The United States is completely and thoroughly racist, and this is true for all areas including social structure, culture, values, and ideas. Now that the bad news has been presented, we can turn to the good news. This book is very optimistic, for it stresses that it is inevitable that racism will be defeated in the United States, just as it was inevitable that slavery would end. It is only a matter of time, for the global changes in the world's economy will make racist, laissez-faire capitalism hopelessly obsolete and inefficient, just as the development of capitalism made the South's slave economy obsolete. Anti-racist forces, however, do have to work toward this goal rather than wait for economic events to take place. And to do this, the first requirement is to understand the nature of racist America.
This book about the United States is unique, for it shows how the white middle class (including in that class the working class) determines the major political agenda of the nation, including its society, culture, and government. It also shows that this middle class is racist.
Books that refer to the United States as a racist nation mean little more than that the people and the institutions of the nation are prejudiced and discriminate against black Americans. This is only half the story, however, since the values, ideals, and indeed the very thought processes of Americans are expressions of racism. In this book we argue that racism is not an American "dilemma," or simply one of the social problems facing the country. Racism is America itself. This reenergizing of the charge of racism may shock many contented white Americans, who had conveniently declared the word "racism" no longer meaningful.
American racism began before the creation of the nation. The thirteen colonies were a tripartite society consisting of the upper and middle classes and a black lower caste. Being more concerned with the bottom caste than the upper class, the American middle class adopted the equality of opportunity thesis from the laissez- faire theory of capitalism. Indeed, the key part of the cherished "American way" is the commitment to equality of opportunity. This thesis justified the privileged positions of both the upper and middle classes over the lower caste. In this respect, equality of opportunity justified both slavery and racism. Although the equality of opportunity thesis has become more sophisticated, it still is the primary justification for the relatively privileged position of the upper and middle classes against the large poverty class, disproportionately composed of black Americans.
This book is pays considerable attention to white Americans and what racism has done to them. Books on racism focus on the injustices blacks experience, but what has hitherto not been analyzed is the heavy price white America has paid for its racism. Racism has left the United States with a weak and ineffective system of government, a middle and upper class that is mean-spirited and therefore hostile to the general welfare of perhaps as much as one-third of their fellow Americans, and an economy that will fall behind economic competitors because the nation will not adapt to the new world of managed capitalism.
This book was originally written in a vein that could be interpreted as being in the school of white racism, although the authors were not at all aware of this school at the time of writing. But since its completion, the authors have decided to change the focus from white racism to the problem of the racist structure itself. The racist structure takes on a life of its own that even black and white liberals support. That is until larger social forces align to make it safe for liberals, blacks and whites, to move ahead to the next successful civil rights movement. The timidity of both black and white liberals was clearly revealed in the biography of Vernon Johns, a man who is still too truthful for the liberals. Liberals like to blame conservative whites without investigating their own role in cooperating with the racist structure. (The censorship of these related five Vernon Johns Society websites illustrates the basic conservative role of even the most liberal or radical-liberal of the sociologists.) This book will gradually be changed to reflect that fact. That is the great plus of websites -- they allow for living books that can change over time and gradually be improved. In this process there will be some bugs that may bother the purists, but it is better to live with a few glitches than leave the reader with the wrong impression.
Part I of the book covers the theory and model of American society and values -- who we are and why we are this way. Chapter 1 covers the complimentary theories about the United States, while chapter 2 covers the critical theories. (Note that these theories are theories of American society, not simply theories of the sociology of minorities.) Chapter 3 examines the South as an example of the kind of analysis that sociologists should be doing for the entire United States. American social scientists understood the racist nature of the South. They emphasized the importance of the caste system and the racism of not only the Southern upper class, but the middle class as well. These theorists also emphasized the impact of racism on every aspect of Southern life, from its government to its values, ideals, and ideas.
Sociologists have failed to apply the southern model to the United States as a whole. The reason for this is primarily that most sociologists believe in the liberal version of the equality- of-opportunity thesis and because they became so focused on the civil rights battles in the South that they failed to notice the pervasive racism throughout the nation. The South's racism was simply more virulent.
Chapter 4 applies the Southern analysis to an understanding of the United States as a whole. This application is especially needed today because the migration of blacks to all the urban centers of the nation makes the entire country now behave in a manner similar to the South after the breakdown of legal supports for its apartheid system. The chapter concentrates on the acceptance by the upper and middle classes of the equality-of- opportunity thesis, rather than equality of results, as the preferred social model for the nation. We argue that the basis for this acceptance is racism itself.
Chapter 5 develops a political model showing how the white middle class controls political swings in American governmental history. The model also identifies the social change factors that account for the political cycles in American history. Even though the United States is a basically conservative nation, it has increased equality of opportunity five times (counting the Jacksonian revolution as part of the establish of American government): the abolition of slavery, the Progressive era's curbing of industrial concentration, the granting of woman suffrage, the establishment of the welfare state, and the abolition of the southern apartheid system. Although the United States has certainly granted more equality over time to its citizens, it must never be forgotten that these changes occurred within the framework of a racist nation, and that the changes never touched the underlying equality-of-opportunity thesis or fundamentally altered the unequal society.
