sections of the International. The Council based its stand on the recognition that the interests of the English working class required support of the Irish struggle for independence (conceived of at that time as "Home Rule"). In the course of the discussion of the proposal, its opponents, including Frederick Engels, referred to "the belief, only too common among the English working men, that they were superior beings compared to the Irish, as much an aristocracy as the mean Whites of the Slave States considered themselves to be with regard to the Negro." The Council did not attempt to account for this chauvinistic attitude of the English workers as a "natural" attribute or as the outcome of psychic drives; rather they explained it as "one of the most common means by which class rule was upheld in England."

44. Why was it that --whatever the degree of anti-Irish prejudice among English workers-- Irish laboring folk fleeing racial oppression were welcomed in England where industry was in need of them, whereas in the United States the industrial bourgeoisie was barred by law from meeting its growing labor needs by employing African-Americans fleeing from racial oppression in the South? The answer is that in the United States the government was constituted on the strict condition of giving full faith and credit recognition to slavery, and the sixty per cent electoral bonus to slaveholding states. It was as a consequence of this fact that the country was dominated by the Southern slaveholders from the American Revolution until the Civil War, and white supremacism was established as a sort of American super-religion, with appropriate penalties for "backsliders." Under the circumstances, "white" identity was made to appear to be an unrefusable offer. But it would prove to be as unhelpful to the class interests of European-American workers as "salvation," or reliance on an imminent Judgment Day was to the class interests of the workers in England.

45. To invoke what are perfectly understandable and appropriate proletarian fears of and grievances of these workers, or to resort to plausible Freudian inferences regarding the projection of repressed sexual fantasies, to account for the "white identity" phenomenon, seems more of a justification than an analysis of it. Even if one were to accept David's interpretation, it would still leaves unanswered the question: Why should these workers have responded to their exploitation and social degradation in the particular form of "white' identification, and not by following the advice of Daniel O'Connell and Frederick Douglass to make solidarity with the African Americans, bond and free, in the struggle for an end to rule by the slaveholders and against the juggernaut of capital pressing in on their lives throughout the country.


46. David associates himself with activist scholars whose "historical writing on whiteness" show them to be "deeply indebted to Marxism and committed to seeing workers as central to progressive political change." As such, he is as familiar as I am with the Marxist proposition that, "The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class." If that concept does not apply to the historical prevalence of white supremacism in continental Anglo-America, in both its colonial and its regenerate United States form, it has no sociological validity at all. Yet, Roediger's thesis seems predicated on the denial of that time-honored axiom of social science.

47. In the name of "neo-Marxism," David disparages the basic "ruling-class-ruling-ideas" tenet of Marxism, and misrepresents it as a theory that "racism simply trickles down the class structure" from "the commanding heights at which is created," into the gaping mouths of witless European-American proletarian dupes. That notion is nothing other than a straw man designed for easy dismissal between ironic quotations marks. It suits a certain academic fashion whereby its practitioners, including "neo-Marxists," may excuse themselves from serious discussion of substantial issues regarding Marxist doctrine.

48. For example, Roediger dismisses the perpective of Oliver Cromwell Cox, author of Caste, Class, and Race, as an obsolete theory of a "class-based revolution as the solution to racism," a "rosy view...of the possibility of an unambiguous revolutionary solution to racism [that is] largely gone." The basis of Roediger's criticism of Cox is that he does not give due attention to the role of "the [white] workers" in "creating" racial oppression. If one conceived of "class," as in the "white working class" of Roediger's title, then, of course, that would be a fallacy, one that has been brought out before, as David himself acknowledges. But if one conceives of "the revolution" as an instrumentality of a working class composed of Black and other direct victims of white-supremacism, and sufficient numbers of European-Americans who have repudiated the white-skin privilege system, that would indeed be an unambiguous revolution, a fundamental transformation of our country into a "people first" society.

49. Roediger's comment on Cox occurs in the context of his general rejection of "traditional Marxists," to whom Roediger imputes a "trickle-down" theory of political ideology based on an "overly simple economic explanations." Such a characterization is an absurdity; if made without an offer of substantial evidence it is aggravated assault. The original "traditionals" were Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, evolved Hegelians. Putting Hegel's dialectics to the service of their materialist outlook, they incorporated in their philosophy the concepts of the unity and interpenetration of opposites, and that every real thing is a complex of processes. To the problem of free will, they posed the concept that freedom is the recognition of necessity. In one elaboration of Marxist philosophic principles, Engels said that although Ludwig Feuerbach, their forerunner as a philosophical materialist, put the human being at the start of his outlook, he failed to relate the human being to the context in which this human being lived.

Men make their own history [wrote Engels], whatever its outcome may be, in that each person follows his own consciously desired is precisely the resultant of these many wills operating in different directions and of their manifold effects upon the outer world that constitutes history. The will is determined by passion or deliberation...[W]e have seen that the many individual wills active in history for the most part produce results quite other than those intended...[But] the further question arises: What driving forces in turn stand behind these motives? What are the historical causes which transform themselves into the motives in the brains of the actors...? For the old materialism....nothing very edifying is to be found from the study of history....because it [the old materialism] takes the ideal driving forces that operate there [in history] as ultimate causes, instead of investigating what is behind them, what are the driving forces of these driving forces."

50. This comment on Feuerbach, seems relevant to our repeated question: Why would European-American workers respond to their exploitation and social degradation in the particular form of "white" identification, rather than in "non-racial" ways? If one is content with observing the world, like an anthropologist or archaeologist, that might not present a problem; but for one bent on changing the world, it cannot be avoided.

