Marxist definition(s) of "race"

Sherry & Stan Goff sherrynstan at
Thu Apr 25 14:11:15 MDT 2002

> You pretend. Answer the question: what is race?

Race is a social construct, historically based on exploitation and
domination of less powerful groups, and developed ideologically out of the
cognitive dissonance of the dominating group, who assigns characteristics to
a subjugated group, and attempts to correlate those characteristics with
phenotype or culture; characteristics that make the subordinate group
responsible for its own subjugation.  Racism is practice based on that

This is one reason the Haitian Revolution was so significant beyond its
borders.  It not only awakened Black masses in the region, including the
Southern US, it shook the foundation of white supremacy by refusing racial
subjugation.  It's no accident that when US school children study revolution
in this hemisphere, they read only of George Washington and Simon Bolivar.
Racist practice reproduces white supremacy, institutional and ideological,
paying a social wage in the form of white privilege to
economcistically-blinded (among other things) white workers, which
perpetuates the national-colonial oppression of African-Americans.

You were right, however, on a much earlier post, about something, and I want
to emphasize our common ground here.  "Segregation, the Highest form of
White Supremacy", by John Cell, did a comparative analysis of South African
and North American apartheid.  Cell makes a very strong case that the
disfranchisement of Blacks after around 1898 by the "Party of White
Supremacy", a moniker proudly adopted by the Democrats, was a direct
response to the fusion politics of white Populists and Black Republicans.
The fusion ticket actually took political power in North Carolina, and a
coup d'etat was required to break that power, commonly refered to as the
"Wilmington Race Riots."  While the Democratic establishment whipped up the
latent sexual terror of white males with lurid tales of predatory Black male
sexual potency to mobilize the softest supporters of the Populist cause,
which began as a visceral hatred for the usurous furnishing merchants,
against their Black comrades, that establishment ensured--to this
day--through the structure of the political process that there would never
again be a populist challenge to the power of either faction of the Southern
bourgeoisie.  Segregation was codified every bit as much to break the power
of white Populists, workers and small farmers, as it was to disfranchise
Blacks generally, and subordinate Black workers and sharecroppers.

Besides Cell's book, there is a very good history of this era, called
"Democracy Betrayed," edited by David Cecelski and Timothy Tyson.

The role of sexual paternalism and male insecurity in this episode, and how
it intersects with racial sterotyping, is crucial to understanding the
seeming intractibility of racist ideology in the South.  Oftentimes, when we
think we are speaking to an issue with a white male worker, we fail to
understand the powerfully irrational psychosexual filters he is receiving
through.  Without falling into yet another linear formula, allow me to
simplify for the sake of brevity.  There is no way to the revolution in the
South, without overcoming racism, and there is not way to that without
overcoming gender oppression.  Obviously that "overcoming" doesn't happen
through simple persuasion, but more often through trauma, hard necessity,
and the practices that force us together to deal with them.

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list