It’s critical for us to talk about what race, nation & gender are, because this is what people are fighting about now. The main political movements—such as Afrocentric nationalism and the women’s movement—are about what people think of as biology. Struggling over what is natural and un-natural for humans. Same for nations, too.
Here’s a snapshot of what we mean. Last August 8th there was a rally in NYC’s Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan to support the young Jamaican woman who had been the victim of gang rape in a white fraternity house at St. John’s university (the rapists had been tried & found “innocent”, of course). The rally had been organized by Rev. Daugherty’s church and the Black Women’s Center at Medgar Evers College. While everyone there was against the white rapists, it was a mix of different nations who happened to intersect at that point while going different places. Like a cultural explosion.
The first major speaker was a white woman from N.O.W., whose speech about rape was disrupted by Black activists in the crowd raising fists and chanting, “Where were you?” “Where were you?” That was a reference to N.O.W.’s daily presence to support the young white woman victim at the Central Park jogger rape trial, while they no-showed the St. John’s trial. But the New Afrikan sister next at the microphone shouted “Where were you?” back at the Black men who had been chanting, referring to the fact that few of them had been there either until the very end. Then, the Puerto Rican woman speaker also attacked the white women of N.O.W. for their racist manipulation of Latinos.
All of the Afrikan men speakers linked the Jamaican St. John’s woman as a co-victim of white racism along with the Black & Latino guys who had just been convicted of gang raping and trying to kill that white woman jogger in Central Park. Racism was the main issue to them.
Afrikan women speakers from the Caribbean women’s group and from Medgar Evers, on the other hand, were very strong, linking racist violence and sexist violence as parts of one “imperialist” culture. One of the largest contingents there was a feminist karate group which actively teaches self defense to both white and Third World women.
While Rev. Daugherty and other dignitaries focused on appeals to elect more liberal “minority” politicians to make NYC’s dead and rotting government look more lifelike. Most out of it were the male white left which seemed only interested in their crowd vending of buttons, newspapers, and other left archaeological artifacts. Actually, the day began with 1930s white folksinger Pete Seeger arriving to lead the white part of the crowd in singing their white racist song about settlerism & conquest, “THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND / THIS LAND IS MY LAND / FROM CALIFORNIA / TO THE NEW YORK ISLAND …” Not singing were Black folks and Latins, some of whom were wondering out loud why people were singing this white racist song.
The rally was emotional and enlightening, mixing nations with totally different futures in their present.
When well meaning people say “we’re all on the same side,” they just missed the train. It’s a different terrain out there, more convoluted because neo-colonial class changes are manifesting themselves as struggles over changing race, nation & gender. Only under neo-colonialism would two Afrikan-Amerikan lawyers who share the same white values, the same white political agenda, even the same career in the same offices—be doing the Clarence vs. Anita mudwrestling match on network television. Now white feminists love Anita, who made her career serving in a rightwing Republican administration. Is loyalty to a gender like loyalty to a race—as both sides really think in different ways?
The backlash over that lit up a lot of things. Rosemary Bray of the N.Y. Times wrote afterwards: “The parallel pursuits of equality for African-Americans and for women have trapped Black women between often conflicting agendas … Black men and white women have often made claims to our loyalty and our solidarity in the service of their respective struggles for recognition and autonomy, understanding only dimly that what may seem like liberty to each is for us only a kind of parole. Despite the bind, more often than not we choose loyalty to the race … It has made us partners with Black men in a way white women and white men cannot know. Yet not all of us view this partnership with respect.”1
There’s resistance to seeing our races, nations and genders as being artificial, man-made and much, much more resistance to confronting the power of class to make and unmake them. But in our daily lives we know it’s true; we just assume it subconsciously without really thinking about it. We think race is a biological category, although we know full well that Juan Valdez from Colombia is non-white but an identical looking Juan Valdez from Spain is white.
When New Afrikan men speak of having “lost our manhood” under slavery, no one thinks they mean sex-change operations but everyone knows what they say is true. When a boy isn’t hard enough don’t the others say he’s “pussy”? But they aren’t thinking he grew a vagina, are they. And when Mike Tyson snarls at an opponent at a press conference, “I’m gonna make you my girlfriend!”, we know what that’s about. Same in the white women’s community: when a woman is too outspoken, too strong, not white enough, even in the “Women's Union” they cut they cut her, saying “She’s like a man.” Gender isn’t about biology (that’s why people go ape over gays and trans, because queer gender-bending smudges the chalked-in gender lines & reveals how artificial it all is).
We know in ordinary life these things are malleable, changeable. But when it comes to the big picture—world politics—we forget what we know. Just like we don’t take “banana republics” seriously but think nations are natural communities. Wasn’t there a Republic of South Vietnam (aka Saigon government), which was recognized diplomatically as a legit by the u.s.a., Great Britain, France and the other Westies? It had a million-man military & the third largest air force in the world, but they turned out to be all temps. That armored nation that was a u.s. neo-colony vanished after only 20 years of life, like a bloody soap bubble. There are TV reruns with a longer life than that. No one even remembers it.
What is really hidden is class. Because it is so feared. Everyone senses that under the shifting dunes of race, nation & gender there’s rock, some massive formation underneath the surface giving us shape. What’s popular is to say it’s biology. No, it’s not just those persisting white guys again with their Master Race and Mr. Gender theories. Among others, Afrikan-Amerikan cultural nationalist intellectuals are picking up the “biology is destiny” card as well. The racist media attacks on professor Leonard Jeffries, deposed chairman of the Black Studies department at City College of New York, have brought this into the news.
Dr. Jeffries believes that racial behavior, intelligence, and especially the difference between the white race and the darker races is biologically determined. As he said in his weird speech at the Empire State Black Arts and Cultural Festival at the N .Y. state capitol on July 20, 1991:
“Ice and sun are very real and very scientific. We are sun people, people of color because of the sun. The Melanin Factor. Europeans have a lack of melanin and have lost a great deal of it because much of European development has been in the caves of Europe where you do not need melanin. So the factor of ice is a key factor in the development of the Europeans biologically, culturally, economically, socially. And what we are talking about is the values that are transmitted from ecologies.”2
These aren’t wildly eccentric views, as the white press likes to say, but really conformist views. People absorbed by euro-capitalism are trained to mis-think of class roles as only biological destiny, as race or gender.
White science said for centuries that because of excess melanin, because of un-natural genetic selection in a hot & unhealthy tropics, that the Black race was not fully human. Jeffries is only using the same eurocentric crackpot concepts, although with different motives. This trend has been catalyzed by rap groups and religious groups—i.e. the righteous teachers—and is considered by many searching for a deeper Afrocentric answer.
