[Marxism] Notes on David Brion Davis' review
bhandari at berkeley.edu
Thu Nov 2 15:59:41 MST 2006
Just got your message.
It's worrisome and exciting that I may have made big logical
mistakes. So let's see whether I did.
Let's, then, leave aside the silly proclamations of a dialectical
historical approach (another term you have not defined) and
references to the Grundrisse which has very little to do with this
>Again, you miss completely the reality of the matter. This ONE quote
>you provide - "Africans were manumitted, the children of even lifetime
>bonded workers were free, they mated and rebelled with 'whites', they
>won in courts, 'whites' testified on their behalf, they owned property"
>- does nothing to help your case. Nowhere in such a quote is the
>existence of racism during this period refuted.
That's not the question. How have you proven the existence of racism
during this period rather than religious and ethnocentric prejudice
which was quite weak by the standards soon to be achieved?
What is your proof that racism already existed? The differential
treatment of John Punch? That does not prove the existence of
racism!You don't attend to Allen's counter-reasoning. If you say that
the proof of racism is differential treatment of Punch, then you have
to attend to cases where there is no differential treatment, and you
have to prove that Punch's differential treatment was the result of
racism rather than religious or ethnocentric prejudice or
international power politics.
Please show me how you have made such arguments.
You have to prove the existence of racism not religious prejudice and
ethnocentrism given your historical thesis. I don't see how you've
> Think about it, Rakesh,
>racism exists today, and blacks are not slaves, they mate and rebel with
>whites, they win in courts, whites testify on their behalf, and they own
>property. See where you put yourself? It's quite the silly position,
>don't you see? If this quote means there is no racism then, then why
>doesn't saying the same thing today mean there is no racism now? Why
>should we enter the realm of the absurd?
But all the above changes in the course of the history of Virginia.
So called miscegenation become illegal; slavery becomes hereditary;
children are enslaved; one legal right after another is stripped
until we arrive at the horrors of the extra legal violence of public
torture lynchings ; the peculium is taken away. Even all this is not
justified ex ante by an an already developed ideology of racism.
If racism was already formed in the premodern period as you claim,
one would think these freedoms would never have been granted (only
for the purposes taking them away by statute later on??!!). At any
rate, in what institutional form did racism exist in the beginning at
Chesapeake? That's your burden, given your belief that racist
doctrine was already formed before the Anglo colonization of the New
And where have you proven that had racist doctrine not already been
developed in the premodern period, the New World planter bourgeoise
would not have turned to both slavery as Domar's thesis shows to have
been inevitable for New World capitalist plantation agriculture and
the enslavement of Africans out of the basically economic motives
long ago laid out by Eric Williams?
You quote Eltis here but there is no real argument in support.
Again this is the burden of your argument. Even if racist doctrine
and the racialization of the Curse of Ham already existed, you have
hardly established its causal importance to the trajectory of the New
You're just passing the questions which belong to you to me! That's
what happens when you write chat room like responses to serious
And I did not say that racism cannot exist if blacks enjoy the
freedoms specified above. I said that they did enjoy them in early
Chesapeake indicates that racism had not yet taken hold.
What is your evidence that racism had already taken hold in the early
history of Chesapeake?
To Audrey Smedley and others, it seems that ethnocentric and
religious prejudice at that point had not yet hardened and was not
And I don't understand your strange reductio ad absurdum: nothing
which I have said commits me to saying that racism does not exist
today, and it's not clear to me why we should dismiss as absurd the
thesis that racism does not exist today.
At any rate, I do think it exists.
I thought I had been clear: Racism in its combined class and anti
black form today exists as a quasi auxiliary doctrinal assumption in
the justifying of cuts in welfare, the expansion of the prison
system, and restrictive immigration policy. (Racial prejudice exists
as well which affects marriage patterns and juridical outcomes.)
It does not exist in the formal ban on miscegenation or the formal
denial of juridical rights to an entire 'race'. But it has existence
today as a self conscious, often politely repressed doctrine.
It also could be that racism rather than aversive racial prejudice
does not exist today. You take such a conclusion to be the reductio
ad absurdum of my argument, but you don't prove why it would be
absurd to make a distinction between aversive racial prejudice (the
existence of which is not in doubt as Mahzarin Banaji has proven) and
racism to which there is no longer institutional subscription.
It may also be that while racism does not exist today, colorblindness
reproduces the inequalities created by state racism in the past. To
say that racism does not exist today is not to say that historical
racism does not continue to work as a paramount determinant of life
chances. Simply put, that is why we cannot forget the history of
racism. Whether racism exists today or not is simply irrelevant to
the question of whether racism has structured the world in which we
At any rate, I do believe that racism exists today, and I believe
that it will become a worsening problem as the editorials from the
Racism however did not exist in early Chesapeake; in fact racism
develops importantly as an explanation after the mid nineteenth
century for class inequality within England as Greta Jones long ago
>This is what happens when you invent a ideology-serving definition and
>then hold to it like a drowning man clinging to a thin reed. There is
>this ever sinking into the murk of confusion.
>I know that sounds harsh
>(though not nearly as hard as the insults regularly hurled at me on
>here). The irony of it all is that you think you are making a serious
argument. You're really not, Rakesh. I'm sorry. You're not.
How could I not be making a serious argument. A lot of people doubt
the existence of premodern racism--Frederickson, Smedley, Fields, the
Handlins. I don't know when this position ceased to be serious.
At any rate, here is the rest of the post you excised. For one, you
have yet to prove that prejudice against Africans to the extent that
did exist was racial rather than religious and ethnocentric.
More information about the Marxism