Race & Murder

rc-am rcollins at netlink.com.au
Wed Apr 28 21:13:14 PDT 1999

mark wrote:

>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.

mark, I do not think that racism is epiphenomenal to class. if I gave that impression, I apologise. I do not think that racism is ideological whereas class is real, since I think ideology is eminently about material practices. moreover, class has surely got to be an instance of this: money is certainly symbolic, but it sure has a lot of power to constitute practices which make it real in its effects.

Colette Guillaumin makes an interesting point, for me, that the racism we would know today as racism begins as class racism, that the separation b/n class and racism only comes about at a certain point in history: I.e.., where class is increasingly regarded as a technical division of labour. hence, racism and class become a little bit distinct as notions of meritocracy kick in - racism is a liberal way of accounting for the 'failures' of meritocracy to dissolve intergenerational poverty, etc. I think this is an interesting point of departure: that racism (like sexism) is like the necessary residue of the classical idea of natural hierarchies in a world which claims to be geared toward the breaking down of hierarchy into the equivalences of the market - or better, the fantasy of a market without labour and hence a world without antagonisms. (I also happen to think that we are 'returning' to a version of the class racism of early capitalism, which is why a discussion of 'white trash' is important, btw.)

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

I agree that there is a debate to be had over this. I happen to think that racism is quickly becoming the eminent expression and organisation of social antagonisms, which are still antagonisms of capitalism. on this you will find me perhaps even more insistent than you, even if for different reasons. the difficulty I have is that I am not sure that these arguments are best made in the context of the shootings in Littleton. at the risk of sounding heartless, I really do think there are more disastrous events and more dangerous matters on the horizon that exemplify this than the shootings.

whilst I agree that any event can register as a racist event at some point in a racist society, that we should be able to see the racist dimensions and point to them, at the end of the day, I think the shootings tell us a lot more about the ways in which we attempt to explain an event which cannot be entirely subjected to the causal explanations, hoping that this might comfort us into thinking we had found a solution to them.

I don't think it's that simple.

___ Carrol wrote:

>2. But racism tends to be nationally specific -- comments about "racism in
>general" rapidly undercut the principle behind "slavery produces racism"
>and dissolve historical understanding.

indeed, racism is nationally specific. there are important differences. but, are you saying that racism has no definition as in: "racism is the attribution of certain qualities to particular groups of people"? - which was the 'racism is...' that you objected to here.

as for your 'auto-didact' and 'untutored' comments, I'm not sure why you insist on being an asshole. if you wish to suggest some material which you have found important, do so.

Angela --- rcollins at netlink.com.au

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