Dr. Jeffries, as he always is at pains to point out, isn’t a lone voice and hardly originated these ideas. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, M.D. described the white race as albinos whose “true status as a recessive genetic mutant” of the real humans, the Black race, accounts for their evil nature. We can easily recognize this as a secularized plagiarism of the Dr. Yacub legend in the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s teachings.* Dr. Cress Welsing continues her secularized recycling of the Nation of Islam’s gospel in theorizing that the naturally high levels of melanin in Afrikan skin give superior & even superhuman abilities:
“The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Racism (White Supremacy), links whites’ unjust behavior towards people of color (black, brown, red and yellow) to whites’ inability to produce melanin skin pigment in the skin melanocyte. The whites’ numerical minority status in the world and, ultimately, their fear of global white genetic annihilation by the genetically dominant, skin melanin producing, non-white world majority are pointed out as additional reasons for white aggression towards people of color. This thesis helps explain the evil ‘kill or be killed’ behaviors of the global white collective in relation to non-white people.
“In 1972, I presented a paper entitled, Melanin: The Neurochemical Basis for Soul, at the annual meeting of the National Medical Association Section on Neurology and Psychiatry. I theorized that the presence of melanin in high concentrations in Blacks accounted for some of the observable difference in behavior between Black and white people (i.e., religious responsiveness, rhythm, emotional responsiveness, sensitivity levels) …
“Fifteen years ago in a paper entitled, “Blacks, Hypertension and the Active Skin Melanocyte” Journal of Urban Health, 1975), I posited melanin, among other things, as a possible neurotransmitter and the skin melanocytes as the foundation of the sixth sense—the basis for knowledge of the unseen, including a deeper knowledge of ‘bad.’ …
“In 1987, at the first Melanin Conference, I discussed The Cress Theory on the George Washington Carver Phenomenon, suggesting that the skin melanocytes of this very Black-skinned scientist (high level concentration of melanin skin pigment) enabled him to communicate with the energy frequencies emanating from plants. Thus, he was able to learn their secrets and purposes.”3
Catch this contradiction: While the pop fusion of pseudobiological politics and imaginary race history seems zany and more than a little pathetic in the age of lasers and real biotechnology, it flowers precisely because the oppressed world is searching, groping for a deeper answer than the old 1960s radical politics that didn’t work. A deeper answer into themselves, into their identity as a race, nation & gender. Most of all, the oppressed want to know why they keep losing and why they can’t make things work.
It’s too easy to understand colonialism only on one level and not to understand neo-colonialism at all. Just as we have only a stereotyped idea of what class is. Here “marxists” are usually among the worst offenders. You know, the stereotyped fantasy of heroic factory workers making revolution against the Rockefellers. Well, that won’t cut it. Not against neo-colonialism, which is a much more sophisticated system of oppression. And it certainly won’t cut it in the u.s.a., which is the most highly developed neo-colonial society in the world (one where white workers want & vote for the Rockefellers to be their leaders). Neo-colonialism is a system that takes many more forms than capitalism did before. As Amilcar Cabral said thirty years ago, neo-colonialism represents an imperialism that can take the form of anti-colonialism or even of “socialism” if need be. Even back then, Cabral foresaw the need to bombard old stereotyped politics.
If it is as W.E.B. DuBois said, that race has been the great issue of the 20th century, then class must surely be the great issue of the 21st century. The hold of race & nation & gender on political affairs is because they have a dual power: of their surface identity, physically & biologically and of their deeper power as indirect forms of class, as how class manifests itself through these building blocks of human culture & identity. This is the insight modern revolutionaries discover and rediscover in each time and place.
Frantz Fanon pointed out how colonialism compressed society’s economic structure and cultural superstructure into one—“you are rich because you are white, you are white because you are rich,”4 he wrote. It is the truth of human society not only that class struggle is the motive force of history, but that the dominant classes, the great classes, in their rise must of necessity take over & redefine gender, nation & race to their needs.
Just as the early euro-amerikan capitalists took a class relationship, that is a hierarchical structure of economic roles & property relations, between themselves and their slave proletarians, and gave it the outward clothing of race. In class society what is man-made is always disguised as the natural, the biological, or the Holy. What we think of as race or gender or nationality is class in drag.
We don’t mean that these categories are illusions. Far beyond their physical bases, they’re real enough to get killed for & real enough to determine your life from infancy to old age. They’re intensely real in our identities. Folks get up front & personal real fast over questions of their race, their gender & even their nation. We all know that. What gives these social categories such raw power isn’t biology or nature. No, the reverse. What’s so compelling is that these are the cultural roles that people construct to bind society’s needs & decisions down into everyone’s personal identify where it becomes daily life.
It follows inescapably then, that what is “natural” to race, to gender & nation keeps changing, evolving just as class does, as society develops and new needs and conditions emerge. In modern times, the ruling class decides what gender, race & nation are, while the oppressed fight back by liberating and redefining for themselves these building blocks of human culture.
This isn’t difficult to catch. When we hear the word “farmer” we picture a man. You don’t say “Bob, the male farmer”, while it’s common to hear “Bob, the male nurse.” Because here farmer is “naturally” male and nurse is “naturally” woman. Yet, the u.n. says that 2/3 of the world’s food production is by women. In many societies, women as a gender equals the people who grow the food. Women are historically the farming class, to put it another way.
But as soon as capitalist development infects agriculture, with farming as a cash export business, then the ruling class reassigns land and farming to men as part of their gender identity. This isn’t dead history. It’s a transformation going on right now in tribal areas of India, in Zimbabwe, throughout the neo-colonialized Third World. Everywhere women are being driven off the land—and Nature has nothing to do with it. Weren’t we once told by euro-capitalist culture that farming was naturally male (allegedly because of their physical strength), while being confined to unpaid domestic work in the house was natural to women? Neither role was ever “natural” in the slightest, of course, as we know by the truth that they never applied to the Afrikan women & children who with Afrikan men actually did the back-breaking labor of growing much of amerikkka’s most profitable crops for centuries.
In that sense, Afrikan women have always been defined by settler amerikkka not merely as less feminine, but as not being women at all. Existing as neither male nor female in white amerikkkan culture, Black women have been treated as being without human gender. As Toni Morrison has said, Black women have been viewed by amerikkka as part work animal and part reproducing machine. Which may be why in 1992, without thinking twice, so many liberals say that “Black men are an endangered species,” a species apparently with only one gender. Words betray meanings folks don’t even admit to themselves.
In amerikkka’s 19th century crisis over race, gender & nation, which they call the Civil War between North and South, even many white anti-slavery men argued that biological destiny had given to the white man those characteristics of superior reasoning & enterprise that made him the ruling race, the ruling gender, and the ruling nation. (amerikkka was created as a nation of white men, with women & slaves as their property) Afrikans were like white women, it was said, in that their natural abilities were in the areas of intuition and emotion. This could allegedly be seen in their superiority in gospel music, religious fervor, and sexuality.
The preeminent amerikkkan anthropologist of that time, Harvard’s Louis Agassiz, told President Lincoln’s Freedman’s Inquiry Commission that he believed it wasn’t “safe” to let Afrikan men have political power, because they were, in his words: “indolent, playful, sensual, imitative, subservient, good-natured, versatile, unsteady in their purpose, devoted and affectionate.”5 Just what capitalism had ordered women to be in the dominant judeo-islamic-christian ideology.
