Thursday, April 03, 2014

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 3: white racism as institutional problem

Ta-Nahisi Coates in The Blue Period: An Origin Story Atlantic Online 04/01/2014quotes James Baldwin on how black-ness functions for white Americans and how he saw the African-American experience contradicting the claims of American Christianity:

White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this -- which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never -- the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.

People more advantageously placed than we in Harlem were, and are, will no doubt find the psychology and the view of human nature sketched above dismal and shocking in the extreme. But the Negro's experience of the white world cannot possibly create in him any respect for the standards by which the white world claims to live. His own condition is overwhelming proof that white people do not live by these standards....

In spite of the Puritan-Yankee equation of virtue with well-being, Negroes had excellent reasons for doubting that money was made or kept by any very striking adherence to the Christian virtues; it certainly did not work that way for black Christians. In any case, white people, who had robbed black people of their liberty and who profited by this theft every hour that they lived, had no moral ground on which to stand.

They had the judges, the juries, the shotguns, the law -- in a word, power. But it was a criminal power, to be feared but not respected, and to be outwitted in any way whatever. And those virtues preached but not practiced by the white world were merely another means of holding Negroes in subjection.
This is a good description of how white racism is an institutional phenomenon that also functions at the collective and individual psychological level.

Manners and subjective individual good will, or lack thereof, are only a small part of the problem.

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