CHAPTER 3. THE NATURE OF THE SOUTH
The theories of American society presented in the first two chapters all underestimate the role of race in American life. Such is not the case for studies of the American South. It would be virtually impossible for social scientists to underestimate the role of race in an area totally dominated by slavery and then by apartheid. The best applicable theory of the United States is that developed by analysts of the American South. This is true because the sociologists, political scientists, and historians were able to show how racism so thoroughly affected every aspect of southern life: government, police, education, media, and culture, as well as values, ideals, and ideas.
This book does not analyze the South in detail. Instead, the focus is on the theories developed to explain the South. Theorists such as William Dodd, Ulrich Phillips, and Frank Owsley (see O'Brien 1979) made the essential point that the southern racist system stemmed from slavery. This is important because it establishes the priority of social structure over ideas. All too many American theorists prefer to emphasize values as primary. Keeping with the economic theme, under the southern slave system, some white workers did have economic reasons to worry about black labor, for employers would often use slaves rather than hire poor whites (Stampp 1956:426). This kept the poor whites supportive of the caste system, but it does not explain the intensity of white middle-class racism. Sociologist Wilbert E. Moore (1971:137) notes that in the South the nonslaveholder (and this included many persons in the middle class) remained socially superior as long as the blacks remained slaves. By the very existence of a black caste, all whites were members of the dominant class.
Non-Marxist theorists of the South recognized that the southern white middle class, independent of the obvious influence of the gentry, was racist in nature. In the South the farmers and artisans exercised what Cooper and Terrell (1990:60-63) call the politics of deference and democracy. Although the middle class believed in and practiced democracy, the farmers and artisans gave their consent to and even expected the gentry to rule. Indeed, the farmers and artisans supported the gentry's exercise of authority.
Most serious students of the South argue that the white middle class was deeply racist and helped maintain the racist system (see Davis et al. 1941). Both the upper and middle classes benefited in the short run from the subjugation of blacks. The southern upper class could keep the less fortunate divided by (please excuse the term) "nigger baiting," but middle-class whites would not have taken the bait if they were not racist themselves. Southern political leaders merely had to warn the white middle class of the threat of racial equality to stir a negative reaction. The politicians would dredge up the deepest fears of these people, topping the argument off with the fear of miscegenation. The threatened middle class would then immediately stop any progressive southern politician, as well as any member of the upper class, intent on modernizing the South.
Racist ideology, first seeing blacks as heathens and then as biologically inferior, supported this racist system. The South enforced this racism in all its educational institutions, including schools and the various media. Racist ideology thereby reinforced the racist caste system.
The racist system in the South affected all aspects of southern life, not just the way southerners made their living. The southern way of life included such values as their chivalrous but sexist attitudes toward women, as well as their celebration of war and warlike attributes. Wilbur Cash (1941; summarized in Cooper and Terrell 1990) delineated southern self-consciousness with the term "savage ideal." This ideal supported the suppression of dissent (and even personal variety), anti-intellectualism, a lack of criticism and analysis (wherein criticism is seen as high treason), Puritan guilt, a disinclination to reflection and abstract thought, violence, exaggerated individualism, a restricted concept of social responsibility, and attachment to fictions and false values. Southerners justified the cruelty of their racist system in the name of such values as racial superiority, southern patriotism, and religion. Even the so-called virtues of the southern way of life were the result of the paternalistic southern culture. These values included courtesy, personal generosity, loyalty, and patriotism. The thesis of our book is that these southern characteristics and values are merely applications or exaggerated versions of the American way of life and values. The reason for this is that both America as a whole and the South are racist. (This is not to deny that the South continues to the present to be the most racist region in the nation. But constantly pointing to southern racism, as if somehow it is fundamentally different from northern racism, merely lulls liberal Americans into self-satisfaction.)
Like the average American, the average southerner rejects the idea that racism is the source of many of his or her values and ideas. Southerners have elaborated a great social pretense system to deny the influence of race. The idea of social pretense has been illuminated by the political scientist V. O. Key, Jr., a student of the southern apartheid system. With slight modification, his remarks can be applied to the entire nation as well. The author notes (1984:665) that "southern political regionalism derives basically from the influence of the Negro. Other factors, to be sure, contribute to sectional character, but in the final analysis the peculiarities of southern white politics come from the impact of the black race."
