[Marxism] Forwarded from Austin Jackson

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 4 12:11:39 MDT 2006

(Austin, when you reply to the digest, you have to remember to clip 
everything except the message you are replying to. This bounced because it 
exceeded the 35K limit for posts. After I trimmed the excess baggage, it 
was okay.)

<<By way of a relevant example, a Black politician here in Chicago with some
credibility as an organizer in the oppressed community made a speech here in
which he used the term "house n*****s" to refer to Black supporters of the
(Mayor, Democratic and white) Richard M. Daley administration.  Well, Daley
and the media started playing "cards" right and left, and you saw the
nauseating spectacle of Daley, a thoroughgoing racist and big-capitalist
stooge, friend of Bush, who in his days as state's attorney presided over
massive torture of Blacks by the Chicago police, telling the people of
Chicago what a shame it was that any politician would use such hurtful
language.  Do we have to go along with such crap?  Is "racist language" by
Black politicians the same thing as "racist language" by whites?  No, it's a

Words are meaningful only in the context of their usage.  "House
niggers" (or more politely, "house slave") is a term used within the
African American community  to Black folks who defend or actively
support their oppressor.  It is a term created by white slave masters
(not Black people) to designate the division of labor within the
plantation system: "field niggers," enslaved Africans forced to work
under the threat of torture or death picking crops for the white slave
master, and "house niggers," enslaved but slightly more privileged
bondsmen working as domestic servants in the house of their white
The "house nigger" often (but not always) was content in slavery,

It was Malcolm X (invoked recently by HarryBellefonte in his critique
of Colin Powell) who famously invoked the field slave/ house slave
dynamic to explain the problem of "Black leadership." Plantation
owners during American chattel slavery created two complex systems of
protecting their institution of free and easily exploitable labor. One
was overt violence and the threat of violence (beatings, castration,
rape, mutilation, lynching, etc.). The other was divide and conquer,
create a caste (class) system amongst the enslaved. Hence, the African
made to work in the field as labor, and the "house nigger" who
attended to the white slave owners every need. The plantation owner
made the house nigger, who was always
in close proximity to his master, feel superior over his less
fortunate brother forced into back-breaking labor in the field. Often,
the house nigger accepted his master's racist logic, seeing his
"superior" status (not unearned privileged) as truth.  Therefore,
whenever the house nigger heard of an uprising, he quickly ran and
told massa. Whenever the house nigger caught wind of escape plans, he
quickly ran back and told massa. Whatever the brother and sisters in
the field did anything to achieve freedom, the house nigger quickly
condemned them by going back and telling his "massa." This way, the
system of perpetual slavery was maintained, as enslaved Africans ­
seeking to hold on to their shameful, unearned privilege -- actually
worked proactively to ensure the oppression of his brother. The house
nigger was a coward, a traitor to his people, willing to say and do
whatever simply to keep being fed the crumbs off his white master's

In short, "house nigger" within African American Langauge and rhetoric
is synonymous with the word "traitor."

It is NOT "racist language."  Marxists should consider stuying the
relationship between language and resistance within discouses of the
oppressed.  Most references to African American rhetoric on this
thread has been inaccurate or distorted (especialy associating Malcolm
X with anti-semitism).




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