51. Roediger's avoidance of that question shows not only a failure to apply dialectical logic, but, more pointedly, it is a manifestation of his acknowledged white blind-spot. Here indeed we have a case of "wills that produce[d] results quite other than those intended." The "white" identity did not preserve the artisans nor save others from reduction to life as merely another kind of Whitneyian replaceable parts in capitalist enterprises. Just the opposite, they lost the ten-hour day struggle, and efforts at establishing an independent labor party dissolved in defeat. Worse for them, by far -- because of the inescapable national necessity to abolish slavery -- the country was drawn into a war that not only brought death and severe injury for hundreds of thousands of laboring-class European-Americans, but also sharply eroded the buying power of their already insufficient wages.


52. What were the driving forces behind their self-defeating motives? David, without the slightest mention of such forces, simply ascribes the passionate adherence to the "white race," to "creative" propensities of the European-American workers themselves, stoked by a collective id-hatched requirement for an "other" on whom to project their own guilt and repression and aversion of guilt rooted in infantile toilet training. What but the white blindspot could have permitted David to reconcile such a schematic formulation with his own belief in "race as a social construct" if he had investigated the responses of hundreds of thousands of African Americans who in this same period were also being inducted into capitalist industry.

53. According to the only general study of industrial bond-servitude in this country, "southern industry's most interesting aspect was its wide and intensive use of slave labor. In the 1850's ...between 160,000 and 200,000 bondmen...worked in industry." Whether in agriculture, or in mines, factories, timbering, or other work sites, the bond-laborers' main grievance was, of course, bond-servitude itself. Among the industrial bond-laborers, the most common complaint was the necessity to repress their "natural desire to avoid the drudgery of industrial routines." These workers had practically no way of recording or publicizing their resentments of their forced transition to industrial employment; but Starobin found journals and letters of employers and owners that reflect the workers' feelings and attitudes. Their most trying adjustment to industrial life was to the enforced separation from their plantation-bound wives and families. Roediger is perceptive in comparing the longings felt by Irish immigrants and of free African-Americans in the North for family and friends left behind, after having been "wrenched from [their] homeland[s]." But, for almost all the male industrial bond-laborers, this was their homeland, yet they could not go home; to do so without the employers' permission, meant that when they returned they would be subject to severe corporal punishment.

54. While the number of African-American non-agricultural workers was much greater in the South, free African Americans faced their own special problems of adjustment to the transition to hired-labor status. For free African Americans says Charles H. Wesley, in his classic, closely documented, labor study, "the transition from slavery to freedom, for individuals as well as the group, was not completed without creating difficulties....The adjustment to the new environment in the North often occasioned hardships." Leon F. Litwak's thoroughly researched and well-documented work found that, "Although they had been recently employed under slavery in a variety of skilled as well as unskilled occupations, emancipated Negroes found their economic opportunities limited to jobs as servants, seamen, or common laborers." A French visitor to America in 1788 found that "The prejudices of Whites which lay obstacles in their way" caused free African Americans to be denied advancement in employment and access to education.

55. The African-American workers, no less than European-American workers, responded to the frustrations that faced them as they were inducted into capitalist industrial life. Robert Starobin has concentrated most concisely on the range of responses of industrial bond-laborers in his chapter titled, "Patterns of Resistance and Repression." "The most subtle forms of slave protest were negligence, slowdown, feigned sickness, outright refusal to work, and pilferage.... Servile protests sometimes assumed more extreme forms, ranging from arson to escapes and from assaults to rebellions." Revulsion against the repetitive drudgery of industrial work is suggested by he fact that those who ran away seemed to absent themselves most frequently at those times when "industrial operations peaked and production pressures mounted."

56. The free African-Americans in general responded to the hardships of wage-labor employment and unemployment by striving to improve their knowledge and skills; and by rallying to combat the white supremacist barriers that were presented to their employment, and mobility. These intertwining concerns as expressed in conventions, manifestoe`s, petitions, and newspapers continually from 1787 to the end of the ante-bellum period. James Forten, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, published his protest in Philadelphia in 1813: "Those patriotic citizens, who, after resting from the toils of an arduous war, which achieved our independence...[are faced with the fact that] it appears as if the committee [of the Pennsylvania State Legislature] not consider us men....Has the God who made the white man and the black left any record declaring us a different species?....The same power which protects the white man, should protect the black." The delegates to the Second Annual National Negro Convention in Philadelphia in 1832, resolved "strictly to watch those causes that operate against our interests and privileges; and to guard against whatever measures will either lower us in the scale of being, or perpetuate our degradation in the eyes of the world.... "We must have Colleges and high Schools on the Manual Labor system, where our youth may be instructed in all the arts of civilized life." The State Convention of Ohio Negroes in 1849, declared its intention, "To sternly resist, by all means which the God of Nations has placed in our power, every form of oppression or proscriptions attempted to be imposed on us, in consequence of our condition or color. To give our earnest attention to the universal education of our people."

57. Such well known and long established facts make it clear that induction into industrial discipline had its galling frustrations for African-American workers, just as it did for European-Americans. Yet one set of workers sought the abolition of chattel bondage and improved educational and apprenticeship opportunities. The other opposed abolition, supported the Fugitive Slave Law, and tried to bar Black workers from the trades. Why the difference? As for Freudian insights, had not African-Americans their ids? Were they not also veterans of the rigors of toilet training, and of feelings of repression and aggression stemming therefrom? Did they not have sexual fantasies that craved release?

58. Obviously, the catalog of personality characteristics traceable to such universal psychological factors does not explain why some behavioral patterns took the peculiar white supremacist form. It would seem logical, therefore, to look at the "forces behind the forces," at the will of capital shaped by the need for ever greater accumulation of capital; the will that needs and has the power to destroy the artisan and to impose immiseration on the working class, and whose need to enforce and maintain its power depends on white supremacism.

59. In conclusion, therefore, in spite of my agreement with Roediger regarding the "white race" as a social construct, and on the destruction wrought by the "white" identity on the working class cause, I must challenge his psycho-cultural answer to the fundamental subject addressed in his study, namely, the etiology -- the when, why, and how -- of the emergence of the "white" identity as a connotation of social status of European-Americans of the laboring classes.