In “The Negro,” his famous speech before the 1863 American Anti-slavery Convention, white abolitionist editor Theodore Tilton scoffed at prejudice against the Afrikan man just because of his different mental ability. Tilton, as a “friend” of the Negro, pointed out how unreasonable this was, since the woman-like Afrikan man could not fairly be compared to the born-to-rule, truly masculine white man:
“In all those intellectual activities which take their strange quickening from the moral faculties—processes which we call instincts, or intuitions—the negro is the superior to the white man—equal to the white woman. The negro race is the feminine race of the world … We have need of the negro for his aesthetic faculties … We have need of the negro for his music … But let us stop questioning whether the negro is a man …”6
This is what the “friends” of New Afrikans were saying back then. If this then-liberal explanation sounds truly insane to us now, it only illustrates how ruling classes continually manipulate what is race, gender & nation—which as social categories are ever-changing and plastic to the human will. Of course, if you went up to Mr. and Mrs. Clyde B. Kop at the shopping mall & told him his wife reminded you of a feminine Afrikan man … well, you might have to start ducking lead. But you notice that white men & their institutions still pair up white women & New Afrikan men—as the two politically important “minorities”, as the sexually forbidden conspirators in their fantasies. Although those 19th century phrases are too culturally revealing to be used today, the Afrikan race is still considered “the feminine race of the world.” There are many levels of meaning in this.
So there’s a question: if New Afrikan men (“indolent, playful, sensual, subservient … . unsteady in their purpose”) were supposed to be the natural equal to white women, what then were the even-lesser New Afrikan women equal to? A century has brought many things to fruition, but amerikka has never wanted to answer this. Every day we run into this unanswered question—say, in Spike Lee’s films, or in the media fix on “Black men an endangered species” (that odd species with only one sex), in the attempted white feminist ownership of Black women’s identity. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Not only is amerikkka infighting over all this right now, but so are former colonies like New Afrika. The biggest issue in the Black community isn’t race, it’s gender. Because so many people understand that one will determine the other. Same with white men. The biggest right-wing white movement isn’t overtly over race, it’s over gender; because they believe that the future of their race (and nation) depends on who controls women’s gender.
They’re even speaking of a possible civil war among whites. Michael Bray, the famous anti-abortion leader & clinic bomber, openly speculates: “Maybe we will have abortion states and abortion-free states. That may be a solution to avoid the same scene as the Civil War.”7 i.e. white men’s states & “others” states.
A fight to decide what races, genders and nations mean exists because national liberation movements won on the world scene & forced decolonization. We’re going to break this down starting with race and gender and working our way to nation.
Our very concept of race was invented by Western capitalism to meet its needs. The so-called white race, for instance, was invented right here in the u.s.a.—the very concept of a supposed white race wasn’t big in european history.
Until recently, europeans both here and there didn’t view themselves as belonging to any one race. Speaking different languages and having different historical origins, often at war with each other and even appearing to have physical differences ( Sicilians, Swedes, Jews and Poles certainly didn’t look alike), europeans customarily considered themselves as being of different races. Of course, what they meant traditionally by race was closer to what we now mean by saying a People. Both the Italian word “razza” and the German “rasse” meant breed or tribe (by that usage every Indian Nation or european nation could be a separate race).
So when the English settlers here spoke of a superior white race they only meant their so-called “Anglo-Saxon race” from the British isles. Irish immigrants were said by them to be inferior beings of the unstable “Celtic race.” It’s revealing that what we recognize as nations they thought of as races.
As was pointed out in the book Settlers, even as late as the 1930s & 1940s it was widely believed in amerikkka that most europeans were not “white” but of very different and even inferior races:
“The St. Paul, Minnesota District Attorney argued in Federal court that Finns8 shouldn’t receive citizenship papers since “a Finn … is a Mongolian and not a ‘white person’.” Scientists were prominent in the new campaign. Professor E.A. Hooton of Harvard University claimed that there were actually nine different “races” in Europe, each with different mental abilities and habits. As late as 1946, in the widely-used textbook, New Horizons In Criminology, Prof. Hooton’s pseudoscience was quoted by police to “prove” how Southern Italians tended to “crimes of violence,” how Slavs “show a preference for sex offenses,” and so on.”9
We’re familiar, maybe too familiar, with white racism, with its program for the superiority of the white race. But we can miss the main point by assuming that the white race is itself a natural thing. The white race thinks a certain way no matter how many years we scrub-a-dub-dub their minds with civil rights, for the same reason that a dope dealer’s pit bull strains to attack, because they were deliberately constructed that way. As a race.
For a minute don’t worry about that race-ism and concentrate on that race-reality. There’s nothing natural about these races. They didn’t just happen ‘cause of moms or by accident or evolution. Capitalism actually created Races from different peoples, put them together as specified communities to be parts in its colonial system. And they were consciously remade or even eliminated to meet capitalism’s needs. That’s what is happening all over again today, as capitalism transforms our world to enter the neo-colonial age. That’s what we’re confused about.
Think about it. The entire Western Hemisphere is populated with new races that didn’t exist before colonialism. Unconsciously, we know all that in the back of our minds, but we should put the meaning together.
It’s easiest to start with Latinos, the supposed “Brown” race. There wasn’t a single one on the face of the earth before 1492. Before colonialism wiped out many of the different native societies of Central & South Amerika, raped and enslaved the survivors, then forced them to adopt a common euro-language & euro-religion. Physically, what amerikkka calls a race ranges from those of purely Afrikan ancestry and those of purely european ancestry, to those of lndigenous or Indian ancestry and all points in between. So how can this race be about genetics?
Nor was there a Black race before 1492. It isn’t true that New Afrikans in the u.s. are like the Afrikans they used to be. How could they be? Colonialism took Afrikans of many different tribes, peoples & empires, who had different cultures, looked different, and spoke different languages, and transported them to capitalism’s New World across the Atlantic. Here they were forced to fuse into one people, with european, Indian and Latin infusions, intermarry, adopt the English language & religion, forge a new culture for themselves, and take on new class and gender roles as an internal colony within a european settler empire. Capitalism defines them as a race, as a biological and “ethnic” group, because they don’t want to concede that in that historic process a new society, a Black Nation was formed, with all the human rights to self-rule and sovereignty that that implies.
The necessities of the colonial system pushed for the invention of the white race. Not merely as master race propaganda to justify colonialism, but as constructed social reality. Liberals have always said that people took something natural—the white race—and made up stereotypes about its being superior. That’s missing it. Capitalism made the white race, constructed it socially, economically, culturally & even biologically. Artificial but real. Dr. Frankenstein is a metaphor in lit for something that really happened.
