Friday, February 21, 2014



Today wraps up the official week long effort of presenting you with different looks at various aspects of white skin privilege and white supremacy.  It will, of course, not mean that Scission is done with this since as it states on the masthead, 

The struggle against white skin privilege and white supremacy is key.

Today's issue will present you with a boatload of quotes I have dug up that, in my view only, relate to the issue of white skin privilege and white supremacy.  You may find that in your opinion some don't belong here, you may not like some of them, you will have to disagree with some of them (as they disagree with each other).  That is okay.  I just hope in some way they lead you to further exploration of all this, and most importantly, that for you, as for me, struggle against white supremacy and white skin privilege plays a pivotal role in your political work and in you life.

It would have been nice if I had said where these quotes came from, but, well, I didn't.  I will try to place them in near chronological order beginning with John Brown in the late 1850s, to Ida B. Wells from around 1917, on to  Dubois and James from the 1930s, proceeding to the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and right up to yesterday.


“I, John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

---John Brown

“Had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of their friends…and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference…every man in this court would have deemed it worthy of reward rather than punishment.”

---John Brown

The race prejudice of the United States asks Americans of black skins to keep an inferior place and when these Negroes ask an equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, they are lynched, burned alive, disfranchised and massacred! Whenever a black man turns in this land of the free and home of the brave, — in industry, in civic endeavor, in political councils in the ranks of Christians (?) — this hydra headed monster confronts him; dominates, oppresses and murders him!

This time it was done in the name of labor! The Negro accepted the opportunity made by the scarcity of labor in the North to leave the South, which has fattened on his labor and yet kept him in serfdom for his fifty years of freedom. He was glad of the chance to get better wages, but even more glad to come where he could educate his children and be a man. But the labor unions which have this country by the throat, which paralyze its industries, dynamite its buildings and murder men at their own sweet will — refuse to let Negroes work with them and murder them if they work anyway, in what they call "white men's jobs."

---Ida B. Wells.

It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage. They were given public deference and titles of courtesy because they were white. They were admitted freely with all classes of white people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools. The police were drawn from their ranks, and the courts, dependent on their votes, treated them with such leniency as to encourage lawlessness. Their vote selected public officials, and while this had small effect upon the economic situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference shown them. White schoolhouses were the best in the community, and conspicuously placed, and they cost anywhere from twice to ten times as much per capita as the colored schools. The newspapers specialized on news that flattered the poor whites and almost utterly ignored the Negro except in crime and ridicule.

 --- W.E.B. Dubois

The race element was emphasized in order that property-holders could get the support of the majority of white laborers and make it more possible to exploit Negro labor. But the race philosophy came as a new and terrible thing to make labor unity or labor class-consciousness impossible. So long as the Southern white laborers could be induced to prefer poverty to equality with the Negro, just so long was a labor movement in the South made impossible.

  --- W.E.B. Dubois

It is only the blindspot in the eyes of America, and its historians, that can overlook and misread so clean and encouraging a chapter of human struggle and human uplift.

  --- W.E.B. Dubois

The emancipation of man is the emancipation of labor and the emancipation of labor is the freeing of that basic majority of workers who are yellow, brown and black.

  --- W.E.B. Dubois

Hitherto we have dealt almost exclusively with the Negro sharecroppers and day laborers. But what about the whites? Here is a problem which it is easy to solve in theory but difficult to solve in practice. Years ago the white agricultural worker in the South did not pick or chop cotton. He was above that. But the laws of capitalist decline are merciless and today he is driven to compete with the Negro masses. He is as a rule a little better off. But his general conditions are such that he hates the landlord and the conditions of his existence as fiercely as the Negroes." Yet the two groups of workers are on the whole separate from each other. Some whites are in the union, but the percentage is very small. The union, such as it is, is overwhelmingly Negro." The white landlords keep up a steady propaganda: “Do not join any union with those blacks. All they want is to get after our white women.

