Race & Murder

Mark Rickling rickling at netzero.net
Wed Apr 28 22:38:53 PDT 1999

rc-am wrote:

>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.

Thanx for your response. At the risk of repeating myself and generating more heat than light, in general in this thread I was reacting to 1) what I saw as the effort to take the assertion "race was a factor in the Columbine shootings" and interpret it as the straw argument "race explains the shootings" and 2) the effort to explain away race by class or other factors. I agree that when all is said and done, it's not very likely that we will come up with a satisfactory causal explanation. We can point to leads such as racism, homophobia, alienation endemic to capitalist society etc., but they are only leads and as you say not very comforting.

On the other hand, there might be more malign causal factors to be unearthed. CBS News reported tonight that the Sheriff's Dept. stated that the propane tank bomb discovered in the cafeteria was of such sophistication that they seriously doubted the Kelbold and Harris could have produced it. Maybe they obtained the bomb through some as yet undiscovered link to organized neo-nazi or white supremacist group that some members of this list would surely recognize as "real" racism. Or maybe they just made it themselves. Of course at this point all of this is merely conjecture.

Also, I didn't understand fully the ideas of Guillaumin that you delineated. Does she date the split in "class racism?" Does she cite historical examples?


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