For amerikkka, capitalism needed to recruit every person who was vaguely european to their settler occupation force, so as to keep the Indian Nations and the enslaved Black Nation under guard. So starting with English colonies, where the master race was defined as the so-called “Anglo-Saxon race” from England, the growth of amerikkka into a settler-colonial empire dictated an equal growth in the master race to include more & more europeans and semi-europeans of different nationalities. The criminal society that they created to enforce colonialism was code-named the white race (aka “America”).
Just as—to put it in perspective—the German nazis insisted on calling their rival criminal society the “Aryan race.” In both cases, genocidal national empires led by capitalism created race as a mass class structure for maximum criminal solidarity, to hold territory, to conquer rivals. As Adolph Hitler remarked: “What does it matter that the communists want to nationalize a few factories? I will nationalize the entire People!”10
That millions of Germans were willing to kill & kill for this so-called Aryan race (the whiter-than-white detergent race that biologically doesn’t exist) made it a powerful social reality in the world. That’s just as true in “democratic” Germany today, which is Aryan still. And isn’t it the same with amerikkka’s white race? If you left it to a white majority there would be a Fuhrer in Louisiana right now.
Nations, like races & genders, have been created in capitalist history to carry out roles, to have class functions. Under colonialism, “Nations became almost as classes.” The New Afrikan Nation was created to be a proletarian colony, wholly owned by but alien to parasitic amerikkka. The New Afrikan Nation was put together to be like a class itself, a captive nation of producers. We are going to go into this, the making of the white nation or race and the making of the New Afrikan Nation or race as two opposed class-civilizations.
“By the time of the settler War of Independence, the Afrikan nation made up over 20% of the non-Indian population — one Afrikan colonial subject for every four settlers. Afrikan slaves, although heavily concentrated in the plantation colonies, were still represented throughout the settler territories. Their proportion in the non-Indian population ranged from 2–3% in upper New England to 8% in Rhode Island, to 14% in New York, and to 41% and 60% respectively in Virginia and South Carolina. While they mainly labored as the agricultural proletariat, Afrikan labor played a crucial role in all the major trades and industries of the times. The colonized Afrikan nation, much more than the new Euro-Amerikan settler nation, was a complete nation — that is, possessing among its people a complete range of applied sciences, practical crafts, and productive labor. Both that colonized nation and the Indian nations were self-sufficient and economically whole, while the Euro-Amerikan invasion society was parasitic. While the class structure of the new Afrikan nation was still in a formative stage, distinct classes were visible within it well before the U.S. War of Independence.
“In Virginia, it appears that an overwhelming majority of the skilled workers — carpenters, ship pilots, coopers, blacksmiths, etc. — were Afrikans. Nor was it just nonmarket production for direct use on the plantation; Afrikan artisans produced for the commercial market, and were often hired out by their masters. For example, we know that George Washington was not only a planter but also what would today be called a contractor — building structures for other planters with his gang of Afrikan slave carpenters (the profits were split between ‘The Father of Our Country’ and his slave overseer). The Afrikan presence in commerce and industry was widespread and all-pervasive, as one labor historian has summarized:
“‘Some of the Africans who were brought to America in chains were skilled in woodcarving, weaving, construction, and other crafts. In the South, Black slaves were not only field hands; many developed a variety of skills that were needed on a nearly self-sufficient plantation. Because skilled labor of whatever color was in great demand, slaves were often hired out to masters who owned shops by the day, month, or year for a stipulated amount. Some were hired out to shipmasters, serving as pilots and managers of ferries. Others were used in the maritime trades as shipcaulkers, longshoremen, and sailmakers. A large number of slaves were employed in Northern cities as house servants, sailors, sailmakers, and carpenters. New York had a higher proportion of skilled slaves than any other Colony — coopers, tailors, bakers, tanners, goldsmiths, cabinetmakers, shoemakers, and glaziers. Both in Charleston and in the Northern cities, many artisans utilized slave labor extensively.’
“Afrikans were the landless, propertyless, permanent workers of the U.S. Empire. They were not just slaves — the Afrikan nation as a whole served as a proletariat for the Euro-Amerikan oppressor nation. This Afrikan colony supported on its shoulders the building of a Euro-Amerikan society more ‘prosperous,’ more ‘egalitarian,’ and yes, more ‘democratic’ than any in semi-feudal Old Europe. The Jeffersonian vision of Amerika as a pastoral European democracy was rooted in the national life of small, independent white landowners. Such a society had no place for a proletariat within its ranks — yet, in the age of capitalism, could not do without the labor of such a class. Amerika imported a proletariat from Afrika, a proletariat permanently chained in an internal colony, laboring for the benefit of all settlers. Afrikan workers might be individually owned, like tools and draft animals, by some settlers and not others, but in their colonial subjugation they were as a whole owned by the entire Euro-Amerikan nation.”11
The productive New Afrikan Nation’s polar opposite was the “United States”, which from its inception was a criminal society of parasites. This isn’t racism we’re talking about. The u.s.a. was a specific type of nation, a white settler empire: a nation whose male citizens were imported garrison for an invading euro-capitalism; a nation whose only territory is the Land they conquered & cleared by genocide; a nation that is really an empire containing many captive nations on the continent & abroad. And lastly, a nation whose race knowingly agreed to be oppressors & mass murderers in return for a higher standard of living and the “right” to be parasitic on other peoples. This is what shaped the content of their character, as a civilization. Settlers says:
“The key to understanding Amerika is to see that it was a chain of European settler colonies that expanded into a settler empire. To go back and understand the lives and consciousness of the early English settlers is to see the embryo of today’s Amerikan Empire. This is the larger picture that allows us to finally relate the class conflicts of settler Euro-Amerikans to the world struggle.
“The mythology of the white masses holds that those early settlers were the poor of England, convicts and workers, who came to North Amerika in search of ‘freedom’ or ‘a better way of life.’ Factually, that’s all nonsense. The celebrated Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, for example, didn’t even come from England (although they were English). They had years before emigrated as a religious colony to Holland, where they had lived in peace for over a decade. But in Holland these predominately middle class people had to work as hired labor for others. This was too hard for them, so they came to North Amerika in search of less work and more money. At first, according to the rules of their faith, they farmed the land in common and shared equally. Soon their greed led them into fighting with each other, slacking off at assigned tasks, etc., until the colony’s leaders had to give in to the settlers’ desires and divide up the stolen land (giving ‘to every family a parcel of land’).
“This is typical of the English invasion forces. A study of roughly 10,000 settlers who left Bristol from 1654–85 shows that less than 15% were proletarian. Most were youth from the lower middle classes; Gentlemen & Professionals 1%; Yeomen & Husbandmen 48%; Artisans & Tradesmen 29%. The typical age was 22–24 years. In other words, the sons and daughters of the middle class, with experience at agriculture and craft skills, were the ones who thought they had a practical chance in Amerika.