Key (1984:665) adds:
race relations is a constant preoccupation of politicians or a
matter of continuous debate. Campaign after campaign is
waged in which the question of race is not raised; ...
The situation is, rather, that the struggles of politics
take place within an institutional framework fixed by
considerations of race relations, a framework on the
order of a mold which gives shape and form to that which
it contains. It is chiefly when the equilibrium in race
relations is threatened that the issue of the Negro comes
to the fore in political discussion.
... the effects of race are such that the participants in
politics are not always conscious of them. Much less are
outside observers aware of the precise nature of the
consequences of race and, indeed, in many instances it is
most difficult to estimate their significance although their
general nature may be divined.
Indeed, both southern and American societies have highly developed systems of social pretense that largely exclude rational consideration of the nation's racial problems. The refusal to discuss race and racism is itself a sign of racism. Not talking about racism continues the social pretense system and racism; but that is the intent, sad to say.
Effect of Social Structure on Values
This book uses the southern model as a starting point to analyze American society as a whole. The southern model clearly shows how racism is more intimately tied to economics than to racist values or ideas. The discussion that follows delineates some of the main facets of this analysis -- an analysis that corrects many of the conservative and liberal biases in American social theories.
As a general rule, social structure is primary, values are secondary. Values are primarily used to justify an existing social structure, so the less privileged in the society will accept the unequal distribution of the good things of life, including power, status, and wealth. Therefore, values are an extension of the power struggle between social groups.
The power struggle over values goes on continually. Every day there are battles to determine whose values will dominate in the various institutions of society. Obviously, it is usually the values of the most powerful groups that predominate. If the value system does not serve to justify the self-interest of a group, then the value system will be modified. If a group's values have been substantially contradicted by changes in the social structure, the old value system will be abandoned and a new one adopted. One should never underestimate the ability of groups to develop various social values to justify and define their positions vis-a-vis other groups. Samuel Eliot Morison (1972, 2:268-269) provides a good example of how people will even abandon their religion if it conflicts with their economic self-interest. He notes that the proportion of evangelical religions in the South increased as the evangelical ministers argued that the Bible justified slavery, while Catholic and Episcopal church membership remained stationary as their clergy stayed neutral on the slavery issue.
The Role of Values
Although social structure has primacy, values are obviously important. If sheer political power were constantly used to enforce the values of the dominant group, the system would be seen as illegitimate, based on force and power rather than on the consent of the entire society. Therefore, in order to have social peace and the cooperation of disadvantaged groups, it is important that all social groups believe (not just accept) the dominant values. Thus, values have to be expressed in universal terms. Not only do values have to be universal, they have to guarantee the less fortunate a chance to share in the system -- morally, intellectually, and economically. In other words, values have to be inclusive.
Nevertheless, values often obscure the real workings of the system. If one constantly repeats that the real situation actually reflects the values, many people come to believe the society is like the valued one. Indeed, values come to be so much a part of our way of thinking that they define the very way we look at society. Values come to be taken for granted, never questioned as to legitimacy or validity.
The Role of Ideas
Values tend to be permanent, whereas ideas ebb and flow with political struggles. Ideas, like values, are used in conflicts. Idea systems are very important because they provide a way for political forces to measure their degree of success or failure. For instance, ideas are especially important to dominant groups in a society because dissent from the traditionally or politically correct views identifies persons who need to be disciplined or punished. Another example applies to those groups publicizing a social movement. The groups know the movement is increasing in power if more influential people declare their sympathies with the ideas. Conversely, members know their support is slipping, and in which areas, if there are defections from the idea system. Without ideas, political and social movements would be ineffectual because there could be no coordination of efforts. Each smaller group within the larger movement would develop its own set of ideas, ending in considerable chaos.
Ideas are often reflections of the values of the larger society. And given that the United States is a racist society, it is not surprising that it always chooses the more moralist and idealist candidates among competitive ideas. For instance, the United States chose the following idea systems: the ideas of Max Weber (emphasizing idealism) over Marx (emphasizing self-interest); the sociological idea (via William James) that human beings are creatures of ideas over Darwin's emphasis that the human brain is an extension of the animal brain; and Freud's stress on the importance of the sublimation of natural drives over Kraepelin's medical approach to psychiatry and mental illness. The United States always chooses the idealistic theory over the more materialistic precisely because the idealistic approaches support the nation's racist/moralist values and idea system. The price paid for this delusion is that it is very difficult for Americans to think through any problem rationally because their theories are inadequate, misleading, and mistaken.