Chapter 6 shows how both blacks and whites, conservatives and liberals, cooperate to keep the racist structure continue.
Chapter 7 concentrates on how racism has affected the fundamental values of the United States.
Part II of the book traces the development of a common racist culture in the United States. It shows how the three very different regions (New England, the mid-Atlantic, and the South) were able to unite culturally because all faced similar problems involved with slavery. Common experiences with racism led the colonials to combine laissez-faire economics and puritanical moralism into a racist thesis of equality of opportunity.
Part III explains how the founding fathers actually created a weak and ineffective system of government that the white middle class changed to suit its needs as soon as they came to power with the Jacksonian revolution. Indeed, America's most important founding father was Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, for the Age of Jackson saw the inevitable triumph of the white middle class in American society and government.
Part IV traces the political history of the nation as it relates to the five major thrusts toward equality and the retrenchments that always follow each increase in equality. This kind of national history is important because sociologists who write about race and racism focus their efforts toward understanding the impact of racism on black Americans. Sociologists sympathize with the underdog and try to help the wider society understand the plight of this beleaguered minority. Unfortunately, sociologists usually leave the study of the entire history of the United States to historians. The history sociologists write about is usually the history of discrimination against blacks. This one-sided history is patronizing because one should also feel sorry for white Americans, who have critically damaged themselves by their racism.
The fifth part of the book considers America's future. Certainly reform is necessary if the United States wants to enter the modern world of managed capitalism. This kind of change will be extremely difficult because racism has committed the United States to an outdated laissez-faire concept of capitalism. The final chapter offers some suggestions for change.
If the United States is ever to conquer racism, it will first have to admit that it is a racist country in the full meaning of the term. Changes will have to be made in order to protect minorities from the racist white middle class and the white middle class from itself.
The book uses the word "black" instead of "African American." There are two reasons for this. First, the book uses the word "white." Second, as the book clearly shows, the emphasis on the role of ethnicity (as opposed to race) as the key to American society is a mistaken one. Using "African American" encourages white Americans to think of blacks as just another ethnic group and there by plays into the hands of the equality-of- opportunity/sociological racism that now is the dominant ideology in the country.
We would like to remind the reader that this is a book primarily about the nation's fundamental problem of racism, and therefore is not an attempt to compile an all-inclusive history. Rather it covers much of the material that liberal historians writing within the confines of a racist society have chosen to ignore. We hope the readers will not be too disappointed if some of their candidates for outstanding historical figures are not included in the book. For general history, we used Samuel Eliot Morison's The Oxford History of the American People.
Our motive in using liberal history was the correct one. We wanted to show that we could take the liberal history of American academicians and fit it exactly into our political model of racist America. And liberal history is actually the correct one, for it reflects the very limited impact of radical and liberal non-racist ideas in American history. Of course, the liberals did not have this interpretation in mind, but that just makes our interpretation of history that more truthful.
Some readers may also be disappointed with the relative absence of feminist concerns (see Giddings 1984 and Collins 1990 for excellent treatments of this topic). While the authors are feminists, we feel true progress towards greater equality of the sexes has to be tied to an assault on racism. A feminist movement that succeeds in attaining its goals only for white women will leave a society with more inequality (as both spouses in the richer classes will now be earning high incomes) and greater support for conservative political parties and causes (because now both white spouses have higher incomes). All future political thinking for reform movements has to reject racist positions that result only in liberal changes while leaving the black caste system intact.
Another subject that we cannot cover adequately in this book is the resemblance of the United States to South Africa. For the interested reader, Fredrickson (1981) has written some excellent material on this subject matter. We can only say that the nation that most closely resembles the United States is South Africa.
We have heard several excuses from sociologists for not accepting the thesis of this work. There are some truths that are so painful that people just decide not to listen to them, deny them, or ignore them. This is the situation with the variable of race. Intellectuals don't want to think about it so they tend to (we would say "deliberately") misunderstand the argument. For instance, a common criticism is that we say the race factor overshadows all other elements in American history. All we said was that of all the variables, and there are many, racism is the most important. People who don't want to deal with Marxism and the class factor always demean Marx by saying that Marx says the class factor overshadows all other elements in world history. It is a deliberate misstatement by opponents who want to create a straw man argument that is easily dismissed.
Another argument is to say that to call everyone racist is to make the term meaningless. But this book uses an entire continuum of racist positions, from the right wing KKK'ers through the conservative racists, the middle-of-the-road racists, the multicultural separatist racists, the liberal racists, and the Marxist racists. The hope is that the position on the racist left can be made non-racist by having them accept the importance of the factor of racism in American life and society.
We would like to thank Dr. Larry Reynolds for his helpful suggestions. And the authors would like to thanks themselves for their perseverance against the censorship, indifference and outright hostility of both black and white old liberal and new multicultural separatist thinkers.
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