“What made North Amerika so desirable to these people? Land. Euro-Amerikan liberals and radicals have rarely dealt with the Land question; we could say that they don’t have to deal with it, since their people already have all the land. What lured Europeans to leave their homes and cross the Atlantic was the chance to share in conquering Indian land. At that time there was a crisis in England over land ownership and tenancy due to the rise of capitalism. One scholar of the early invasion comments on this:
“‘Land hunger was rife among all classes. Wealthy clothiers, drapers, and merchants who had done well and wished to set themselves up in land were avidly watching the market, ready to pay almost any price for what was offered. Even prosperous yeomen often could not get the land they desired for their younger sons … It is commonplace to say that land was the greatest inducement the New World had to offer; but it is difficult to overestimate its psychological importance to people in whose minds land had always been identified with security, success and the good things of life.’
“It was these ‘younger sons,’ despairing of owning land in their own country, who were willing to gamble on the colonies. The brutal Enclosure Acts and the ending of many hereditary tenancies acted as a further push in the same direction. These were the principal reasons given on the Emigration Lists of 1773–76 for settling in Amerika. So that participating in the settler invasion of North Amerika was a relatively easy way out of the desperate class struggle in England for those seeking a privileged life.”12 [...]
“The essence is not the individual ownership of slaves, but rather the fact that world capitalism in general and Euro-Amerikan capitalism in specific had forged a slave-based economy in which all settlers gained and took part. Historian Samuel Eliot Morison, in his study of The European Discovery of America, notes that after repeated failures the Europeans learned that North Amerikan settler colonies were not self-sufficient; to survive they needed large capital infusions and the benefits of sustained trade with Father Europe. But why should the British aristocracy and capitalists invest in small family farms — and how great a trade is possible when what the settlers themselves produced was largely the very raw materials and foodstuffs they themselves needed? Slavery throughout the ‘New World’ answered these questions. It was the unpaid, expropriated labor of millions of Indian and Afrikan captive slaves that created the surpluses on which the settler economy floated and Atlantic trade flourished.
“So all sections of white settler society — even the artisan, worker, and farmer — were totally dependent upon Afrikan slave labor: the fisherman whose low grade, ‘refuse fish’ was dried and sold as slave meal in the Indies; the New York farmer who found his market for surpluses in the Southern plantations; the forester whose timber was used by shipyard workers rapidly turning out slave ships; the clerk in the New York City export house checking bales of tobacco awaiting shipment to London; the master cooper in the Boston rum distillery; the young Virginia overseer building up his ‘stake’ to try and start his own plantation; the immigrant German farmer renting a team of five slaves to get his farm started; and on and on. While the cream of the profits went to the planter and merchant capitalists, the entire settler economy was raised up on a foundation of slave labor, slave products, and the slave trade.
“Nor was it just slavery within the Thirteen Colonies alone that was essential. The commerce and industry of these Euro-Amerikan settlers was interdependent with their fellow slave-owning capitalists of the West Indies, Central and Southern America. Massachusetts alone, in 1774, distilled 2.7 million gallons of rum — distilled from the molasses of the West Indies slave plantations. Two of the largest industries in Amerika were shipbuilding and shipping, both creatures of the slave trade. Commerce with the slave colonies of not only England, but also Holland, Spain, and France, was vital to the young Amerikan economy. Eric Williams, Walter Rodney, and others have shown how European capitalism as a whole literally capitalized itself for industrialization and World Empire out of Afrikan slavery. It is important to see that all classes of Euro-Amerikan settlers were equally involved in building a new bourgeois nation on the back of the Afrikan colonial proletariat.13
In amerikkka, class has always in the long run determined race, nation & gender (not for individuals, of course, but on a larger scale for peoples). When the mass industrialization of the North began, the laborers and “industrial helots” were largely european immigrants—but they were categorized as “non-white” and weren’t u.s. citizens.14 Until well into the 20th century the “dago” from Italy, the “hunky” from Poland and Hungary, were not white in the Northern cities. “White” meant Northern european & particularly Anglo-Saxon English.
It wasn’t until WWI, when u.s. imperialism expanded across both oceans to become a world power, that the ruling class decided that these “non-white” races of lower-class europeans needed to be transformed into loyal white amerikans. Only then were they raised up from semi-colonial status, given better jobs & wages, homes, education and white status. The racial makeup of u.s. capitalism’s white race was not actually decided until then, two centuries after the occupation of this continent first started.
“The industrial system in the U.S. came into full stride at the turn of the century. In 1870 the U.S. steel industry was far behind that of England in both technology and size. From its small, still relatively backward mills came less than one-sixth of the pig iron produced in England. But by 1900 U.S. steel mills were the most highly mechanized, efficient and profitable in the world. Not only did they produce twice the tonnage that England did, but in that year even England—the pioneering center of the iron and steel industry—began to import cheaper Yankee steel. That year the U.S. Empire became the world’s leading industrial producer, starting to shoulder aside the factories of Old Europe.
“Such a tidal wave of production needed markets on a scale never seen before. The expansion of the U.S. Empire into a worldwide Power tried to provide those. Yet the new industrial Empire also needed something just as essential—an industrial proletariat. The key to the even greater army of wage-slaves was another flood of emigration from Old Europe. This time from Southern and Eastern Europe: Poles, Italians, Slovaks, Serbs, Hungarians, Finns, Jews, Russians, etc. From the 1880’s to the beginning of the First World War some 15 millions of these new emigrants arrived looking for work.
“In 1910 the U.S. Immigration Commission said ‘A large portion of the Southern and Eastern immigrants of the past twenty-five years have entered the manufacturing and mining industries of the eastern and middle western states, mostly in the capacity of unskilled laborers. There is no basic industry in which they are not largely represented and in many cases they compose more than 50 percent of the total numbers of persons employed in such industries. Coincident with the advent of these millions of unskilled laborers there has been an unprecedented expansion of the industries in which they have been employed.’
“In the bottom layers of the Northern factory the role of the new, non-citizen immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe was dominant. A labor historian writes: ‘More than 30,000 were steelworkers by 1900. The newcomers soon filled the unskilled jobs in the Northern mills, forcing the natives and the earlier immigrants upward or out of the industry. In the Carnegie plants of Allegheny County in March, 1907, 11,654 of 14,539 common laborers were Eastern Europeans.’
“This new industrial proletariat—the bottom, most exploited foundation of white wage labor—was nationally distinct. That is, it was composed primarily of the immigrant national minorities from Southern and Eastern Europe. Robert Hunter’s famous expose, Poverty, which in 1904 caused a public sensation in settler society, pointed this national distinction out in very stark terms:
“‘In the poorest quarters of many great American cities and industrial communities one is struck by a most peculiar fact—the poor are almost entirely foreign born. Great colonies, foreign in language, customs, habits, and institutions, are separated from each other and from distinctly American groups on national and racial lines … These colonies often make up the main portion of our so-called “slums”. In Baltimore 77 percent of the total population of the slums was, in the year 1894, of foreign birth or parentage. In Chicago, the foreign element was 90 percent; in New York, 95 percent; and in Philadelphia, 91 percent …’
“Even in an industry such as steel (where the work week at that time was seven days on and on), the new immigrant workers could not earn enough to support a family. In 1910 the Pittsburgh Associated Charities proved that if an immigrant steel laborer worked for 365 straight days he still could ‘not provide a family of five with the barest necessities.’