But it is idle to believe that this is what keeps white and black agricultural laborers and sharecroppers apart. There is more to it than that. The working whites are an economically privileged group. Jobs as truck drivers, mechanics, etc. are reserved for the whites. When the WPA has jobs to give out, a Negro gets one only after scores of whites have got theirs. The white school teachers get better pay. The white children get better schools. In southeast Missouri the relief authorities will even pass the word around to the whites in a certain area to meet at a certain place, where meat, lard, and clothes are given out while the graham flour and beans are practically all that the Negroes get. It is on this solid, concrete basis that the race prejudice flourishes, not to mention the social advantages which can ease life and nourish pride where life is so hard and degradation so near."
  --- C.L.R. James

The cruelties of property and privilege are always more ferocious than the revenges of poverty and oppression. For the one aims at perpetuating resented injustice, the other is merely a momentary passion soon appeased.  

--- C.L.R. James

"Every white worker, whether he knows it or not, is being challenged by every Negro to take the steps which will enable the working peoples to fulfill their historic destiny of building a society free of domination of one class or of one race over another."

---C.L.R. James

Now, if white people want to help, they can help. But they can't join. They can help in the white community, but they can't join. We accept their help. They can form the White Friends of the Organization of Afro-American Unity and work in the white community on white people and change their attitude toward us. They don't ever need to come among us and change our attitude. We've had enough of them working around us trying to change our attitude. That's what got us all messed up. So we don't question their sincerity, we don't question their motives, we don't question their integrity. We just encourage them to use it somewhere else in the white community. If they can use all of this sincerity in the white community to make the white community act better toward us, then we'll say, "Those are good white folks." But they don't have to come around us, smiling at us and showing us all their teeth like white Uncle Toms, to try and make themselves acceptable to us. The White Friends of the Organization of Afro American Unity, let them work in the white community.

  --- Malcolm X

Communists (individually this is the task primarily of white communists, although collectively it is the responsibility of the whole party) must go to the white workers and say frankly: you must renounce the privileges you now hold, must join the Negro, Puerto Rican and other colored workers in fighting white supremacy, must make this the first, immediate and most urgent task of the entire working class, in exchange for which you, together with the rest of the workers will receive all the benefits which are sure to come from one working class (of several colors) fighting together.

---Noel Ignatiev

  A new social status was to be contrived that would be a birthright of not only Anglos, but of every Euro-American, a "white" identity designed not only to set them "at a distance" from the African-American bond-laborers, but at the same time to enlist European-Americans of every class as active, or at least passive, supporters of capitalist agriculture based on chattel bond-labor.The introduction of this counterfeit of social mobility was an act of "social engineering," the essence of which was to reissue long-establishedcommon law rights, "incident to every free man," but in the form of "white" privileges: the presumption of liberty, the right to get married, the right to carry a gun, the right to read and write, the right to testify in legal proceedings, the right of self-directed physical mobility, and the enjoyment of male prerogatives over women. The successful societal function of this status required that not only African-American bond-laborers, but most emphatically, free African-Americans be excluded from it. It is that status and realigning of the laboring-class European-Americans that transformed class oppression into racial oppression.

---Ted Allen

The hallmark, the informing principle, of racial oppression in its colonial origins and as it has persisted in subsequent historical contexts, is the reduction of all members of the oppressed group to one undifferentiated social status, beneath that of any member of the oppressor group.
---Ted Allen

Race is a biological fiction, but it is a social fact. The white race consists of those who enjoy the privileges of the white skin—freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the inside track for jobs and careers, not having to fear for their lives every time they leave the home, expecting, if they are female, that the state will protect them from strangers. Its most downtrodden members enjoy a social status above any person defined as "non-white."
From the standpoint of the working class, the white race is an attempt by some workers to cut a separate deal with capital, at the expense of the class of which they are a part. From the standpoint of capital, it is a cheap way of buying some people's loyalty to a social system that exploits them.
---Noel Ignatiev

...the system of white-skin privileges, while it is undeniably real, is not in the interests of white workers as part of a class which aims at transforming society to its roots. The acceptance of a favored status by white workers binds them to wage slavery, makes them subordinate to the capitalist class. The repudiation, that is, the active rejection, through struggle, of this favored status is the precondition for the participation by white workers in the struggle of workers as a distinct social class.
---Noel Ignatiev

The white race is a club. Certain people are enrolled in it at birth, without their consent, and brought up according to its rules. For the most part they go through life accepting the privileges of membership, without reflecting on the costs. Others, usually new arrivals in the country, pass through a probationary period before "earning" membership; they are necessarily more conscious of their racial standing.

