Print

Print


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