EQUILIBRIUM THEORY APPLIED TO THE SOUTHERN APARTHEID SYSTEM:
PARALLEL RACIST WHITE AND BLACK SYSTEMS OF POWER DISTRIBUTION
Insights into Sociological Theory
American sociology has not been very successful in building theoretical models that can explain American society and politics. One reason for this is that sociologists are too identified with the politics of the present, which in their case is nearly always liberal. Focusing on the immediate present automatically puts blinders on the sociologist. They are unable to focus on higher truths that are independent of political gains and losses in the present. And one of the most serious blinders is the inability of sociologists to see that the present day politics of different times and generations are the expressions of the various self-interests of competing groups of those times and generations, mostly conservative and liberal in the case of the United States. This identification of sociology with contemporary liberal politics has prevented them from seeing that liberals themselves, including sociologists, engage in various forms of social control, including the censorship of politically unpopular (or politically incorrect) ideas.
In the present with the constant talk of freedom of the "me" generation and the selfishness of the X generation, one of the most underrated sociological concepts is that of social control. Today's politically correct sociologists currently prefer various forms of conflict theory. Conflict theory is the best place to start, because any society is most readily understood by discovering which group or groups hold power in the society. Those who hold power largely get to determine how the society is structured as to its social structures, politics, values, and ideas. In order for the power groups to control society, they have to use a structural-functionalist model to guide them in constructing and maintaining their desired society. Even the idea of equilibrium, for which the functionalists have been criticized, is actually very useful. There is a form of equilibrium in any society, because the groups in charge make sure that the various parts of society combine to insure the equilibrium of the whole. This equilibrium is not natural, but rather enforced by those in power.
In democracies power is shared between competing groups, but it is not only the conservatives that engage in social control. Liberals are also actively engaged in social control. Liberals are more like conservatives than they are different from them. Liberals may be slightly more concerned about the underprivileged, but this concern is best seen as a reflection of the overall political wishes of the liberal groups, including their desired life-styles, values and ideas. Liberals like conservatives engage in social control, especially within their own liberal ranks. This will become obvious when we study the life of Vernon Johns, who was constantly censored not only by conservatives, but also by the liberals of the south and even the North.
Both conservative and liberal American thinkers work within the contexts of a racist American system. The liberals are dedicated to making gradual reforms in this society, without questioning whether these gradual reforms ever really change the fundamentally racist character of the nation's institutions. Liberal theory has always underestimated the impact of race on American society and politics and because of this liberal reforms, such as the first and second reconstructions fail, because of the too little/too late nature of liberal approaches and ideas.
There has been a long history now of the inability to bring social conflict and structural-functional together. This paper will show how these concepts actually go hand in hand. Social conflict theory is the primary theory because social conflict is the primary force in society. Compromise and getting along are important concepts, but these are worked out by competing and conflicting groups. But structural-functional concepts are very important, not least of all to the conflicting groups. Ideas are certainly not of primary importance.
The reason why American sociologists have not seen this inherent cooperation between conflict and cooperaation theory is that they have seen themselves too much as the good guys in the conflict. According to their biased version of conflict theory, the bad conservatives are using their social control techniques and theories of structural-functionalism to prevent the good liberals from attaining the equal society. What they do not realize is that it is not a matter of good and bad, but rather relative degrees of evil. All competing groups, conservative and liberal, compromise in creating society. It is a compromise between the two groups, both of which are motivated by self-interest. There are of course various degrees of self-interest. Conservatives do rank higher on the self-centered end of the selfishness scale, but even though liberals are less self-centered they are still primarily selfish in orientation. Intellectuals who are well-paid support the underdog in the society because they see these people as allies in creating a more decent society that is more acceptable to the liberals. But the end equilibrium compromise is a working out of relative selfishness. The liberals do not ask for an immediate equal society, but rather support small changes over time. And liberals have often supported evil societies. For instance, liberals in the South supported the separate but equal society. They were less selfish than their conservative counterparts, but they still did support segregation. Egerton (19 ) clearly shows how the Southern intellectuals, even those working in the field of civil rights, constantly failed to take a clear stand against segregation.