No Demographic By-pass Will Evade the Centrality of Struggle Against White Supremacism

60. To return at last to the subject of the despair expressed by reviewers because of the impression that Roediger had held out no hope for coping with white supremacism among European-American workers, and for the prospects for a historically transforming role for the United States working class. In response, David avowed an optimism for the future of the cause of labor, not in expectation of the repudiation of the white-skin privileges by European-American workers, but on demographic grounds of the prospective increasingly not-white and not-male composition of the United States working class, and specifically because such a transformation, he believes, will serve to remind white males that they are not the center of the labor movement, but only a segment of it.

61. For my part, any way for casting off that shirt of Nessus, the incubus of "white identity," would suit me, but Roediger's rather mechanistic perspective for producing a class-conscious proletariat, is problematic, to say the least. In a more recent article, David, himself, warns that, "demographic shifts do not automatically change anything." That caution seems to me to be most appropriate, since the "demographic solution" requires the favorable constellation of three preconditions: 1) a predominant willingness of European-American females to repudiate white-skin privileges; 2) the readiness of not-white males to support the general struggle against male supremacism 3) a disregard for the mass of unconvinced white male workers, who enjoy general support from the ruling class in regard to "racial" privileges and patriarchal principles. It is a perspective that would require not only an absolutely unprecedented reduction of the sex ratio among European-Americans, but one in which "white" males are presumed to play a passive role. You don't have to have the active adherence of all the European-American males to dismantle the "white race," but you cannot rely on their being passive.

62. And, then, there is the little matter of the ruling class. They know as much as anybody about demographic changes and the possible bearing that those numbers have on social control. They can be expected to use all their power and influence, developed over centuries, to try to take measures to discourage proletarian class consciousness by, once again, reinforcing white supremacism through the divisiveness of "ethnic politics," and by myriad "wedge" issues -- abortion, religion in the public schools, pistol-carrying, etc. -- hammered at constantly by their auxiliaries. However promising the phenotypic changes in the American population may appear, we cannot rely on demographics or any other naturally occurring factor, to fundamentally alter power relationships in this country. Whatever may be the remedy for feelings of despair noted by Dana Frank and the others, the requisite focus of effort needed for moving forward requires a strategy. That would be the proper way to recognize the value of David's warning against "automatic" solutions to racial and sexual oppression, as not only evils in themselves, but as barriers to class consciousness of the American working class. What that strategy is to be is a matter for discussion in a hundred venues.

Drawing Lessons

63. As gratifying as the widening acceptance of the historico-relativist "social construct" theory may be, it is well to remember the fate of the first bold conceptual stroke designed to cut the Gordian knot of biology and "race" as a social formation. In the early 1930s the Communist party propounded the thesis of the Negro nation in the Black Belt. The "Negro question," as it was termed, was given a rational historical basis for challenging the theory and practice of white supremacy. An absolutely essential key corollary of this theory was the assignment of particular responsibility to "white" radicals to combat white supremacist practices within the working class.

64. The Communists subsequently gained a wide degree of acceptance and indeed cooptation within the New Deal coalition, Roosevelt's famous "troika," -- big city political machines, the labor movement, and the avowedly white-supremacists in the "Solid South." The price paid, unfortunately, was the abandonment of the centrality of the struggle against white supremacism within the working class. Under this circumstance, the Black Belt nation theory was made to serve the very opposite of its originally declared intent, by making Black liberation contingent primarily upon the eventual victory of the racially privileged working-class "whites."

65. However different the race-as-a-social-construct approach may be from the Black Belt Nation theory, the same basic gravitational field of white supremacism operates today as it did in the 1930s. Therefore, it is important for us to keep that history in mind, as we survey the current political and ideological scene, so that we may be alert to points at which that pervasive influence might start to reduce the pursuit of the abolition of the "white" identity to merely a study of "cultural differences," in which "racial"identity" is regarded as a component of group heritage.

66. The thesis of "race-as-a-social-construct," as it now stands, despite its value in objectifying "whiteness," is an insufficient basis for refutation of white-supremacist apologetics, and for advancing "the abolition of whiteness." The logic must be tightened and the focus sharpened. Just as it is unhelpful, to say the least, to euphemize racial slavery in continental Anglo-America as "the Peculiar Institution," instead of identifying the "white race" itself as the truly peculiar institution governing the life of this country after Emancipation as it did in slavery times; just as it is not "race," in general, that must be understood, but the "white race," in particular; so the "white race" must be understood, not simply as a social construct (rather than a genetic phenomenon), but as a ruling-class social control formation.

67. It is not enough to reject the "natural racism" idea; it must be confronted by a self-standing completely opposite theory in full array, and driven from the field. For Marxists, of whatever vintage they may be, who espouse the "race-as-a-social-construct" thesis, this requires taking up -- behaviorally and forensically -- four basic challenges. First, to show that white supremacism is not an inherited attribute of the European-American personality. Secondly, to demonstrate that white-supremacism has not served the interests of the laboring-class European-Americans. Third: to account for the prevalence of white-supremacism within the ranks of laboring-class European-Americans. Fourth, by the light of history, to consider ways whereby European-American laboring people may cast off the stifling incubus of "white" identity.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Inner Workings of the "White Code"

This is an artist's rendition of Nat Turner's meeting with co-conspirators in preparation for the rebellion that he would lead in South Hampton, Virginia in August of 1831.