The white club does not require that all members be strong advocates of white supremacy, merely that they defer to the prejudices of others. It is based on one huge assumption: that all those who look white are, whatever their reservations, fundamentally loyal to it.
---Noel Ignatiev

I contend that the key element in the popular acceptance of capitalist rule is the ideology and institution of white supremacy, which provides the illusion of common interests between the exploited white masses and the white ruling class.
---Noel Ignatiev

A traitor to the white race is someone who is nominally classified as white but who defies white rules so strenuously as to jeopardize his or her ability to draw upon the privileges of whiteness. The abolitionists recognize that no "white" can individually escape from the privileges of whiteness. The white club does not like to surrender a single member, so that even those who step out of it in one situation can hardly avoid stepping back in later, if for no other reason than the assumptions of others - unless, like John Brown, they have the good fortune to be hanged before that can happen. But they also understand that when there comes into being a critical mass of people who look white but do not act white - people who might be called "reverse oreos" - the white race will undergo fission, and former whites, born again, will be able to take part, together with others, in building a new human community.

However exploited the poor whites of this country, they are not direct victims of racial oppression, and "white trash" is not a term of racial degradation analogous to the various epithets commonly applied to black people; in fact, the poor whites are the objects of race privilege, which ties them to their masters more firmly than did the arrows of Vulcan bind Prometheus to the rock. Not long ago there was an incident in Boston in which a well-dressed black man hailed a taxi and directed the driver to take him to Roxbury, a black district. The white cab driver refused, and when the man insisted she take him or call someone who would, as the law provided, she called her boyfriend, also a cabdriver, on the car radio, who showed up, dragged the black man out of the cab and called him a "nigger." The black man turned out to be a city councilman. The case was unusual only in that it made the papers. Either America is a very democratic country, where cab drivers beat up city councilmen with impunity, or the privileges of whiteness reach far down into the ranks of the laboring class.
---Noel Ignatiev

The white-skin privilege system does not require that all whites be treated the same; everyone knows that ethnic groups vary in wealth and status. It demands only that enough people identify their interests with those of the "white race" to prevent effective proletarian class solidarity. It thus polarizes the country into two "races": those who enjoy the privileges of whiteness, and those who do not. Just as a "mixed" neighborhood has traditionally meant the interval between the first black person moving in and the last white moving out, so the intermediate position of various groups reflects a moment when their racial status is being determined.
---Race Traitor (Journal)

The privileges of whiteness extend to the lowest members of the white race, who enjoy a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it. 

---Race Traitor (Journal)

The white race is a historically constructed social formation. It consists of all those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society. Its most wretched members share a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it, in return for which they give their support to a system that degrades them.

The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue, domestic and foreign, in US society.

The existence of the white race depends on the willingness of those assigned to it to place their racial interests above class, gender, or any other interests they hold. The defection of enough of its members to make it unreliable as a predictor of behavior will lead to its collapse.
---Race Traitor (Journal)

(Ted Allen saw) Racial oppression as a form of social control in societies in which the majority is from the oppressor race is based on the counterfeit of social mobility accorded the laboring class members of the oppressor race in the form of racial privileges.  The privileges are the basis on which the laboring class members of the oppressor race are enlisted by the elite to hold down the subject population. They perform this social control function, even though they share a class position with the large majority of the racially oppressed.

---Sean Ahern

... in the U.S., democracy for some has been predicated on the exclusion of others; white citizenship and the oppression of black folk have been mutually constituted. Racism is neither an oversight in an otherwise democratic project nor a reflection of the contradiction between American ideals and practice.
---Beth Hensen

Beginning in colonial Virginia, the primary benefits to being white were found in the labor arena. The desire for economically rewarding work has often been the enticement held out to white people to forge their acceptance and support of a system of racial oppression. 
---Judy Helfand