What's wrong with structural-functional theory? It is not inherently a politically conservative view, but it has often been used by conservatives. It traditionally also overemphasized the role of ideas. Ideas are important, but not as important as human competition and selfishness, of which ideas are primarily reflections.
The liberals see themselves as the good guys. This is dangerous because it allow liberals to be blinded by their own arrogance and seeing themselves as good guys makes others with ideas different than theirs as bad guys.
Functionalism is very important because of the concept of social control. Liberals do not believe that they are in the business of social control, but rather they are trying to fight the social control system of the conservatives. But actually, both conservative and liberal intellectuals in America engage in social control.
Conflict theory stresses who gets what -- who's getting rich and who's getting screwed, to put it crudely? In all too many societies one dominant group prevails over the others. But even in democratic societies, social control is the primary tool used by those who have worked out a compromise in the conflict of groups. Both sides apply social control to control their sides in the battle. And in fact both conservative and liberal groups are in agreement about a few of the dominant rules in the society, and they agree to apply social control techniques to make sure everyone is the society follows these rules.
Social controls and other concepts of structural functionalism are essential to conflict theory. Societies cannot stay in a constant state of conflict. It would be too destructive for both sides. Most liberal changes comes in cycles of change and these cycles contain the conflict to certain periods, preventing the conflict spreading to all periods.
Even the concept of equilibrium is important. There is equilibrium in society. It does not occur naturally, but is actually designed by both liberals and conservatives. They insure that the society is in equilibrium. It is a designed and controlled equilibrium, not one that happens in a natural way, as in the theory of laissez-faire capitalism. That concept of equilibrium has a conservative connotation, but a designed and controlled equilibrium has room for all political positions: conservative, liberal or radical connotation. The equilibrium is always the result of the total amount of conflict in the society.
Yes, every institution has a structure and they all perform various functions. This is the building of society, whether conservative, liberal, or radical in philosophy.
And it is a system wherein if one part is changed it has ramifications for all the other parts. Many people wonder at why people in control of institutions get so upset with attempts to change the system. But these institutions are often the result of the careful working out of compromises between he competing groups in the society.
The Southern conservatives engaged in social control. But the truth is so did the liberals. In a sense, they both worked within the racist system. The neo-segregationists of today are doing the same thing.
Conflict theory stresses that in heterogeneous societies where there are many competing groups it is through power that a dominant group becomes dominant. This at first is not a matter of consensus. It is sure power.
The great inspiration for conflict theory is the writings of Karl Marx. His theory stressed that, under capitalism, the number of people in the working class was ever increasing. In addition, the ruling class so abused the working class that the impoverished group would eventually overthrow the capitalist system. Although history has not worked out the way Marx envisioned, his writing continue to provide the basis for critical theories of society because the analytic focus highlights the self-interests of social classes and their various self-justifying value systems.
But to exercise power brutally takes too much effort. It is much better to set up a system of social control that makes the system seem inevitable and perfectly logical. And this is where structural- functional theory comes in handy.
There is equilibrium in society because the dominant group makes sure there is an equilibrium. All units of the society are coordinated and subordinated to the overall dominance of the controlling group or groups. So far from being contradictory, the two approaches compliment each other.
In many ways structural functionalism is an application of classic laissez-faire theory to society. In other words, all the parts balance each other for an overall beneficial equilibrium. These theorists are largely politically liberal, yet they tend to underestimate and de-emphasize the injustices and conflicts inherent in the / nation's distributive system.
Complimentary to this approach is the emphasis on the role of ideas. The structural-functionalists followed the sociological tradition set by the German theorist Max Weber, who emphasized values as an antidote to Marxism. Consequently, structural-functional theorists stress the importance of values over structural and economic variables. Some of the outstanding theorists in this tradition are Talcott Parsons and Robert Merton.
The way the system works is in the following manner. As expressed in the conflict theory, various groups of people become the dominant group in a society largely through the ecological working out of various demographic variables including race, ethnic, class, and regional variables. There are many different combinations of these variables that produce a dominant group, but whatever the dominant group it will soon use the system described by social-functionalists to make sure the dominant group stays dominant.