"The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in the American society." - John Lewis

"You don't fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is with solidarity." - Bobby Seale

"Self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action, which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril." - Woodrow Wilson

"Here's the reality. The image of a white Jesus has been used to justify enslavement, conquest, colonialism, the genocide of indigenous peoples. There are literally millions of human beings whose lives have been snuffed out by people who conquered under the banner of a white god." - Tim Wise

Slave Codes

Slaves did not accept their fate without protest. Many instances of rebellion were known to Americans, even in colonial times. These rebellions were not confined to the South. In fact, one of the earliest examples of a slave uprising was in 1712 in Manhattan. As African Americans in the colonies grew greater and greater in number, there was a justifiable paranoia on the part of the white settlers that a violent rebellion could occur in one's own neighborhood. It was this fear of rebellion that led each colony to pass a series of laws restricting slaves' behaviors. These laws were known as Slaved Codes. The earliest slave codes date back to the 1640s in Virginia. They were passed by the House of Burgesses to separate the fates of white indentured servants and black slaves and to help strengthen the white race's hold on the continent.

Although each colony had differing ideas about the rights of slaves, there were some common threads in slave codes across areas where slavery was common. Legally considered property, slaves were not allowed to own property of their own. They were not allowed to assemble without the presence of a white person, and slaves that lived off the plantation were subject to special curfews.

In the courts, a slave accused of any crime against a white person was doomed. No testimony could be made by a slave against a white person; therefore, the slave's side of the story could never be told in a court of law. Of course, slaves were conspicuously absent from juries as well.

Slave codes had ruinous effects on African American society. It was illegal to teach a slave to read or write. Religious motives sometimes prevailed, however, as many devout white Christians educated slaves to enable the reading of the Bible. These same Christians did not recognize marriage between slaves in their laws, however. This made it easier for them to justify the breakup of families by selling individual members off to another owner.

As time passed and the numbers of African Americans in the New World increased, so did the fears of their white captors. With each new rebellion, the slave codes became ever more strict, further abridging the already limited rights and privileges this oppressed people might hope to enjoy. Perhaps, the most famous slave revolt was that of Nat Turner. He was taught to read by his first owner, Samuel Turner, and became a slave preacher. He also began receiving visions which convinced him that he was receiving messages from God. He interpreted these messages as meaning that he needed to free his people from their condition. On August 21, 1831, after some years of preparation, he commenced a rebellion in South Hampton, Virginia that would strike fear into the hearts of whites across the whole of the South. Though his rebellion was put down just two days later, and he was put to death just as quickly, new laws were passed throughout the South that made it to where even free African Americans could not gather in public masses, usually meaning church services, unless they were accompanied by a white person. New laws were also passed restricting the establishing of schools for free African Americans.

Black Codes

In the United States, the Black Codes were laws passed by Democrat controlled southern states in 1865 and 1866, after the Civil War. These laws had the intent and the effect of restricting African Americans' freedom, and of compelling them to work in a labor economy based on low wages or debt. Black Codes were part of a larger pattern of southern whites trying to suppress the new freedom of emancipated African American slaves, the freedmen. Black Codes were also enacted by northern states such as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and New York prior to the Civil War to ban free blacks from residing in those states.

From the colonial period, colonies and states had passed laws that discriminated against free blacks. In the South, these were generally included in slave codes; the goal was to reduce the influence of free blacks, particularly after slave rebellions, because of their potential influence on slaves. Restrictions included prohibiting them from voting, although North Carolina allowed this before 1831, bearing arms, gathering in groups for worship and learning to read and write. A major purpose of these laws was to preserve slavery.

In the first two years after the Civil War, white dominated southern legislatures passed Black Codes modeled after the earlier slave codes. They were particularly concerned with controlling movement and labor, as slavery had given way to a free labor system. Although freedmen had been emancipated, their lives were greatly restricted by the Black Codes.

Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the southern United States. Enacted by white Democrat dominated state legislatures in the late 19th century after the Reconstruction period, these laws continued to be enforced until 1965. They mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities in the states of the former Confederate States of America, starting in 1896 with a Separate But Equal status for African Americans in railroad cars. Public education had essentially been segregated since its establishment in most of the south after the Civil War. This principle was extended to public facilities and transportation, including segregated cars on interstate trains and, later, buses. Facilities for African Americans were consistently inferior and underfunded compared to those which were then available to European Americans; sometimes they did not exist at all. This body of law institutionalized a number of economic, educational, and social disadvantages. De jure segregation existed mainly in the southern states, while northern segregation was generally de facto, patterns of housing segregation enforced by private covenants, bank lending practices, and job discrimination, including discriminatory labor union practices. Jim Crow was a pejorative expression meaning Negro.

Jim Crow laws, sometimes, as in Florida, part of state constitutions, mandated the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains for whites and blacks. The U.S. military was already segregated. President Woodrow Wilson, a southerner, initiated segregation of federal workplaces at the request of southern cabinet members in 1913.

These Jim Crow laws revived principles of the 1865 and 1866 Black Codes, which had previously restricted the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans. Segregation of public, state-sponsored, schools was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education. In some states it took years to implement this decision. Generally, the remaining Jim Crow laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but years of action and court challenges have been needed to unravel the many means of institutional discrimination.

Three-Strikes Laws

In the United States, habitual offender laws, commonly referred to as Three-Strikes Laws, were first implemented on March 7, 1994 and are part of the United States Justice Department's Anti-Violence Strategy. These laws require a person guilty of committing both a severe violent felony and two other previous convictions to serve a mandatory life sentence in prison. The purpose of the laws is to drastically increase the punishment of those convicted of more than two serious crimes.

Twenty-eight states have some form of a Three-Strikes Law. A person accused under such laws is referred to in a few states, notably Connecticut and Kansas, as a "persistent offender," while Missouri uses the unique term "prior and persistent offender." In most jurisdictions, only crimes at the felony level qualify as serious offenses; however, misdemeanor offenses can qualify for application of the Three-Strikes Law in California, whose harsh application of the laws have been the subject of controversy at times.

The Three-Strikes Law significantly increases the prison sentences of persons convicted of a felony who have been previously convicted of two or more violent crimes or serious felonies, and limits the ability of these offenders to receive a punishment other than a life sentence.

