Whenever the issue of Eliot's racism and anti-Semitism comes up, the
debate immediately becomes semantic.  One side says he did not have
any personal objection to Jews and Blacks or that what he wrote can be
read as "ironic," and the other side says his writings contain racist and
anti-semitic material.  So it never gets anywhere.  The question we need
to determine first is what the words mean.  The fact remains that he said
what he said.  So what does that mean?

Date sent:              Mon, 20 Jan 2003 17:49:59 -0800
Send reply to:          "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From:                   Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:                Re: More on racism
To:                     [log in to unmask]

The program was Booknotes on C-SPAN.
January 19, 2003 :First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their
Country a World Power by Warren Zimmermann

It would seem that four of these five U.S. notables
thought that Europeans and especially Anglo-Saxons were
superior by virtue of their race. I gues the question
I am asking is: Was the apparent anti-semtism and anti-Africanism
more a function of a sense Anglo-Saxon superiority, than a
sense of the inferiority of the other races per se.

I know it is a fine distinction, and either way it amounts
to a kind of racism, but if my disinction holds it could explain
some of the blindness involved. In effect, X looks down on Y, not
so much because X thinks Y inferior, as because X thinks X is superior.

One can watch the program by a link from the above site.
The case is very clearly made that there was a strong sense of
Anglo-Saxon racial superiority, and that Darwin was used to
justify it.

That's about as concrete as I can get, Ken. I hope it helps
to clarify what I am trying to get at.

Personally I am quite ambivalent about whether E. was anti-semetic
before WWII. I don't think one can use the poetry to make the
case, because the point of view, if there even is one in the poem,
need not be Eliot's. It could be a portrait of the time.

The words in AFTER STRANGE GODS are much harder to get around.
They seem pretty blatantly racist to me, but whether it was
a personal racism or just being a blind part of the movement
(neither way excusable) is hard to tell. I don't know of any
case that can be made for Eliot's being racist AFTER WWII.


Dr. Peter C. Montgomery
Dept. of English
Camosun College
3100 Foul Bay Rd.
Victoria, BC CANADA V8P 5J2
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-----Original Message-----
From: Ken Armstrong [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, January 20, 2003 6:20 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: More on racism

What program, Peter? This is all pretty vague stuff in your post. While
you were off the list (in fact, I think you were a key in kicking off the
discussion just before you left), Eliot and anti-semitism  was pretty
thoroughly hashed over, and just for the record there are (or were) a
significant number of listers who thought Eliot not to be anti-semitic or
racist, me among them. Too bad the list archives are unavailable. At any
rate, though I don't wish to recreate that discussion, I don't accept your
premises. The poetry, even Burbank and Gerontion especially, points to a
different orientation. Interesting that this pops up on the day of
celebration in the US of Martin Luther King.

Ken Armstrong

At 09:41 PM 1/19/2003 -0800, you wrote:
>I've just been watching a program on the development of US power,
>and there is a lot being made of Europeans and esp. Anglo-Saxons
>being considered the superior races, on the basis of Darwin. Many
>key people in the US admin. opposed open immigration on that basis.
>In particular, the concept was taught at Harvard.
>Could this A/S superiority complex be the flip side of
>the anti-semitism of the time, Eliot being a typical buyer
>of such cant.
>[Plese note: I have no desire or intention here of trying to
>      excuse Eliot's racism. I want only to understand the situation. I
>      do, however, as I have indicated before, fully expect the clowns
>      who enjoy plaguing us, to use racism for shock purposes.]