The prophet Vernon Johns was talking to a deaf world in America. There was no constituency for Johns's attacks against the system. And I mean no support for the truth, not among the whites or the blacks. And in such a situation the real message of the prophet remains relatively unheard. The genius Johns still to this day is relatively unrecognized. While almost everyone knows of Martin Luther King Jr. almost no one knows of Vernon Johns. But it was Johns as we shall see that virtually alone spoke out strongly and unequivocally against the system of apartheid in America. Virtually everyone else opposed his larger message. Important to note is that both white and black opposed Johns. Johns was constantly being fired from his preaching jobs because he would not conform to the everyday concerns for social and political decorum of black congregations. The life of Johns illustrates how both black and white are so damaged by the racist system that neither group can fully appreciate his genius.
In the South blacks and white liberals basically worked within the racist system, fundamentally failing to challenge it. The reason why Johns has been ignored is that blacks and whites alike want to emphasize how brave their leaders were in their opposition to apartheid. The real story is how everyone in the South was so scared, but they don't want to hear that. Johns basically had to fight alone. The struggle Vernon Johns experienced is going to illuminate just how racism works in America.
What is the nature of the society that Johns was so upset about? We will examine it first from a white perspective, and then from a black perspective. We will show how both communities were seriously damaged by this system. And we will examine this in a fun way with / the personal observations of two southerners, one white and the other black.
The Failure of Southern Liberals
At any given time liberals in the university think that they pretty much have the truth on their side. They also feel that they are free-thinking and certainly not bound by the times in which they live. Rather they are thinking ahead. They have the best of both worlds. They raise a family and earn a living within a solidly racist system. And yet they feel that they are not bound by this system, but are progressive thinkers free of the constraints because they are working for as much change as they can within the constraints of the system. So they feel good about themselves even in the face of continuing suffering caused by the continuance of the racist system.
The liberals have the best of both worlds. They feel that they are good people who are resisting racism. And yet they do not see that they do live, work, and, more importantly, think within the racist system. It would not be until the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that a direct assault on the racist system would begin. But southern liberals never saw that they were working within the system. They carry the illusion that they are working for change.
Liberal Presumption of Selflessness
John Egerton's Speak Now Against the Day clearly demonstrates the thorough cautiousness of Southern liberals. (And of course the radicals were misled by Marxist strategies emphasizing capitalism, not racism.) The history of the United States proves that proponents of change will have to wait for large-scale economic trends to put the country in such a precarious position that it will be forced eventually to do something. But even this will have to involve help from the world community.
The liberals will only abandon a false paradigm after political events have discredited it.
Liberal Version of Life
The white liberal interpretation of race relations has always been a modified and weakened Marxism. Liberals love their dilemmas which allow them to have their cake and eat it too. Liberal thought is sympathetic to the plight of blacks in this country. But like the Marxists they also want to be empathetic to working class whites who do suffer exploitation under the system of capitalism. Also like the Marxists, they have never been able to really criticize the racism of working class whites. They always follow the Marxist line that working class racism is due to false consciousness and manipulation by the capitalist dominated media. But, of course, since they are not real Marxists they can avoid the suspicion of any substantial radicalism, which is surely the safest position for liberals. This dual empathy allows them to be sympathetic with both blacks and racist white workers at the same time, while avoiding seeing racism as a real phenomenon.
We clearly support the position of racism in America as being more important than capitalist inequality in damaging the American system, although both factors work hand-in-hand and reinforce each other to cause the damage.
The idea of institutional racism was an excuse liberal social scientists came up with to try to explain why so little progress was being made on civil rights. You cannot criticize the white middle class in this country, and institutional racism is a way of avoiding putting the blame where it belongs: on the real, deliberate and active racism of white middle class people.
Liberals assume that white racists take an immoral position directly counter to the American ideology of liberty and justice for all. They just don't see it that way and will never see it that way until confronted with sanctions from abroad. They actually believe they are the very bastions of equality, liberty, and justice.
We will briefly look at how the very institutions that are supposed to be helping to change the society, in other words the liberal institutions or the liberal forces within intellectual institutions, are actually engaged in social control rather than social change. It is only with the coming of a liberal cyclical change that the liberal institutions become mobilized to engage safely in activist change. Otherwise, they act to maintain social control within liberal ranks.