A study entitled , "I'd rather be Hanged for a Sheep than a Lamb: The Unintended Consequences of 'Three-Strikes' Laws," released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that Three-Strikes Laws discourages criminals from committing misdemeanors in fear of getting sentenced to life in prison. Although this deters crime and contributes to lower crime rates, the laws also have the possibility to push previously convicted criminals to commit more serious offenses. The study's author argues that this is so because under such laws, felons realize that they could face a long jail sentence for their next crime, and therefore they have little to lose by committing serious crimes rather than minor offenses. Through these findings, the study weighs both the pros and cons for the law.

What is rarely discussed, however, is who is most often the victim of these Three-Strikes Laws. These laws usually are only applied to the poor, as the rich do not commit such crimes or they have good enough lawyers, so they can get out of trouble a whole lot easier than can the poor. This means that the poor get hit by these laws the most. Further, these laws were written specifically to target certain sections of the poor population, mainly minorities. Thus, it is African Americans, Latin Americans, and others that are the ones who are the most likely to be unable to afford to defend themselves against the laws. If the law's purpose was to lock up minorities, so as to weaken their ability to fight for change in the outside world, it has succeeded. Roughly two-thirds of the American prison population is made up of minorities.


In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander; however, that word can also refer to the process. The term gerrymandering has negative connotations. Two principal tactics are used in gerrymandering: "cracking," i.e. diluting the voting power of the opposing party's supporters across many districts and "packing," or concentrating the opposing party's voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts.

In addition to its use achieving desired electoral results for a particular party, gerrymandering may be used to help or hinder a particular demographic, such as a political, ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious, or class group, such as in U.S. federal voting district boundaries that produce a majority of constituents representative of African American or other racial minorities, known as "majority-minority districts." Gerrymandering can also be used to protect incumbents. Further, gerrymandering has been used as a political tactic in American politics since the first voter districts were drawn, and now, just as then, they are being used to purposefully dilute the voting power of minorities and to keep the white ruling elite in power.

Voter ID Laws

Voter ID laws in the United States are laws that require a person to provide some form of official identification before they are permitted to register to vote, receive a ballot for an election, or to actually vote. At the federal level, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires voter ID for all new voters in federal elections who registered by mail and who did not provide a driver's license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number that was matched against government records. Though state laws requiring some sort of identification at voting polls go back to 1950, no state required a voter to produce a government issued photo ID as a condition for voting before the 2006 election. Indiana, in 2006, became the first state to enact a strict photo ID law, a law that was upheld two years later by the U.S. Supreme Court. As of September 2016, 33 states have enacted some form of voter ID requirement. Lawsuits have been filed against many of the voter ID requirements on the basis that they are discriminatory with an intent to reduce voting by traditionally Democratic constituencies. Parts of voter ID laws in several states have been overturned by courts.

On June 25, 2013, the US Supreme Court declared, by a 5 to 4 decision, in Shelby v. Holder that Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was unconstitutional. Previously, states with a history of proven voter discrimination were required to obtain preclearance from a federal court before making changes to their voting laws. Section 4 of the Act contained the formula for determining which states or political subdivisions were covered by Section 5. The majority opinion argued that the formula used to determine which jurisdictions required federal oversight or preclearance had not been updated to reflect current social conditions, including a decline in institutionalized discrimination and direct voter suppression. Since this ruling, several states, to include Texas, have passed stricter Voter ID laws targeting minority communities with the express and highly effective intent of restricting their ability to affect outcomes in local, state, and federal elections. The end goal, of course, is to ensure that the white ruling elite remains in power.

White Privilege

White privilege is a term for societal privileges that benefit people identified as white in Western countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. Academic perspectives such as critical race theory and whiteness studies use the concept of White Privilege to analyze how racism and racialized societies affect the lives of white or white skinned people versus those of non white skinned people.

White Privilege is the outcome of the near four hundred years of race laws that have just been reviewed. White people in the United States assume a certain protected status, whether they know it or not, wherever they go. They are less likely to be attacked or robbed, they are most definitely less likely to be harassed by the police, and interestingly enough, when they do commit a crime, they are more likely to be able to get away with it. 

It also manifests itself in how a white person is treated once they have committed a crime. In the case of the Colorado theater shooting, the gunman killed twelve people and wounded several more. The police took him alive. In another instance in Florida, one man stabbed and killed two people to death, and the police waited for fifteen minutes while he stabbed another victim and then began to consume the victim's face before finally taking him alive. There is then, or course, the Columbia, SC shooting. A white man went into a black church shot twelve people, killed nine of them, and specifically targeted a state official. The local police were called, but he had time to run, find his car, and make his way to North Carolina before he was caught. So, of course, he was taken alive; but even worse, on the way back, the officers that caught him took him to Burger King because he was hungry.

Turn the tables and the story is completely different. A young African American teenager was walking through a quite suburb and was shot dead for not responding to a white neighborhood watchman's calls. As it turns out, he had his walkman playing in his hears and could not hear the watchman. What happened to the white watchman for using excessive force? Nothing. In another instance, a black kid selling bootleg cigarettes, a misdemeanor offense, was shot dead at the hands of a white police officer. The white officer is still on duty even though he clearly used excessive force. There is, of course, the shooting death of Michael Brown. Had Brown been a white teen, the officer, Wilson, would not have fired twelve shots at him to make sure he was dead. It is likely that he would never have even drawn is weapon. The list could go on.

Personal Story

In public, white people that have bought into white privilege have ways of communicating each other. It could be the wink of an eye, the nod of a head, the shake of their hat, or any number of similar movements that lets other white people around them know that they too are engaged with the program. It could also just be a brazen racist remark that lets their comrades know who they are and what they are about. This is their way of letting them know that if something goes down, they have a comrade in arms to back them up, they have a witness to corroborate their version of the story, or if things get too rough, they have someone to help them get out of the trouble they have caused.

