Print

Print


I don't claim to know about the history of racist thought in any specific
terms, but how can you say there is no expressed horror at intermarriage
in Othello?  It is constantly called unnatural.  "An old black ram is tupping
your white ewe."  It is allied with bestiality, witchcraft, and theft, and
Brabantio says it could not have happened unless she was made
unnatural because he is not white or young or Venetian.  It is not about
being ugly.
Nancy


Date sent:              Mon, 20 Jan 2003 22:15:46 -0600
Send reply to:          "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From:                   Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:                Re: More on racism
To:                     [log in to unmask]

Peter Montgomery wrote:
>
> 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
> http://www.booknotes.org/Program/?ProgramID=1711
>
> 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'm working on a longer response, but let me just note that Woodrow
Wilson showed _Birth of a Nation_ at the White House, and praised not
only
it but the novel it was based on (The Clansman). Wilson was an overt and
unapologetic racist.

Volume I (Vol. II is mostly nonsense) of _Black Athena_ gives a pretty
good history of intellectual racism in the 19th century. The period around
1800 was when hierarchical perspectives, taking inequality as merely given
not grounded in biology, gave way to modern racism. (The British treatment
of the Irish and rationalization of that treatement was probably the first
full-blown modern racism.) You can also pick up the feeling of what
happened around 1800 from Stephanie Coontz, _The Social Origins of Private
Life: A History of American Families 1600-1900_ and Walter Laqueur,
_Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud_. An important work
(with which I have some sharp disagreements, but it is still a fine work)
is M.I. Finley, _Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology_. A superb short
essay on u.s. racism (which also sheds light on other racisms) is Barbara
Jeanne Fields, "Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of
America," _New Left Review_, May/June 1990. And of course Stephen Jay
Gould, _The Mismeasur of Man_ is a classic.

Anti-semitism was originally religous, _not_ racial. (Note that there is
no objection in _Merchant of Venice_ to intermarriage -- and could you
imagine a 19th century novel in which a villainous black was punished by
having his daughter marry a wealthy white man? Black is ugly in _Othello_,
but the play shows no aroma of horror of miscegenation (the word itself
was a 19th century invention).

Darwinism did not _cause_ racism: the cause of racism was the objective
fact of the oppression of black people. See Fields.

Well, I've gone on long enough. I don't think you will ever go wrong by
overestimating the element of racism in any American writer. Racist
ideology seized on darwinism and incorporated it but was not caused by it.

Carrol