Race & Murder

Mark Rickling rickling at netzero.net
Tue Apr 27 15:05:25 PDT 1999

rc-am wrote:

>I think you there is some confusion going on. Chaz made the same comment in
>reply to (I think it was) Emma. nowhere did I see Emma claim there was no
>connection b/n racism and nazism. I think you (and Chaz) might owe her an
>apology of sorts, or at least show clearly where she said this. I can't seem
>to find it.

I didn't mean to imply that Emma denied a connection between nazism and racism; I simply think that her post muddied the water. The salient issue concerning the Columbine shootings is the well-established historical connection between neo-nazism and white supremacy in the United States. What a reified discussion of "necessary" connections proves (or how my putative failure to realize this demonstrates my "low level of comprehension" and "ignorance of history") is beyond my grasp. Given the abusive tone of her post I find your call for me to issue an apology ironic. Perhaps I am wrong though?

>here's how I would see it: racism here or in the US does not come about
>because there are different races. racism is the attribution of certain
>qualities to particular groups of people. hence, to be a slave is regarded
>as a function of being black, for instance. slavery produces racism, races
>do not. races are not something already given prior to the organisation of
>exploitation and oppressions, they are ways of making those oppressions seem
>to arise naturally or mystically from the bodies being oppressed.

I disagree. Moreover, most historians today writing about race reject such a view. Let me quote from David Roediger's Wages of Whiteness in a section entitled "Marxism and the White Problem":

"The main body of writing by white Marxists in the United States has both "naturalized" whiteness and oversimplified race. These weaknesses, and the fact that they largely reproduce the weaknesses of both American liberalism and neoconservatism where race is concerned, have limited the influence of the very real Marxist contributions to the study of race. The central Marxist contributions are thoroughly presented in Barbara Fields's provocative "Ideoogy and Race in American History." Fields argues that race cannot be seen as a biological or physical fact (a 'thing') but must be seen as "a notion that is profoundly and in its very essence ideological." Race, for Fields, is then entirely socially and historically constructed as an ideology in a way that class is not . . . The point that race is created wholly ideologically and historically, while class is not wholly so created, has often been boiled down to the notion that class (or the 'economic') is more real, more fundamental, more basic or more *important* [emphasis in original] than race, in both political terms and in terms of historical analysis."

Thus, I wouldn't say that the "organization of exploitation" exists prior to racism, nor would I state that "slavery produces racism." I would say that slavery and racism were mutually constitutive of each other -- one simply can't imagine slavery in the US without racism, and it makes little sense trying to figure out which gave rise to the other. That some leftists frequently try to explain away "epiphenominal" racism with economic "class" factors is something to be on guard against. There are ideological components to class, just as there are material components to race. In this regard I take my cue from Raymond Williams.

>how this relates to the discussion on the shootings I'm not at all sure. but
>I would think that this is not a particularly outrageous set of claims. I
>am also not sure why you would want to obscure the historical and
>political-economic connection between races and racialisation in favour of
>insisting that racism is confined to racism toward black people, which I
>think is a reification all its own. downplaying the importance of racism
>against black people is surely something to be deplored, but I do not think
>this is what has been happening on list.

I don't recall insisting that racism was confined to racism toward black people. I certainly don't think this way.

>what is clear is that these positions do not face eachother across a chasm.
>I think people are not reading others' posts carefully enough, seeing all
>manner of claims there that aren't.

Good point. Yet there are real issues as stake here, which from my perspective is the relative importance of race and racism.


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