In my thirty-five years, my pail skin has gotten me caught up in situations like this on more than one occasion, whether it be a slight nod here, a quite look there, or a gentle shake of the hand. As a child, I did not know what it meant, as a teenager, it made me uncomfortable; as an adult, it enrages me. It makes my physically ill. This is especially the case since I now know the fullness of my own heritage. My father was mixed African American and white, which means, so am I. I am grateful for that fact, and it makes me proud, so when the following event occurred, one can imagine that I was not in the mood to put up the trash this guy was spewing.

It was about five years ago when I was still delivering pizza and finishing up my first Master's degree. I was running low on gas because I had forgotten to fill up my tank before work, and I was starting to get a little hungry. So, I stopped at a Valero gas station to fill up my gas tank, to get a snack, and to get some Gatorade to go with the snack. I parked at the pump and walked inside. There were people everywhere. I ducked and weaved around my fellow patrons as I picked out my items, and then I got into one of two fairly lengthy lines. The wait was going to be few minutes, at least.  At first, everyone was waiting patiently. That was, of course, until Jimbillybob Joecurtiskylescott McGregor-Martin-Jones started bellowing in as loud a voice as he could that these "Hajjis," in reference to the tellers behind the counter, should really get their stuff together and speed things up.

It was at that moment that he eyeballed me and winked like I was supposed to agree with his filth. I did not take it for a second. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "If you don't mind, we civilized souls here are just trying to wait here in peace, so could you please keep you bellowing to yourself? It's stinking up the air." He looked at me disgusted but was quite for the remainder of his tenure in line, and for that moment, at least, reason won the day. As has been shown recently, however, with the rise of Donald Trump and his right wing fringe, these types are getting bolder and bolder and spending less and less time caring about reason. This only means that those of us that care for what is right and good in this world have to be that much more steadfast in defense of our liberties and those of our fellow Americans.


One of the things that needs to be done for sure is that white people need to wake up from the near four hundred year slumber that they and their ancestors have been in. They have been caught sleeping in a system that places whites in an illegitimate position of power over the people that originally inhabited this land, Native Americans. They have also been caught sleeping in a system that puts them in an illegitimate position of power over a group of people who were brought here against their will, African Americans. There are also other groups of people included in this paradigm by other circumstances like Chinese Americans and Mexicans Americans. None of these people have a real choice in how this country is run. The country is run by white people. This is known as a "Settler Democracy," and that is essentially, no democracy at all. Solve this root problem, and much of what of troubles the United States domestically will drift way. Ignore it, and we may lose everything.

If this problem is not solved; which many believe to be impossible given the circumstances, then the only other options are Self-Determination, or De-Colonization. The right of people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law. It states that a people, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no interference. De-colonization refers to the complete removal of the domination of non-indigenous forces within the geographical space and different institutions of the colonized, but it also refers to the de-colonizing of the mind from the colonizers' ideas that made the colonized feel inferior. It may involve either nonviolent revolution or national liberation wars by pro independence groups.


Such a set of solutions will leave what was once the United States of America broken up into a series of smaller successor states, and while there will be many people that will mourn the death of the United States, there will be even more people celebrating the end of the multiple forms of discrimination that existed under American "Settler" democracy. White people will likely still be the most confused by the situation long after it is over, but circumstances will show them over time that their behavior and the behavior of their ancestors was absolute rubbish and the central cause of the problem all along. They will be forced to adapt to new power structures that will show them how it truly feels to be judged based on the color of their skin, and they will wonder how they could have ever been so foolish before the "Great Change," or whatever the revolution will be called. With that in mind, hopefully, they will raise future generations of children who will grow up with a deep respect for all of humankind in all of its diversity, holding to the philosophy, "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations."

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Two Suspected Cases of Monkeypox Reported in Lagos State - On Site From Nigeria

Two suspected cases of Monkeypox have been reported in Lagos State and are currently being investigated, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, has said.

Dr. Idris told journalists at a news conference on Monday that it has become necessary to sensitize residents about the viral disease which has been reported in some states.

“Though no confirmed case has been recorded, there is the need to sensitize members of the public and provide adequate information on measures for prevention and control of the disease in line with the policy of the State Government,” he said.

While assuring residents of the state that measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of the virus, he urged residents to be vigilant and maintain “high personal and environmental hygiene.”

“I need to state that though there is no specific vaccine for the disease, vaccination against Smallpox has been proven to be eighty-five percent effective in preventing Monkeypox.

There is also no specific anti-viral therapy for Monkeypox; however, the disease is self-limiting and could be managed conservatively,” he said.

“The preventive measures to be taken against the spread of the disease include; avoiding close contact with infected people; avoiding consumption of bushmeat and dead animals; cooking of meat and meat product thoroughly before eating, and washing hands with soap and running water frequently and thoroughly.”

Monkeypox is a rare viral zoonotic disease, from animal to man, caused by the Monkeypox virus which occurs primarily in Central and West Africa close to the tropical rain forest where there is frequent contact with infected animals.

The symptoms in humans are similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients; although, they are less severe.

Please, be careful!!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Kidnap and Armed Robbery Suspects Paraded Before Press - On Site From Nigeria

Two serving policemen and a navy crewman were among 18 kidnap and armed robbery suspects paraded before newsmen on Monday by the Kogi State Police Command.

The state police Commissioner, Ali Janga, while parading the suspects in Lokoja, identified the policemen as Cpl Suleiman Isiaka and Cpl Ibrahim James while the navy crewman was Ordinary Seaman Bature Habila of the Western Naval Command.

The trio, along with three other suspects, were arrested on Oct. 5 for attempting to kidnap a five-year-old boy at Ayangba, he said.

He said that the suspects came into Kogi State in a chartered commercial bus driven by one Daniel John who is also in police custody.

Mr. Janga said that Mr. John was to be paid N100, 000 for his service.

The Commissioner said that suspects were rounded up in their hotel room at Ayangba before they could carry out the kidnap of the boy.

