The Myth of the White Supremacy and its Relation to Racism
The Civil Rights Era was marked between 1865- 1970. More specifically, the Civil Rights movement happens discretely between the 1950s and the 1970s in which the central aim leans towards the struggle for racial equality.
For the purpose of this essay, the author will be identifying and analyzing the arguments of African-American racists. In addition, the author will also be enumerating legal and court cases that could shed a legal perception on the concept of racial discrimination.
The underlying foundation of the African-American racists arguments are centered on the notion of color. Blee argued that the notion of whiteness is defined more on the argument of who is “excluded” rather than who is “included” (p. 58). Racists thoughts tend to focus more on the identification of who is to be isolated from their group, rather than identifying who should be rightfully within it. As such, most racists have the tendency to cluster themselves together and strike a difference against the minority that would not fit their group.
A good example of this is the interview conducted by Liberator on 2005 on Jeff Barry, the Imperial Wizard of the American Nights of Ku Klux Clan. When Barry was asked what does it mean to be White because the notion of Whiteness is not necessarily limited to American descent (because Hispanics are also labeled as White), Barry immediately rephrased his statement and coined a different term. As such the interview is as follows:
“Liberator: Just to get it clear in my head, what races would constitute being White? I know that the Census categorizes a lot of races in the term White, even some Hispanics.
Berry: Let’s put it a different way. I’m proud to be Caucasian.” (Liberator, line 71).
More significantly, Micaela di Leonardo as cited in Blee (p.58) said that white people have the tendency to contrast themselves to certain characteristics of some minorities that they found undesirable. On the case of the white separatists, the notion of their ability to acquire modernism through a bloodless strife was significantly tied up to their elite culture. On the other hand, a so-called notion of “primitive wildness” was closely correlated on the paradigm of the African-American race (p. 58). In relation with this, Cheryl Harris, a legal theorist claimed that color (i.e. whiteness) provides a form of “exclusive membership”. As such, this argument could vividly describe the spatial nature of racial discrimination. More often, the issue of having the whites separated from the blacks is deeply rooted on the argument for space. White separatists perceived that blacks if would decide to gather together or would go to a public place, should be able to consciously distance themselves to those of the Whites.
One significant legal case that could be related to this is the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) (Curtis, 2002). The case of Plessy v Ferguson is about the legal imperative that requires African-Americans to take separate schools, parks, waiting rooms, and various public accommodations. Such a law perceives African American as second-class citizens. In addition, any violation of the said laws has an equivalent criminal offense.
In 1980, the state of Louisiana passed a law that requires railroad passengers to be segregated for security purposes. The segregation of the seating between races are seriously enforced that a state fine of $25 or up to 20 days of being kept behind bars. Homer Adolph Plessy who is a Louisiana businessman decided to challenge such a law and intentionally sat on the wrong compartment. The railroad officials asked him to shift on his designated seat, but he refused, hence he was convicted and fined. Plessy then appealed on the United States Supreme Court arguing that the segregated facilities are a violation of the “Equal Protection Clause”. Plessy’s basic argument was anchored on the notion that he is a fully participating citizen, hence he should not be denied of any sort of right. In addition, Plessy perceived that he should not be required to be distinguished against any common right or access to any public service. Hence, he claimed that the Louisiana law violated the Equal Protection Clause (Pearson Education, Inc., 2005).
On the other hand, the state of Louisiana argued that the rules are enacted for the sake of public safety. The segregated facilities are made to be equal to one another. In addition with this, the state claimed that such a policy was enacted in reference to the 14th Amendment which caters to the overall utility of American citizens. In the end, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of Louisiana by a 7-1 decision. The court argued that the state did not violate the 13th or the 14th Amendment. The court claimed that the 13th Amendment is should only be viewed in the framework of slavery. More specifically, the court interpreted that the 14th Amendment, was not created to make African Americans to be socially equal with White people, rather only civil and politically equal (Pearson Education, Inc., 2005).
In addition, since white separatists believe so much on the superiority of their race, they perceived that there is a necessity to impose the latter in such an aggressive manner. More specifically, most racists imagine a community wherein self-conscious Whites will be in existence. The immense value that should be given on the notion of one’s lineage is the dream of the majority of the racists. As such, the notion of “self recognition” that was introduced by the philosopher David Theo Goldberg that centers on the notion of “naming one’s race” is the perceived outcome of most of the separatists (Blee, p.62). On the website of the American Knights, a group that is closely associated with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a poem that is written by Oliver Allstorm talks about the unfortunate disposition of a young Aryan woman who decides to marry a Black American (i.e. a Nigger in Allstrom’s term). Allstrom describes such a union as the “saddest tale ever told”; and laments so much on how the couple made love and eventually produced an offspring. Upon reading the poem, one could immediately recognize not only the low perception upon the African-Americans, but the disgust, shame and even the idea of the acquisition of a religiously mortal sin when the Aryan girl decided to marry the Black guy. As such Allstorm said:
“I sold my birthright for a mess, I mixed my White-born blood
With black blood, so I languish here like one bogged down in mud.
