Forwarded from Anthony (wrap-up post on the South)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sun Mar 18 16:27:40 MST 2001


Hi Lou:

This is my last post for a while on the subjects of "the South", "Southern
consciousness" etc... in keeping with your wise policy of giving it a rest.

The most recent US Census, flawed as it is, racist as it is, taken in the
year 2000 but just now being released in pieces to the public, has a lot of
food for thought in it.

For our discussion here, three big facts are most relevant: "Nearly 7
million Americans described themselves as multiracial in the 2000 Census."
(Washington Post) that’s about 2.4% of the population; about 35 million say
they are Latino (not a racial category, Latinos -called ‘hispanic’ by the
census’ also checked various racial categories); and the Census Bureau
shows that there are 7 million undocumented people living in the USA - but
other Census bureau surveys indicate that there may be as many as 11 million.

What does this have to do with "Southern Consciousness"?

Or more precisely, what does this have to do with the relative strengths of
racism and anti-racism?

I think it shows that racism - in some parts of the United States, has
weakened to the point that multiracial couples feel secure enough to walk
hand in hand down the street, to live together, and even to have children
together. [This was not the case in most parts of the United States before
the civil rights movement. Then black and ‘white’ couples had to be very
brave, and ussually had to seek protection within the black community -
where they were also resented, but not often physcially attacked. Asian and
‘white’ couples had similar experiences, while Latino and white couples had
more varied experience, depending on their communities.]

According to the Washington Post,

"That diversity -- which stems in part from a change in the way race is
officially measured -- is particularly true among children. Among Americans
younger than 18, for example, 4.2 percent were multiracial, compared with
1.9 percent of adults. The major reason, census officials said yesterday,
was that the number of interracial couples more than quadrupled."

What is most interesting about this, is that it is occurring not just in
enclaves of leftish culture, e.g. Berkeley, California, but all over the
country, including parts of the South.

According to the Washington Post article quoted above,

"Among the 13 states where the Census Bureau has released detailed race
information so far, multiracial populations range from less than 1 percent
in Mississippi to 4.5 percent in Oklahoma. Among big counties in those
states, Fairfax and Prince William counties in Virginia were among the top
10 with their multiracial populations, about 4 percent."

Clearly the South is not homogenous. Judging by this measure, racism
remains strongest in Mississippi of all the 50 states, but just as clearly
there are parts of the south where racism has suffered big blows.

(Oklahoma of course has always been exceptional because of the very
powerful native American presence there.)

The figures from Virginia are the most interesting, in this regard.

According to the Post,

"Although the numbers showed that most Americans still are non-Hispanic
whites, that group is growing more slowly than others. As a result,
minorities make up roughly one-third of the nation's population, up from
one-quarter in 1990. The Hispanic population, now 35.3 million, rose 58
percent over the past decade and now equals that of blacks. Hispanics and
blacks each make up about 12 or 13 percent of the population. Asian
Americans, whose numbers also rose rapidly, are about 4 percent of the
population. The nation's American Indian population was among those most
affected by the change in the form. That population now ranges from 2.5
million to 4.1 million, with the larger number reflecting people who also
included themselves in another racial category. Nationally, 2.4 percent of
people described themselves as belonging to more than one race. The single
largest multirace category was white and "some other race," which census
officials said was checked mainly by Hispanics."

What is the importance of the rise of the Latino population have to do with
"Southern Consciousness"?

I think it is very interesting that large numbers of Latinos checked "white
and some other race".

Despite Tony Abdo’s observations in another discussion about Mexican and
Colombian racism, racism is far weaker in most of Latin America, than in
the USA. And an increase in the Latino population is the best thing that
can happen demographicalically in the fight against racism - short of the
whole population becoming "multiracial".

The growth of the "multiracial" population, combined with the growth of the
Latino population (and also, though in a different way, of the Asian
population) in the United States marks a major advance in the struggle
against racist consciousness - including and especially in the South.

Two of the important things that the figures I have available so far do not
show, and maybe can not show are

* How whites born in the south, and still living in the south - are
reacting to this change. (I would imagine that a division is taking place
between those who accept or are part of the growth of multiracialism, those
who resent it but tolerate it, and those whose racism has become deeper and
uglier.)

* How immigration into the south from other parts of the USA is affecting
the south, including racist conscisounsness among whites. ( I would imagine
that some of the migration to the south consists of former southern
immigrants to the North and West, ‘returning home’ - probably with
different attitudes than when they left. And I would imagine that some of
the most reactionary immigrants to the South come from the north - racist
white Northerners repelled by the gains of blacks and others in the North -
and hoping to find George Wallace’s South still intact.)

I imagine that racism is much weaker in the dynamic cities of the South,
than in its more backward, moribund places. In other words, where the
populaiton of the south has grown the most, and the fastest, racism has
probably declined the most.

I want to add a personal note here, as well - because my personal
experience indirectly supports my observations above.

Until I was ten years old I grew up in two places: a working class
neighborhood in Hayward, California which included lots of Latinos, lots of
Oakies (they called themselves Oakies) lots of children of immigrants from
Eastern and southern Europe and ‘white’ people from the Southern states of
the United States - but no blacks; and a mostly black neighborhood in North
Oakland.

After I was ten I continued to live in the San Francisco Bay area - which
was, and is a rapidly growing population center where the majority of the
population has always been born somewhere else - either in the USA, or
outside of the USA.

Southern whites there resented everyone - but tried to make friends. By the
time I was a in my 20’s I was amazed to meet some of my white friends from
Hayward, and some of my Black friends from Oakland, partying at the same
disco in Concord. (Another SF suburb.)

1970’s disco music, as awful as it was - was a multiracial cultural
phenonmen of the time. It was the cultural product of the civil rights and
black nationalist struggles of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The Census data I
talked about above, reflects it.

The thing that struck me at that time, was that black and white couples -
working class couples - who were not political in any serious sense - still
maintained the rhetoric of their old resentments. One person I knew, a
white (male) automobile worker who drove a truck with the stars on bars in
its back window, married a black woman from a nice Baptist family.

I have no idea how this level of society has worked out in the South - I am
sure it is more racist than Oakland, Hayward, San Jose, Berkeley, or
Concord, California - but I am certain the partial victotries of the
movement of the past are still playing themselves out there at the level I
am talking about.

For me, Tony Abdo’s remarks are interesting - even when I think he is off
the wall and/or historically wrong. His remarks are valuable to me not
because I agree with his ‘southernness’, but because they offer a window
(rose colored) on social processes that can not be easily seen from
Manhattan, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, or any of the other far-flung places
contributors to this list live in.

I am not advocating tolerance of anyone’s views where there are strong
disagreements - I am advocating a comradely tone of discussion so that this
list will continue to grow in number, and in quality.

I have a lot more to say on these subjects, but will wait until another time.

All the best, Anthony


Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/





More information about the Marxism mailing list