All of these well-intentioned Southerners, white and black were too divided to have a significant impact. By the early 1950s they all appeared to agree, finally, that segregation was the common enemy, but they still couldn't join forces to fight it. (Egerton 1994:572)
This was the season to tiptoe and whisper, to close your eyes and cover your ears. (Egerton 1994:575)
All the institutions in a racist society are designed to maintain a racist equilibrium. This includes the economic institutions (including dominance by the wealthy), government, mass media, schools, church and unions. This is also maintained by all pervasive bigotry and intolerance.
This was also true of the intellectuals, even those who won awards for supposedly fighting the worst aspects of the Jim Crow system. The conforming intellectuals in the South would shun the renegades. "It was routine in the South for those who tried to change the status quo to be criticized and shunned; worse, some where hounded and threatened, branded as radicals, traitors, turncoats, Communists." (Egerton 1994:291)
"not until after World War II would many social scientists get past the taboos and begin to ask blunt and painful questions. Until then, it was as if no one with a voice to protest could see clearly what was happening and summon the courage to condemn it." (Egerton 1944:51)
Parallel Black Institutions
Today, white sociologists often defer to black sociologists in the field of race relations, being especially cowed by references to the whites' non-blackness and hence their supposed lack of understanding. This is a fallacious approach. Their is an equally valid approach that says that too much involvement with a problem of issue can blind one to the larger truths. The fallaciousness of the white sociologists deference to skin color will be seen in the fact of the existence of parallel black Jim Crow institutions that helped maintain the apartheid system in the South. We will see that blacks were no more objective than whites when it came to the race problem. They were both virtually equally blind.
It is obvious that the white institutions were kept in equilibrium so that the apartheid system stayed healthy and continued. But there was an exact parallel system of black institutions that also maintained the apartheid system. Of course, the whites forced the black institutions to conform with the white institutions in congruence with the apartheid system.
There was a white power leadership in the south as all students of race relations know. However, few realize there was a parallel system of power distribution among the blacks. These two power systems paralleled each other and cooperated to make the overall system of Jim Crow work with the least inefficiency. The leaders of both systems could actually see themselves as morally superior to others because they kept the system from suffering from terrible outbreaks of violence such as lynchings and burnings and murder.
Of course, the black institutions were not an exact replica of the whites. There was hidden, very hidden, opposition to the white institutions. But this was never effective enough to challenge the white or parallel black power system.
There is very limited cooperation within the black community itself. E. Franklin Frazier's Black Bourgeoisie (1957) says the members of the black bourgeoisie look down upon the masses of the race and scorn their culture. Illustrative of their attempt to disassociate themselves from the majority of Negroes is their condescension toward the spirituals and toward the culture of Africa. (Meier 1992:88)
They complain of white discrimination and wish to be accepted by whites, yet ambivalently fear to enter into direct competition with them -- even when fully qualified to do so -- but prefer to enjoy their little monopolies and social life established behind the walls of segregation. (Meier 1992:89)
The NAACP and the Urban League reflect the outlook and aspirations of the middle class, which is actually not interested in the welfare of the masses of the race. The Negro press also . . . actually exhibits the outlook of the bourgeoisie. (Meier 1992:89)
Charles S. Johnson was correct when he wrote in 1944 that southern Negro leadership, insofar as it protested against discrimination in work opportunities, schools, libraries, and other public facilities, did so within the "separate but equal" framework. The change in the structure of race relations now permits the dominant thrust of southern Negro leadership to be against that principle and all its implications. (Ladd 1966:42)
Nothing illustrates how blacks contribute to their own enslavement, then the story of a Selma lawyer, J. L. Chestnut, Jr. Chestnut wrote a paper for class in which he argued that the people the black community looked up to as leaders did not deserve to be followed. He started with Booker T. Washington, eased up to Jemison, and then landed on the school principal. What was really interesting was the reaction of the teachers. The English teacher was outraged. "What in the world possessed you to write such a paper?" she demanded. She was offended by what I had written about Jemison, "one of the finest men in Selma," and she thought I was doing a great disservice to black people by attacking our heroes. She was especially infuriated by what I'd written about the principal. She demanded that he apologize to the principal. She told the other teachers and everyone was shocked. (Chestnut and Cass 1990:49-50)
He wrote a paper at Dillard that was similar to his high school paper. "My argument was: Both colleges taught accommodation and didn't dare teach anything else because they were financed from the same pocket -- white America. . . . I said Dillard was teaching a different fantasy of black leadership than Talladega, but a fantasy no less. It was a fantasy I could live with. . . .The paper was the talk of the campus. Some of the faculty felt it was a personal attack on everything they represented. What was the alternative?" (Chestnut and Cass 1990:64)
Black Cooperation with Segregationism
Blacks cooperated with the old system of Southern segregationism. This is clearly seen in an incident that happened to Chestnutt. Blacks today are doing the same thing.
