Beatrice_Otter beatrice_otter at haugensgalleri.com
Tue Oct 17 15:40:18 BST 2017

On Oct 17, 2017 1:49 AM, "Alex Y. Kwan" <litalex at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hello, 
> On 17 October 2017 at 10:53, WILLIAM A WENRICH <wawenri at msn.com> wrote: 
> > I found this article about RAH on pjmedia: 
> > 
> > https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2017/10/15/slavery-and-freedom/ 
> Wow. I probably have never read anything more tone deaf. So racism only 
> exists in the minds of people of colour? And politicians say it exists only 
> to get votes. I agree that slavery has long existed, but there is an added 
> racial element in slavery in the US. In fact, that is rather easy to see, 
> especially if a person bothered to read documents of the day. And 
> indentured servants can be satisfied with the fact that at least they 
> weren't the blacks... Argh.

That's actually how slavery and the whole "black" vs. "white" race thing started.  The first Africans were brought to this country as slaves before "white" and "black" existed.  In the early days of the American colonies, indentured servants (poor people from the British Isles, mostly) had about the same treatment as African and Native American slaves.  (There were technical differences in how indentured servants and slaves were supposed to be treated, but they were honored more in the breach than in the keeping.

Then in 1685(?) Bacon's Revolt happened in Virginia.  You don't need to know most of it, the reasons for it weren't that important in the long run and it didn't accomplish anything directly.  EXCEPT that during the revolt, African slaves and European indentured servants took the opportunity to rise up together to try and overthrow the system.  And after the Virginia revolt was put down, there was another flare-up in Maryland.

The leading lights of the southern colonies were TERRIFIED.  Their whole purpose in coming to America was to set up a society like the nobility of England, where rich people sat on great estates in comfort while the underclass did all the work and waited on them hand and foot.  Where's the fun in life if you can't own everything and dominate society?  So they created the slave codes, making life dramatically worse for African slaves and slightly better for poor European people.  Then they went to the poor European people and said "We are all WHITE together!  We are so much better than those BLACK people, and your life is so much better than theirs, right?  We will ensure that you are always treated better than they are if you will help us keep those horrible savage BLACK people in their proper place."  Of course, playing one group off against another like that is GREAT for making sure that both groups are oppressed, one group only slightly more than the other.  It is no coincidence that you really only hear terms like "poor white trash" in places where the oppression of black people is the greatest.  And wages/rights/condition of living/economic opportunities are worst for poor whites in those parts of the US where they are also worst for black people to this day.  It's a very clear correlation.  The more racism there is, and the more overt, the worse things are for poor whites, too.  Throughout American history, most of the day-to-day enforcing of racial discrimination has been done by poor whites, and the irony is that they're about the only people in White society that don't benefit from it.

I get very upset at people who claim that racism is a problem of the past or that it's just current people trying to stir up problems for political gain.  It's the exact same argument as you got in the 1950s and 1960s from people who claimed that *their* blacks were content and liked the Jim Crow system, and it was only those pesky Northerners coming in to stir things up that made all the trouble!

These days, given the WIDE variety of research about racism from psychology, sociology, and a whole host of other disciplines, the only way to really believe that nonsense is if you a) completely ignore pretty much all research done on the subject, b) assume that white people understand black peoples' lives better than they do, c) have never looked at any of the history of how, for example, our current prison system, criminal justice system, and the war on drugs came to be, because a lot of the people who set things up at the very beginning were extremely racist and figured out ways to bake that racism in to the system without actually using the words "black" and "white."

For example.  Numerous studies have shown that white people and black people abuse illegal narcotics at about the same rate.  Yet the VAST majority of people in jail for drug use are people of color, black and Latinx and Native American and so on.  This is not an accident.  I once watched an interview with one of the guys who came up with the whole "war on drugs" idea, and he said the whole thing was tailor-made to attack black people but not white people.  This was at the end of the Civil Rights era, and you could no longer get racist whites on your side by, in his words, "saying nigger nigger nigger."  You had to be more subtle.  So they invented "dog whistle politics," designed so that racists would know you were talking about black people but they could still have plausible deniability that it was a racial thing.  The war on drugs was the first and biggest success in that area.

When I hear someone talking about how racism doesn't exist in America, or it's just people stirring people up for political gain, my respect for that someone takes a nose dive.  Because there are really only a few possibilities.  Either they are completely completely ignorant of the subject, or they are ignoring for political reasons all research and the lived experiences of black and brown people, or they know that they are lying and are only saying it to try and manipulate people.

Beatrice Otter

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list