According to Mr. Janga, 11 rifles, including four AK-47s, three pump action shotguns, four pistols, hundreds of magazines, and a bus were among the items recovered from the suspects.

Speaking with newsmen, one of the policemen, Mr. Isiaka said that he, misters James and Habila had on Oct. 4, left Bauchi State where they were serving in “Operation Safe Haven” in Tafawa Balewa local government to come for the operation in Ayangba.

Mr. Suleiman said that he recruited misters James and Habila for the business, adding that it was another suspect, Sheu Agba , that contacted him.

Also speaking Sheu Agba , 36, said that he was forced to adopt the kidnap option because he needed N10,000 urgently to treat his stomach ulcer.

Mr. Agba said that he approached his cousin, Ukubile Akowe, repeatedly for the money but he declined.

He said that he later approached Cpl Isiaka for the money who in the process introduced the idea of kidnapping to him.

Also paraded for alleged kidnapping by the police were the duo of Isah Suleiman, a student of the College of Education, Ankpa and Musa Mohammed, a businessman.

They were alleged to have kidnapped the Chief Imam of Enabo quarters in Ankpa and collected a ransom of N1 million from his relations.

Misters Suleiman and Mohammed were said to have committed the offence in February of this year along with two others who are now at large.

Mr. Suleiman admitted committing the offence while Mohammed said he decided to participate in the crime to recoup the N320,000 collected from him by armed robbers on Adogo-Okene Road in December last year.

Mr. Mohammed, who claimed to be a dealer in electronics in Ankpa, said that he was travelling to buy electronics when he was robbed.

Also paraded was one Omeke Amaechi, who was arrested on Ogugu–Ette Road on Sept. 30 while escaping with a snatched motorcycle.

Mr. Amaechi, who hails from Nssuka, Enugu State, was said to have, along with his senior brother Chijioke Omeke, on the fateful day snatched the motorcycle from one Yahaya Mohammed who they later killed.

Mr. Janga said that all the suspects would be charged to court as soon as investigations were concluded. (NAN).

Friday, October 6, 2017

Dumb Stump Has Got to Go!

"Time brings all things to light, I do trust it so....." - Willie Stark, All the King's Men (2006)

"I predicted a similar outcome over two years ago. What comes next?" - Kent Allen Halliburton

Since his inauguration on January 20, Donald Trump has done nothing but prove that he has absolutely no clue what he is doing in the White House. He has embarrassed himself, he has embarrassed the country, and he has done so on repeated occasions. Further, so egregious are his mistakes that the only solution to the problem is his immediate impeachment. He is not recoverable or worth salvaging. He is not going to suddenly turn a new leaf. He is going to forever remain the racist, misogynist, homophobic, white supremacist that he is now, and he needs to be stopped before it is too late. He needs to be stopped before his behavior is allowed to set in as the new public norm for the whole country. Two years ago, when he was running in the Republican primaries, I said much the same to a certain degree. This is what I had to say then:

"As for Donald Trump, I have no sympathy for this jackass, whatsoever. He has alienated the Mexican-American population, he was dumped by NBC, and he was dumped by UniVision. He has been snubbed by conservative activist Erick Erickson. He told Megyn Kelley to quit her bleeding when she challenged him on important issues, and worst of all, he has insulted the fighting men and women of the United States armed forces. This trust fund baby, who likes to announce that he is a self-made billionaire, is full of thirteen types of feces. How, then, is he still running for office? Most people in his position would have been drummed out of their parties by now. He is able to do it because he is funding the campaign himself. This guy has really got to go. He is making a mockery of the American electoral system to the entire world. Though it is true that he is not the first do so, he is the most recent and the loudest.

Who needs to handle this guy? Who needs to step up and tell him that he is a complete fool and needs to step out of the race if he wants to avoid the big guys in his party? Who will have the 'proverbial' balls to tell this guy to put down the mic and go the hell home? I will admit that there would be very few greater joys than being able to tell Donald Trump that he is an ego maniacal sociopath with no heart and even fewer brains myself. The problem with that is that he would probably just wave me off and make some rude asshole remark about my mixed heritage. Furthermore, the opportunity to respond to his comments would give me so much joy that I would probably burst. It just can't be me. For the first reason, as I said, he would look at me as small potatoes. What he needs is a proper ass whooping from the GOP itself. They need to drag this guy off stage, take him into one of their smoke filled backrooms, take off his crappy looking hair piece, peel his eyelids back, and whip his sorry ass all the way back to New York.

Now that scenario is a little extreme, I know, but these guys know that Trump is screwing up, they know that he is making a fool of their party, and they know that he is doing it, not for any real purpose, other than, more than likely, to simply make a mockery of the system on purpose, or perhaps, to put a blip on his resume. This might be considered noble if he wasn't crapping all over anyone that can't afford the lifestyle that he 'made for himself.' This is their problem. They need to be the ones to take him out of the race, but for now, they are content with letting him spread his horse dung all over the media. It is to the point now, that he has even passed Jeb Bush in the ratings. They need to stop him now, before he screws around and gets the GOP nomination, or runs as an independent, and splits the election. Admittedly, this would be good for my type. Trump would split the vote across the country enough to get my candidate elected, Bernie Sanders, I-VT. It could also work against me, in that the person that finally shuts Trump up will make international news, and likely, sore to the heights of popularity in the press and probably the White House.

What exactly can the GOP do then? To be honest, the ass whooping scenario is nothing more than me venting a little; however, if the GOP were smart, they would focus on Trump's financial history. No one can tell me that after forty years and billions of dollars earned that Trump has never been involved in any shady deals. There are any number of things that they could charge him with, as I am convinced that this guy is a crook. I am also convinced that he is the biggest scammer the world has ever seen. As I commented earlier, he shows all the symptoms of a sociopath. He uses women with no regard for their feelings. He dumps other businessmen out the back hatch, with no consideration for their needs, he changes the rules on deals, even after contracts have been signed, and he is saying things now that are making our nation look like a load of dry dog shit, with no regard to the damage that he is doing to our nation's already tarnished international image.