The so called multicultural system is actually a group of selfishly worked out compromises. Even the NAACP, once designed to challenge the separate but equal system, goes along with segregationism under the new guise. They like this position because it brings benefits to blacks and keeps the middle class blacks separate from and distinct from lower class blacks. White sociologists like this compromise because it takes much of the racial conflict out of the universities. It makes them feel good about the accomplishments of the second reconstruction while not bring on any major sacrifices. White and black sociologists still live largely segregated lives, whites by class and race, black by class. They can talk well about themselves without having to sacrifice in any real sense.
They are relatively happy with this new equilibrium and fight to stop attacks on it, either from the right or the left.
Later we will see how the experience of censorship by the prophet Vernon Johns goes a long way to illustrate the unity of sociological theory. The two great perspectives of conflict and structural-functional theory in sociology can be united in the story of the southern system. These theories have never been satisfactorily melded in sociology. But here they will be melded as we see how the white racists of the south used their dominant position to establish a structural-functional system to insure that they stayed dominant.
Liberals Do Not Really Understand How the Racist System Works
White racists have an almost innate understanding of how the system works that sociologists lack. Sociologists are too involved in trying to refute every conservative statement made by the racists to step back and gain some objectivity on the system. If they would do so they would find that the system is actually nastier than they knew. (This is something the racist already knows.)
Liberals often complain that reporters try to make the case that white fear is realistic by citing data on black over representation in crime. The fact is that white fear is realistic. It is realistic because of the devastating nature of the treatment of blacks by whites. If people are treated terribly they will act terribly. Blacks do have higher crime rates. This is a sociological fact. But rather than run from this data as most sociologists do, we should embrace it as proof of the racism of the system.
The higher propensity for crime combined with black anger and resentment means that whites will continue to be very careful around blacks. Even Jesse Jackson said he is cautious of young black males.
Liberals don't understand fully the terrible nature of the system. The discrimination against blacks, reinforced by stereotypes and prejudice, actually creates a reality for blacks so ugly that whites are scared of their own creation. This then reinforces stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. But that is the way racist whites designed and want the system to work. (Except that it is working too damn well and creating too much crime even for them.)
The liberal lack of knowledge of how the system works is illustrated by Andrew Hacker's use of a verbal illustration on television. He asked which elevator would you go into if confronted with two cars arriving at the same time, one filled with young white males and the other with young black males. He claimed that if you chose the car with the white males you are prejudiced and therefore racist. What nonsense! Most people would choose the car with the white males every time because, unlike Hacker, they implicitly understand fully the cruel and devastating nature of America's racist system.
Connected with the failure to understand how the system actually works is the inability to realize fully that since white men see themselves as a separate group their group is actually hurt by affirmative action. The solution is for them to abandon their racist perception that they are a separate group threatened by all others. If, by their own standards, they are good enough they will eventually triumph even if non-traditional others also triumph.
The United States is so racially divided that one has to wonder if we will ever be able to get convictions in civil rights cases, as black and white jurors will constantly disagree. Has the jury system in America been paralyzed by racism? Whites are "active" racists. They actively push racial themes and prejudice. Whites are actively engaged in pretense, lying, dissembling, hiding their real racist feelings, etc. There is an active pretense system going on.
Feagin and Vera (1996:154) comment that the mass media has convinced whites that blacks have achieved equality. But whites want to believe this. The mass media gives them what they want to hear. It's a capitalist system after all. The racism of the people came prior to the racism of the mass media, although both factors reinforce each other.
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