“And these were men who earned $10–12 per week. In the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts, the 15,000 immigrant youth from age 14 who worked there earned only 12 cents per hour. A physician, Dr. Elizabeth Shapleigh, wrote: ‘A considerable number of boys and girls die within the first two or three years after starting work … 36 out of every 100 of all men and women who work in the mills die before reaching the age of 25.’
“In the steel mill communities—company towns—these laborers in the pre-World War I years were usually single, with even married men having been forced to leave their families in the ‘old country’ until they could either return or become more successful. They lived crowded into squalid boarding houses, owned by ‘boarding-bosses’ who were fellow countrymen and often as well the foremen who hired them (different nationalities often worked in separate gangs, so that they had a common language.)
“Sleeping three or four to a room, they spent much of their free time in the saloons that were their solace. As in all oppressed communities under capitalism, cheap drink was encouraged as a pacifier. Immigrant mill communities would fester with saloons—Gary, Indiana had more than one saloon for every one hundred inhabitants. Of course, the local police and courts preyed on these ‘foreigners’ with both abuse and shakedowns. They had few democratic rights in the major urban centers, and in the steel or mining or rubber or textile company towns they had none.
“In the U.S. Empire nationality differences have always been disguised as ‘racial’ differences (so that the Euro-Amerikan settlers can maintain the fiction that theirs is the only real nation). The Eastern and Southern European national minorities were widely defined as non-white, as members of genetically different (and backward) races from the ‘white’ race of Anglo-Saxons. This pseudoscientific, racist categorizing only continued an ideological characteristic of European capitalist civilization. The Euro-Amerikans have always justified their conquest and exploitation of other nationalities by depicting them as racially different. This old tactic was here applied even to other Europeans.
“So Francis A. Walker, President of M.I.T. (and the ‘Dr. Strangelove’ figure who as U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs developed the Indian reservation system), popularized the Social Darwinistic theory that the new immigrants were ‘beaten men from beaten races; representing the worst failures in the struggle for existence … ‘ Thus, as double failures in the ‘survival of the fittest,’ these new European immigrants were only capable of being industrial slaves.
“The wildest assertions of ‘racial’ identity were common. Some Euro-Amerikans claimed that these ‘swarthy’ Europeans were really ‘Arabs’ or ‘Syrians.’ U.S. Senator Simmons of North Carolina claimed that the Southern Italians were ‘the degenerate progeny of the Asiatic hordes which, long centuries ago, overran the shores of the Mediterranean … . ‘
“A widely-read Saturday Evening Post series of 1920 on the new immigrants warned that unless they were restricted and kept segregated the result would be ‘a hybrid race of people as worthless and futile as the good-for-nothing mongrels of Central America and Southeastern Europe.’ On the street level, newspapers and common talk sharply distinguished between ‘white Americans’ and the ‘Dago’ and ‘Hunky’—who were not considered ‘white’ at all.
“The bourgeoisie had a dual attitude of fearing these new proletarians during moments of unrest and eagerly encouraging their influx when the economy was booming. It was often stated that these ‘races’ were prone to extreme and violent political behavior that the calm, business-like Anglo-Saxon had long since outgrown. One writer in a business journal said: ‘I am no race worshipper, but … if the master race of this continent is subordinated to or overrun with the communistic and revolutionary races it will be in grave danger of social disaster.’
“One answer—and one that became extremely important—was to ‘Americanize’ the new laboring masses, to tame them by absorbing them into settler Amerika, to remake them into citizens of Empire. The Big Bourgeoisie, which very much needed this labor, was interested in this solution. In November, 1918, a private dinner meeting of some fifty of the largest employers of immigrant labor discussed Americanization (this was the phrase used at the time).
“It was agreed by those capitalists that the spread of ‘Bolshevism’ among the industrial immigrants was a real danger, and that big business should undercut this trend and ‘Break up the nationalistic, racial groups by combining their members for America.’ It was thus well understood by the bourgeoisie that these European workers’ consciousness of themselves as oppressed national minorities made them open to revolutionary ideas—and, on the other hand, their possible corruption into Amerikan citizens would make them more loyal to the u.s. Imperialism.
“The meeting formed the Inter-Racial Council, with corporate representatives and a tactical window-dressing of conservative, bourgeois ‘leaders’ from the immigrant communities. T. Coleman DuPont became the chairman. Francis Keller, the well-known social worker and reformer became the paid coordinator of the Council’s programs. It sounded just like so many of the establishment pacify-the-ghetto committees of the 1960s—only the ‘races’ being ‘uplifted’ were all European.
“The Council also, in concert with government agencies and private capitalist charities, promoted Americanization ‘education’ programs (i.e. political indoctrination): ‘adult education’ night schools for immigrants, state laws requiring them to attend Americanization classes, laws prohibiting the use of any language except English in schools, etc., etc. The Americanization movement had a lasting effect on the Empire. The Inter-Racial Council was dropped by the capitalists in 1921, since by then Americanization had its own momentum.”
What jumps out at us is how euro-capitalism used its mass construction of different races to disguise nationality differences & even deeper than that, class difference. This isn’t merely a trick: race is the class, is the nation. “White”, after all, is in its essence a class. A meta-class, if you want. As we heard earlier, in the 1920s Finnish immigrants, of all people, were among those singled out for “racist” attacks, declared non-white, persecuted by police and deported by thousands. Because Finnish workers then were too oppressed and too politically anti-amerikan to be “white”. Most were young immigrants who didn’t speak English, poor timber workers and miners and mill workers.
These un-amerikan Finnish workers were saying they ought to take care of the bosses with rifles, just as they had in overthrowing the Russian Czar (Finland had been a Russian colony until 1917). When a communistic party was first started in the u.s. in 1920, forty percent of its members were Finns. Capitalists thought this was a “communistic race” for sure, definitely not white. Only after mass arrests, mass deportations by la migra, and repression of the Finnish community could they gradually become white.
Before 1492 there wasn’t even an Indian race (so named, after all, only because dummy Columbus thought he’d discovered India in Asia when he ran into the Caribbean). There were over 300 different native societies in the Western hemisphere. Speaking different languages, having different economies & cultures, ranging from urban empires to small fishing tribes. They didn’t consider themselves a race back then, but only different peoples.
Indians never united against the British or the Spanish precisely because they weren’t a race. They didn’t consider themselves any closer to other native peoples than to these new european peoples. That’s why there wasn’t an American Indian Movement back then but there is now, now that they’ve been given a common language, a common “res” experience, a common situation—and have been made into a race by euro-capitalism.