The GOP many not want to stop Trump just yet because of his ratings, but if they don't put this guy out of the race, like yesterday, he is likely to really show his colors when he gets into the White House. With his lack of regard for the American people, I am thoroughly convinced that he would go on a cost cutting spree, putting millions out of work. He would take away people's ability to survive by cutting disability, health insurance, and anything else that smelled of anything other than good ole' capitalism. I, for one, do not want to see my grandmother in a bread line. I'm just saying........."

Taken from my piece entitled "The GOP Needs to Tag this Jackwagon," published on August 26, 2015 (

Since, his inauguration Trump has done exactly what I thought he would do. He has made a complete mockery of himself, the office of President of the United States, and the nation itself. In one such case, Trump was supportive of people protesting the removal a Confederate memorial in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Unite the Right rally was a far-right rally in Charlottesville. Its stated goal was to oppose the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, which itself had been renamed by the City Council from Lee Park two months earlier. Protesters included white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, and various militias. Some of the marchers chanted racist and antisemitic slogans, carried semi-automatic rifles, swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Muslim and antisemitic banners, and Trump/Pence signs. In his initial statement on the rally, Trump did not denounce white nationalists explicitly, instead condemning "hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides." His statement and his subsequent defenses of it were seen by critics as implying moral equivalence between the white supremacist marchers and those who protested against them. He even went so far as to say that there were good people in the far right wing crowd too, even as they shouted racial slurs and made any number of other discriminatory comments towards various segments of the non-white WASP American population of the United States.

Trump is also now getting deeply involved with the NFL players protest against the violence and racism that is dealt out by white police officers onto the African American community on a daily basis. He is intentionally ignoring the true purpose of their protest because it challenges the white power structure's hold on the American people's attention. He rather is diverting their attention from the true purpose of the protest by pulling on their strings of patriotism and telling them that by protesting during the anthem these men are disrespecting the American flag and the national anthem. For many of the people that are moved by his words, mostly white people, this is enough, but for other people it is not because there is much more that he is failing to mention. He is failing to mention the stories of the African American men who went off to fight in World War I only to come home to be lynched while still in their military uniforms. He is further forgetting to mention the stories of the thousands of other African American men who went off to fight in World War II only to return a country where they were treated as second class citizens and required to abide by the laws of segregation. He also fails to mention the men that fought in Vietnam and then had to come back home to another fight as they struggled to earn their civil rights. Now the story is about how many African American men are either shot dead by racist cops or unlawfully jailed by a white supremacist state, and that too, he ignores. The whole world is watching this, and it is constantly cracking jokes on the contradictions that exist in The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave.

Now, of course, Trump is also pushing the hot button with North Korea getting ever closer to renewing hostilities with the now nuclear armed foe. He is facing off with an armed foe that has the second largest standing army in the entire wold, second only to China, and this is as at the same time that the standing army of the United States is being reduced in size and replaced by more automated weaponry. This challenge has shown to the world just how ignorant he is when it comes to the proper function of diplomacy, in which he has no skills. Further, in combination wither earlier mistakes, this debacle just proves to the world that Trump is not to be dealt with respectfully in any form whatsoever. Probably the worst part of the situation so far was Trump's speech on the floor of the UN where he not only threatened North Korea, but also brought Iran into the equation. He openly threatened member nations of the UN on the floor of the UN chambers. Trump is turning this country's traditional allies against us and making old enemies take ever stronger positions against us. If he is left in power, the United States will eventually be left all alone facing down the barrel of a gun with nowhere to let to run, and the odds will not be in out favor.

Finally, and most recently, is the President's treatment of Puerto Rico after the devastation that it suffered when it was hit by Hurricane Maria. The hurricane hit the island with as brutal a punch as Harvey did Houston and Irma did Florida, but for some reason Puerto Rico has not been getting the same attention from the federal government that the other disaster zones did. There has to be a reason why this is. What could it possibly be? Could it be that Trump is a racist and is backed up politically by a laundry list of white supremacists and white supremacist political organizations? Yes, that is exactly what is going on. At first, the federal government, under Trump's direction, was withholding food, water, and other supplies, as well as, federal disaster relief funds from Puerto Rico. It was not until after the leaders of the small island territory made the whole world aware of the travesty in the press that the government decided to finally act, and then it only acted sparingly. Why did it do this? It did this because Puerto Rico is brown, plain and simple. If the people of Puerto Rico were white, federal funds and supplies would have arrived in abundance the day after Hurricane Maria struck the island. Thank you Donald Trump for once again showing to the world that white supremacy is still alive and well in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. You make me sick.

So, as of right now, it is pretty clear that there isn't anyone in the Republican party that is going to openly oppose Trump. This is mainly because they want to maintain their positions, whether it be on special committees or just in their local districts. Further, it is also clear that, as of yet, there is no organized opposition from the Democrats either. Several members of the Democrat party have called for impeachment, but only one representative has actually filed articles of impeachment, Democrat Brad Sherman from California. Little has come of it though because of a lack of support, as of yet. So, with both major parties allowing Trump to continue on with his behavior, that leaves only one other option. The people of the United States themselves have to rise up and demand his removal from office. They have to hit the streets and demand that he step down, lest there be consequences that he will be made to suffer. The only problem with that is that one half of the American people think that Trump is their saving grace, while the other half sees him for what he really is, an incompetent twit. So the divide amongst the people is much the same as it is in the government, leaving one to wonder how long he will be able to get away with his crap. Hopefully, he will finally press the wrong button and the whole country will turn against him and that will be it for him, but for now, this is only wishful thinking. Either way; in the end, some how, this guy has got to go!!!!!