Though God may grant a pardon, I never can retrace.
My footsteps down life’s narrow road, back to the White man’s race.
All other crimes may be forgiven when prayer its power fulfills;
The scheming crook may find new hope, and even the man that kills, but all my prayers can never clear my baby’s mongrel skin,
Nor make him White as driven snow, nor cleanse my soul of sin”. (American Knights, para 6; 8).
One significant case that could be related with this is the case of Loving v. Virginia at Thirty (1967) which is a case about the issue of the unconstitutionality of interracial marriage (Smith, 2002). The case of the couple named Loving was a result of the intermarriage of an African-American (i.e. the female) and a Native American (i.e. the female). The couple exchanged vows on the District of Columbia and later on lived at Caroline County in Virginia. Unfortunately, the state strictly imposes The Racial Integrity Act which does not allow marriage of individuals of different colors. In effect of this, the couple was sentenced to a year in prison; however such could be suspended if the couple will opt to leave the state for a span of 25 years. The judge argued against interracial marriage by saying that God himself is not fine with the idea of people of different descent to be together due to the basic premise that different races are placed on different continents in order for them to prevent from “mixing” (Kennedy, para 2). In relation with this, a popular perception among white Americans that is based on the 1965 Gallup Poll argues that 42% of Northern Whites are against the notion of inter-racial marriage while 72% of Southern Whites also argued the same (Kennedy, para 2).
Racists women gave immense pride on their racial lineage (Blee, p. 62). Blee, quoted a woman who she claimed as an avid follower of the National Socialism. The woman said that the term Aryan literally means “noble”. A lot of racists women even on the present times still perceive the issue of their race so defensively that any act that they see as something that puts their culture below someone else as an insult and as a huge mistake. Blee also cited an instance wherein a Klanswoman argued with the school educators and administrators complaining that her son was being taught with the contributions of the African American leaders to US history; while she claimed that her son was not taught of the history of his race yet.
In relation with the issue of the perception of the Whites on education, the paper wishes to quote the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) which tackles about the discrimination of African-American children on education (Webb, 2004). The case of Linda Brown, an eight-year old girl was about her denial of admission from an elementary school in Topeka Kansas; which is only a few blocks away from her home. Such argued that the girl could not enter the said school because she is an African-American in descent and suggested that Linda should enter another school for non-whites that is 21 blocks away from her place. The case of Linda Brown besides the fact that it argues against the discrimination on Black education, is also a manifestation of its similarity on the case of Plessy v. Ferguson which maintains the need for segregation among people with color.
The school in Topeka argued that schools for non-whites should not be perceived as relatively inferior to those of schools for the white. They maintained that nonwhite schools are operated in accordance with the Plessy standard. In addition they claimed that the building, the subjects that are offered and also the competitiveness of the teachers are very similar to those of the Whites. Also, they argued that some Federal Funds which were formerly allotted to Whites are now made available for the non Whites. Furthermore, they argued that there are even cases wherein there are some school programs from the latter that are much better than those of the schools for Whites. As such, the school maintained that such a decision was done in good faith and reiterated that both facilities of the white and the non-white schools are completely equal. In addition with this, the school also argued that such an act of segregation would not pose a significant negative effect on the children.
However, the court issued a unanimous 9-0 decision in favor of Linda. The court claimed that the notion of separating children with color to those of the Whites is a clear violation of the rights of children for equal protection. In addition, the court claimed that such separation will create a feeling of inferiority amongst the children concerned and will create a long-term detrimental effect. Corollary with this, such an act will also affect the children’s motivation to learn that could further lead to mental incapacity or even retardation.
Boeckmann (2000) argued on the notion of the existence of the so-called color-lines that she cited from Marion Dawson on 1910. Dawson according to Boekmann argued that color-lines are necessary in order to create a social barrier that would protect the Anglo-Saxon ascendancy. Such an argument implies the perception of the supremacy of the white race and the necessity to prevent any individuals with color to infiltrate such a powerful race (Boekmann, p.13). More specifically, the so-called “supremacist logic” of the white race is perceived to be threatened by the mingling of other races of inferior descent that could further make the entire white race “degraded” (p. 13-14).