Races are neither just natural biological groupings nor are they just fiction. Liberals used to pretend that race was “only skin deep”: only about unimportant skin color and hair differences blown up by prejudice. It’s not like that. Capitalism created its races out of different peoples as building blocks of its culture, to carry out different assigned roles, as meta-classes.
The situation, then, that Indians found themselves in was not exploitation or racism as amerikans think of it. Indian civilizations were forced into a unique role: to die off. “The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” white pioneers always said. De-populating the hemisphere of its original societies was & is fundamental to world capitalism; it’s what made “America” possible (aren’t euro-amerikans only the people Adolph Hitler wanted to be?) So u.s. capitalism hasn’t even wanted to exploit Indians in wage labor.
Their economic role as a race has been to become extinct. Settlers notes:
“So the early English settlers depicted Amerika as empty — ‘a howling wilderness,’ ‘unsettled,’ ‘sparsely populated’ — just waiting with a ‘VACANT’ sign on the door for the first lucky civilization to walk in and claim it. Theodore Roosevelt wrote defensively in 1900: ‘…the settler and pioneer have at bottom had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages.’ ...
“Amerika was “spacious” and “sparsely populated” only because the European invaders destroyed whole civilizations and killed off millions of Native Amerikans to get the land and profits they wanted. We all know that when the English arrived in Virginia, for example, they encountered an urban, village-dwelling society far more skilled than they in the arts of medicine, agriculture, fishing — and government.15 … There was, in fact, a greater population in these Indian nations in 1492 than in all of Western Europe. Recent scholarly estimates indicate that at the time of Columbus there were 100 million Indians in the Hemisphere: ten million in North America, twenty-five million in Central Mexico, with an additional sixty-five million elsewhere in Central and Southern America …
“Conservative Western historical estimates show that the Spanish ‘reduced’ the Indian population of their colonies from some 50 million to only 4 million by the end of the 17th century.
“And from the 10 million Indians that once inhabited North Amerika, after four centuries of settler invasion and rule there were in 1900 perhaps 200,000–300,000 surviving descendants in the USA …
“So when we hear that the settlers ‘pushed out the Indians’ or ‘forced the Indians to leave their traditional hunting grounds,’ we know that these are just code-phrases to refer politely to the most barbaric genocide imaginable. It could well be the greatest crime in all of human history. Only here the Adolf Eichmanns and Heinrich Himmlers had names like Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Jackson.
“The point is that genocide was not an accident, not an ‘excess,’ not the unintended side-effect of virile European growth. Genocide was the necessary and deliberate act of the capitalists and their settler shock-troops. The ‘Final Solution’ to the ‘Indian Problem’ was so widely expected by whites that it was openly spoken of as a commonplace thing. At the turn of the century a newspaper as ‘respectable’ as the New York Times could editorially threaten that those peoples who opposed the new world capitalist order would ‘be extinguished like the North American Indian.’ Only a relative handful of Indians survived the time of the great extermination campaigns. You see, the land wasn’t ‘empty’ after all — and for Amerika to exist the settlers had to deliberately make the land ‘empty.’”16
This is what makes Indians as a race so unique. It isn’t that all Indians are extinct, obviously. But to capitalism they are, in a certain sense. A race of survivors, remnants by the capitalist way of looking at things, from murdered civilizations and still captive nations. You can see this in the cultural reaction to the Indian protests over the legitimization of white racist slang and the white exploitation of Indian names, images & symbols. Euro-amerikans just don’t get it. They “love” Indians, they think. amerikkka loves the “natural” and “untamed” and “savage” symbolism of their Indians as a race. Perfect to name trucks and consumer products after. They’re dead civilizations, so what does it matter? They’re part of natural history now, like neanderthal or animal species. You don’t ask dolphins what they think of “Flipper”, do you?
Indians point out that calling a football team “Washington Redskins” is ok in the nation’s capital, but no one even considers having a “Detroit Niggers” or “Miami Cuban Faggots” because these refer to “real” living peoples who would be offended. While Indians are safely gone as far as capitalism is concerned.
A.I.M. leader Clyde Bellancourt notes that if Ted Turner is serious when he says that calling his baseball team the “Atlanta Braves” shows respect & honor, then he should just call them the “Atlanta Jews,” instead. Turner could replace the team’s “Chief” cheerleader, who wears an Indian costume with a feathered religious headpiece, with a “rabbi” cheerleader in full religious garb who blows the shofar every time a “jew” hits a homerun. And instead of the fans waving their foam rubber tomahawks—the supposed Indian symbol—in the Atlanta “chop” to spark off a rally, they could all put on blade beanies and wave dollar bills—the supposed symbol of the Jews.
Having been so close to being wiped out, Indians as a race have been removed in the capitalist mind from the list of real human societies, and are now just historic cultural exhibits there for the mis-using. To capitalism (and its white servant race), the reservation equals art museum plus zoo. Isn’t it interesting that even white feminists are asserting their Master race privilege to appropriate whatever they want of Indian women’s lives & cultures. It’s a fad among white lesbians to take Indian-sounding names for themselves, and to kidnap Indian children to “adopt” so they can own a family too. White feminists are freely plundering Indian women’s jewelry, their textile designs, their ideas, their story, even concocted versions of their spirituality. Don’t think this is racism, because for white women this is our race. And isn’t it our gender, too?
Understanding that race was politically constructed by capitalism to carry out class roles, then it’s just another step to see that the same goes for gender. Capitalism’s ingrained mindset that these things are somehow naturally determined, biologically fixed, is hard to break. Race & gender have biological roots, of course. White men’s science says today that race properly refers to the three biological divisions of the human race—divisions they call “caucasoid”, “mongoloid”, “negroid”—based on minor physical differences of skin color, hair, blood type distribution, facial features & proportion of bones.
Of course, they didn’t believe that yesterday and they may not believe it tomorrow. In any case, these minor physical differences are only a reference point for the vast superstructure of race that world capitalism created. Who else could have done it?
We say race involves minor physical differences because the truly major physical difference among humans exist at the further reaches of the sexual spectrum. Bio speaking, Clarence Thomas is more like David Duke than he is like Assata Shakur (culturally, too).
And although so called sexual differences among folks ain’t as clear cut as most of us have been taught, we’ll use the term Gender to mean those differences in behavior, social role & characteristics of women and men in a given society.
When european capitalism reshaped gender under its rule, they did so around class & race. White women were to be unnaturally “feminine”—which meant physically weaker, delicate, dependent, “lily-white”, housebound, caretakers to men, and “alluringly” satisfying to male domination. Only upper-class women and women from the middle classes, the Lady & the Housewife, could truly become these artificial women, of course. By definition, colonial and lower-class women were excluded, had failure to gender, we might say.
Race became gender. For the making of the white race involved the politicized un-making of women to fit into “white.” euro-capitalism artificially remade its women physically weaker, domestic & dependent.