Another thing that is largely forgotten in the crush of writings on “critical whiteness studies” is the black origins of the theory of white skin privilege. Historians like David Roediger have highlighted the role of Black radicals like W.E.B. DuBois in this process, especially his analysis of the “public and psychological wage” that white workers received after the Civil War that led largely to the cross-class alliance between white workers and the white ruling class, against the surging black movement that emerged from the Civil War. Other Black radicals, such as Hubert Harrison and C.L.R. James, advanced similar ideas in the period before World War Two.
--- Michael Staudenmaier 

The analysis of white skin privilege, which was central to STO (Sojourner Truth Organization) politics from beginning to end, highlights what was distinctive about STO's theoretical approach. Lots of leftists and liberals have embraced the white skin privilege concept over the past forty-odd years, but too many of them have interpreted it to mean that white people, including white workers, are simply bought off, co-opted into being supporters of the status quo. To me, the key thing about STO's take on this issue is that it treats white workers' situation as contradictory. STO said that white workers have a material stake in the system of racial oppression but are still part of an exploited class that has the potential to make a revolution. And this contradictory situation embodies part of the basic contradiction of capitalism, which is internal to the working class itself.
---Mathew Lyons
The population is armed to the teeth and their guns are not pointed at the bourgeoisie. White people, who see themselves as white more than as people, are increasingly nervous as US demographics indicate they will soon be a minority. They are a mass base for fascism. The police have lots of tools and technology. So, socialism or barbarism? I'd say the bad stuff has a head start.
---Carol Travis

Race is a social construction. There is only one race, the human race. But race has historically been something negotiated by the courts, something that has legal standing, and something that has impacted people's lives across the color line. As Cheryl Harris and Ian Haney Lopez have written, to be "white" is to have a type of property in America. Because "whiteness" is property, it can be inherited, passed down from one person to another as an inheritance, and has value -- both symbolic and monetary -- under the law, and in the broader society.
---Chauncey DeVega

Ted was moved to adopt the idea of a conscious decision by his desire to combat the view, promoted by Carl Degler, Winthrop Jordan and others, that there was something in human nature, or at least the English psyche, that explains the rise of white supremacy. Ted felt, correctly, that Jordan’s explanation, by blaming race prejudice and oppression on inherent “attitudes,” absolves the ruling class of responsibility and, no less important, makes it impossible to overturn these evils. Unfortunately, his explanation is based on the same fallacy as the theory of “Intelligent Design” in biology, which holds that the suitability of a feature to its function demonstrates that it was consciously designed to fulfill that function. As Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature (a law so simple and in such conformance with the evidence that Thomas Henry Huxley, on hearing of it, exclaimed, “How stupid of me not to have thought of that!”—in modern parlance, facepalm!), Marx discovered the law of development of human society, historical materialism, which he formulated as follows:

"In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness."

Historical materialism explains the origin of white supremacy in the plantation colonies of mainland North America in the seventeenth century without resort to conspiracy theories or any other variant of “conscious decision,” and also without resort to theories of the inherent character of the English soul.
---Noel Ignatiev

You may have noticed that most of those who have been instrumental during the last half of the twentieth century and now in the new one advancing the theory of white skin privilege have been white.  That may seem odd to you.  But consider the theory is really aimed at a strategy and the strategy is aimed at  white folks, particularly white workers.  The goal is for the white workers, the white multitudes now, most especially, but not limited to the United States to reject the material privileges and advantages their white skins have given so that the class can become unified for real, so that white supremcay and capital can be abolished once and for all.  This falls in line with what Malcolm X suggested to white activists and white folks years ago.  He told them they didn't need to come into the black community and talk to black people about racism and white supremacy, they needed to go into their own communities and confront their own people.  Black people need no education about racism and white supremacy.  They need no leadership from white people and no talking to by white people.  In fact, white people must look to black people for leadership in the struggle.  This is hard for most white people, activists or not, to actually accept, but accept they must.
---Randy Gould 

If you don't start by seeing slaves in the U.S. as proletarians, you end up in a swamp.

---Carl Davidson

I think what Ted (Allen) contributed is immeasurable, but he was simply wrong about the "blame the ruling elite" line. If we believe in working class self activity, or simply in the idea that the forces-of-production/relations-of-production contradiction is internal to the working class, then we have to take the bad with the good. In that sense, working class whites were integral to the emergence and development of white supremacy.

---Michael Staudenmaier

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