Hoffman in 1986 as cited from Boeckmann (p. 17) published the results of his studies about the “health, vitality and the moral conditions of freedmen in the South” 30 years after they have been freed. Race Traits and Tendencies, discussed in 300 pages provides a comparative analysis of the “lung capacity and rates of respiratory, veneral and other diseases for black and white populations” (p.17). Hoffman found out that African-American people are relatively unhealthy despite their currently better-off state that resulted from the Reconstruction. In addition with this, Hoffman also ruled out the notion of the roles of external factors such as the place where the African-American lived, or even their diet. Hoffman argued that the Black race is in a state of continuous degradation and the inclusion of their genes to those of the Whites will surely bear unfortunate results.
To further argue with this point, scientists in the 19th century have adopted the theory of the French biologist Jean Lamarck who argued that the characteristics of a particular individual could be passed on through hereditary means (Boeckmann, p. 20). Lamarck argued that as each individual tries to make himself or herself better, they seek to gain a relatively good trait and pass it on from generation to generation (Boeckmann, p. 20). Due to this argument, some scientists perceived that the behavior that is practiced by an individual could be inherited by his or her future off springs. As such, some scientists perceived that they have this sort of duty to inform the American population; and such an act paved the way for the further culmination of the arguments of racists against African-Americans.
Blacks as Dirty and Weak
Other racist perceptions against African-Americans include assumption that they are naturally dirty (Batur et al, p. 202). Respondents from the interviews conducted by Batur et al revealed that some Whites perceived black as having some manners that are relatively unfavorable. In addition, some female respondents claimed that as a kid, they are taught that they are not allowed to bring home black boys (p.202). In relation with this, due to the perception that Blacks are dirty, some Whites opted to distance themselves to them and there are even cases wherein clerks don’t to touch them to give their change. Further responses from interview reveal that given a hypothetical situation that there is a need to give a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a Black individual, a White will certainly not do it due to a perceived disgust.
In addition with this, some of the respondents from the study of Batur et al claimed that Blacks more often opted to stay at home and not work. Black women preferred to take care of the children rather than help their husbands earn money (p. 205). Most Whites attribute the relatively low social status of Blacks to their weakness.
The underlying foundation of the African-American racists arguments are centered on the notion of color. Racists thoughts tend to focus more on the identification of who is to be isolated from their group, rather than identifying who should be rightfully within it. The case of Plessy v Ferguson is about the legal imperative that requires African-Americans to take separate schools, parks, waiting rooms, and various public accommodations. In addition, since white separatists believe so much on the superiority of their race, they perceived that there is a necessity to impose the latter in such an aggressive manner.
More specifically, most racists imagine a community wherein self-conscious Whites will be in existence. The case of Loving v. Virginia at Thirty (1967) tackles about the issue of the unconstitutionality of interracial marriage (Smith, 2002). The paper also discusses how racists women gave immense pride on their racial lineage (Blee, p. 62). The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) which tackles about the discrimination of African-American children on education presents tha case of Linda Brown, an eight-year old girl was about her denial of admission from an elementary school in Topeka Kansas.
The so-called “supremacist logic” of the white race is perceived to be threatened by the mingling of other races of inferior descent that could further make the entire white race “degraded” . Other racist perceptions against African-Americans include assumption that they are naturally dirty. In addition with this, some of the respondents from the study of Batur et al claimed that Blacks more often opted to stay at home and not work
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Batur Pinar et al. White Racism: The Basics. New York: Routledge, 2001.
Blee Kathleen. Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement. Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 2002.
Boeckmann Cathy. A Question of Character: Scientific Racism and the Genres of American Fiction, 1892-1912. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2000.
Clive Webb. “A Continuity of Conservatism: The Limitations of Brown V. Board of Education.” Journal of Southern History 70 2 (2004): 327
Curtis Michael Kent. “Albion Tourgee: Remembering Plessy’s Lawyer on the 100th Anniversary of Plessy V. Ferguson”. Constitutional Commentary 13 2 (1996): 187-199.
Harcourt Edward John. “Who Were the Pale Faces? New Perspectives on the Tennessee Ku Klux”. Civil War History 51 1 (2005): 23.
InfoPlease.Com. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Pearson Education, Inc. 2005. accessed 8 May 2007
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Kennedy Randall. Loving v. Virginia at Thirty. February 6, 1997. accessed 8 May] 2007
Smith Douglas. “The Campaign for Racial Purity and the Erosion of Paternalism in Virginia, 1922-1930: “Nominally White, Biologically Mixed, and Legally Negro” Journal of Southern History 68 1 (2002): 65.