Catherine is the main woman character of Zola’s novel, Germinal, written in 1885 and based on true accounts of French miners’ lives (and an actual mining disaster). When the reader first meets her she is getting up to begin another work week:
“Catherine made a desperate effort. She stretched, and clenched her hands in her reddish hair tangling over her forehead and neck. Thin for her fifteen years, she was wearing a tight-fitting chemise that exposed only her bluish feet—which seemed to be tattooed by coal—and her delicate arms … She put on her miner’s trousers, slipped on her coarse cloth jacket, fastened her blue cap over her piled-up hair … On leaving Village 240, Catherine had taken the main road into Montsou. Ever since the age of ten, when she had begun to earn her keep in the mine, she had run about the countryside alone, enjoying the complete freedom customary in mining families …”17
Etienne, the young laborer who is the novel’s protagonist, is hired as a coal hauler for Catherine’s work team:
“The young man, whose eyes were becoming adjusted to the dark, studied her. Her skin was still a sickly white; he couldn’t really be sure about her age, but she was so frail that he guessed her about twelve. Yet she had a boyish freedom and a naive impudence that he found somewhat disturbing, and he sensed that she must be older. He did not find her attractive … But what surprised him most was the strength of this child—a nervous strength in which there was also a great deal of skill. With rapid and regular shovelfuls, she could fill her cart faster than he filled his, then push it to the incline with one slow, smooth motion, passing easily under the low rocks. He, on the other hand, bruised himself terribly, ran his cart off the rails, and become hopelessly stuck.”18
Catherine was not a fantasy heroine, the princess waiting for her frog (the idea that if you have sex with a frog he’ll turn into a prince for you was just a clever ad campaign by Joey Isuzu—in real life, you just got fucked by a frog). Nor was she a “role model,” feminist or otherwise. Catherine wasn’t “feminine” because she was still a woman—strong physically and morally, not parasitic on colonialism, productive & self-supporting. Exactly the gender that euro-capitalism needed to eliminate to make a white race. And they did. White women aren’t like that.
In the early decades of colonial Virginia’s plantation (i.e. koncentration kamp) economy, european women who were indentured servants labored without freedom or wages in the fields alongside Afrikan and Indian slaves. Worked and lived together. Since “like is drawn to like,” there were in the 1600s european-Afrikan Nations, marriages, and even working joint escapes to sanctuary with the Indian nations, and even working class rebellions. In 1663 with there the was an Afrikan-Indian-european slave revolt in that colony. That’s no way to start a Master race to loyally administer colonialism.
So european women were taken out of the fields, given lighter work, and freed from bondage earlier (indentured servants were given ship passage to the colonies in return for a specified term of years in unwaged labor to a master). New laws made it a crime for european women to have sexual relations with Afrikans, and specified that any children of such relationships would be taken from the mother & made slaves. In other words, european women were made “white”.
And in Zola’s novel Germinal, on Etienne’s first day on the job as a hauler—a job traditionally done by women and girl-children—he is greeted by a miner’s contemptuous observation: “So, the men are taking the bread away from the girls now!”19 In the late 19th century, French capitalism was forcing women out of the coal mines, as part of the program of “protecting” (i.e. making dependent & defenseless) women whose gender was being remade. They, too, were colonized, but in a different way.
Gender can even drift away from sex, away from its physical moorings. Sometimes Western cattle ranches had not enough women, and white men had to substitute other men to serve them. In popular culture, these men then became viewed as having feminine characteristics. Recall those Chinamen cooks in the Western movies? The ones always called “Charlie” or “Hop Sing”. Notice how hollywood portrays them as not-men, like substitute women. They show no interest in sex or white women. They just want to stay home and serve the white man, cooking his hot meals and washing his clothes. They seldom take part in men’s conversation, only occasionally giggling or making simplistic remarks. In the movies, “Charlie” is childishly loyal to the white rancher, but of course completely alien to his manly affairs. All around him rage wars, genocide, Indian treaties, rape and land deals are going on, but that’s “men’s bizness” and not his. Just like the “good woman.” Race becomes gender, in the necessity of class.
Everyone’s discussing this now, what’s the hidden truths of race, nation, gender & class? Newsweek has a cover story, “Was Cleopatra Black?” Gays & lesbians demand legal marriage status, to register each other with the state just like they register their cars. White women managers are claiming that being of the “touchie feelie” gender makes them better capitalist executives than men. And children are getting in the action, too. A new “anti-achiever,” lower-class cartoon kid who flips off adult authority is a fad: “Don’t have a cow, dude.” A character whose cartoonist creator assumed was white, whose actual skin color in the cartoons is yellow, but who Afrikan kids perceptively insist is really Black. White men “just don’t get it.” So if we’re discussing what it all means, if it’s all in flux, how can these things be fixed or “natural “ or biological?
There’s a fluidity, an interpretation, between race, nation, gender & class. A deeper relationship we’re only starting to try & understand. They aren’t separate totally, like four houses on a block. Or even like four sides of one house, although that’s a better analogy. They influence & evolve with each other, even taking on each other’s characteristics. Oppressed peoples have been chipping away, fighting to open up and redefine these building blocks of colonized culture for generations.
1 Rosemary Bray. “Recriminations Against Ourselves” New York Times Magazine. November 17, 1991.
2 “Text of Jeffries’ July speech.” New York Newsday. August 19, 1991. (complete text as transcribed from videotape).
3 Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, M.D. The Issis (Ysts) Papers. Chicago. 1991. pp. 232–233 (Third World Press).
4 Frantz Fanon. The Wretched of the Earth. N.Y. 1968, p. 40 (Grove Press).
5 James McPherson. “A Brief For Equality: the Abolitionist Reply to the Slavery Myth.” In Martin Duberman, Ed. The Anti-Slavery Vanguard. N.Y. 1965. pp. 166–167 (Beacon Press).
6 James McPherson. “A Brief For Equality: the Abolitionist Reply to the Slavery Myth.” In Martin Duberman, Ed. The Anti-Slavery Vanguard. N.Y. 1965. pp. 166–167 (Beacon Press).
7 Interview. Washington Post. December 3, 1991.
8 Finland is a small Northern european nation on the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Russia.
9 J. Sakai. Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat from Mayflower to Modern. 4th edition. Kersplebedeb (Montreal/Oakland, 2014), pp. 147–8.
10 Attributed by Herman Rauschning. Quoted in: Robert C.l. Waite Vanguard of Nazism. N.Y. 1969 p. 131.
11 Sakai. pp. 16–18.
12 Sakai, pp. 5–6.
13 Sakai. pp. 15–16.
14 Helots were the slave class of the legendary military city-state of Sparta in ancient Greece, where free men did no labor but only fought wars. That was the popular term amerikkka used for its new industrial workers.
15 The first government of the new u.s.a., that of the Articles of Confederation, was totally unlike any in autocratic Europe, and had been influenced by the Government of the Six Nation Iroquois Confederation.
16 Sakai. pp. 10–12.
17 Emile Zola. GerminaI. N.Y. 1970. p. 14 and p. 104.
18 Zola. p. 35
19 Zola. p. 37