Carrol Against Psychologism

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Sat Jul 4 06:58:47 PDT 1998

Sue writes:

> Chuck Miller wrote:
> "What I have seen is that racism arises from a fact of human psychology: the
> emotions one feels at the sight of another human beings difference."
> Two-year-olds do not hold differences in skin color to mean difference in
> value/worth. Racism, value/worth differentiation between people of varying
> skin color, arises after our "psychology" is established by internalization of
> racist ideology inherent in the social relations (i.e., fragmentation of the
> working class) culturally transmitted to perpetuate and maintain capitalist
> hegemony. Sue.

Two notes.

(1) Chuck's position is a counsel of absolute despair. If he is right, then racism (and hence class oppression) has always been with us and always will. The positing of such eternal truths is one of the many sins of psychologicl modes of explanation.

(2) "[C]ulturally transmitted to perpetuate and maintain capitalist hegemony" implies more intentionality than is warranted. It has that effect certainly, but its grounds are more deeply rooted in historical relations than the intentions of capitalists. Also, "culturally transmitted" needs explication. As I shall later argue, substantial abridgement residential segregation (for example) probably must *precede* rather than follow the substantial abridgement of racial ideology. A comrade off list raises the slogan, "no justice, no peace." That points the way. Burning cities in the 1960s actually changed the consciousness of many whites, including many aggressively racist ones. The cessation of visible collective black activity in the 1970s generated the backlash. When a young football player from U High (at Illinois State), standing behind a Panther from Peoria at a forum, used the word boy, his whole "cultural" universe underwent a profound transformation when the man in front whirled upon him with "What did you say?" Of course, for that universe to stay changed required more burning cities than the 60s could provide.


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