In his book The World is a Ghetto, Howard Winant proposes that racial bondage was never eliminated after its official abolishment in the 19th Century. Rather, Winant suggests that it was simply phased out, and restructured into a different form: Labor. “The destruction of slavery thus signified both that systems of mass labor would have to be created, and that reform of the extractive and agricultural economies that characterized colonies would have to be undertaken such that the territories could maintain their trade-based linkages to the world economy.” (Winant, 85) With the official signatures ending legal ownership of chattel slaves, the obvious next question became: What is the logic behind empire and class hierarchy?
Just like gravity it cannot be denied: White superiority founded and ruled the United States of America for at least the first two centuries of its inception, and continued up until the very recent years of the 21 Century. Prior to the year 1870’s ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment – which made legal the right of minorities and former slaves to vote – the guarantees of even the basic tenets of liberty were only known to white settlers and male property owners. To suggest otherwise at the time was akin to blasphemy in the Land of the Free. This tragic truism of America’s history often-enough negates the fact that African American slaves were brought against their will to work for white owners.
But oppression often leads itself to another phenomenon: Uprising. And with that, an inevitable separation and dislike of the former oppressor. At some point during this institutionalized inequality enforced by the white power structure, Rosa Parks must have decided that she should no longer have to give up her public bus seat for a different-colored passenger. At another, the editors of Life Magazine realized that baseball Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson would be an ideal first black face to put on their cover. Then, at other times, in different places, social revolutionaries like Marin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were organizing mass protests, in hope that someone would listen and change the status quo of segregation and accepted bigotry.
Someone eventually did. And more than 30 years past the 1963 Civil Rights Act, which granted Federally-administered rights to blacks, a 1997 taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show witnessed another, perhaps final, result of this racial struggle. Twenty-one year old professional golfer Tiger Woods declared himself on national television to be a “Cablinasian” – an axiom for the Caucasian, Black, Indian and Asian blood running through his veins. Tiger, fresh off a PGA Rookie of the Year Award and a $40 million dollar advertisement deal with Nike Shoes, was said by Oprah to be “America’s Son” and argued by Hiram Perez, the Assistant professor at English Vassar College, to be “a figure…that functions to rehabilitate the mulatto in order to announce the arrival of a new colorblind era in U.S. history.” (Perez, 6)
Although denounced by black commentators, Tiger could, without hesitation or miscreation, claim himself to be an authentic product of a culturally diverse democracy, which legally recognizes color-blindness and which cannot honestly attribute his superb sportsmanship to any particular racial prowess. Compare Tiger’s example with that of basketball-great Michael Jordan, who’s iconic “I want to be like Mike” advertisements for Gatorade rely not on multiculturalism and color-blindness, but with the persistent proprietary of race-embodiment. Whereas the white man might be stereotyped as a “slave-owner,” “hick,” or some other epitaph, the black man has consistently been perceived as a sort of god-like he-man with unknown, unlimited physical powers. Michael’s Gatorade advertisements command a specific sense of racialization, although not a particularly unfriendly one. “Advertising featuring black celebrity athletes typically resists humanizing these athletes.” (Perez, 14).
The stigma of racial superiority runs deep in the minds and hearts of insecure persons. Just as a small amount of white youths still proclaim admiration of Adolf Hitler without even knowing the unspeakable crimes committed by the Third Reich, a number of black bible scholars attest that Jesus Christ was, in fact, a black man with “His head and his hairs that were white like wool, as white as snow.” (Rev. 1:14) These recognitions of intangible occurrences only seek to prove the fluctuant and feeble mindsets residing in each and every one of us. They are, with little doubt, a systemic result of oppressed egos – not always liberties – and fall upon persons possessing an un-dealt with feeling of suppression and rage; usually blamed on another race or minority.
In an imaginary society where all the factors of class-based privilege are eliminated and disregarded for a new utopian world where every individual sees the next individual as a person of absolute equality – void of any unhanded condemnation – there would be no need for essays and discussions on the question of race. In my opinion, as a primitive species, this is impossible at best, and damaging to our way of life at its very worst. Using a mere 2 percent of our brain capacity, we are just barely aware that we are completely unaware of the extent of our avarice and jealousy, and any serious-minded effort to contradict the finite bounds of human empathy would likely result in catastrophe.
This question of social justice need not defeat itself. The best to hope for is a free society; one where law respects individual rights above any color and runs supreme above collective utopians seeking to fit square pegs into round holes. Being a racist or bigot would be permitted – just as many other unsavory vices are permitted, albeit not necessarily welcomed – as long as violence were punished to the maximum extent, and the citizens were keen enough to not allow any persons proclaiming such bombast racism into public office. Far from being perfect, it would nevertheless emancipate ourselves from any superstitions we might have about forcing humankind to be smarter than it really is.
Coming back down to reality and the everyday nightmare of American foreign policies, one can find that citizenship and class-value is still found to have merit as property and power. Unlike America, whose racial struggle was mostly internal and self-sustaining, the South African Apartheid regime was given an enormous amount of support from external forces. Western forces. In 1948, the Reformed National Party, led by Dutch cleric Daniel Francois Malan, won the national election. This set off a regime that legally and militaristically enforced separation of blacks, from whites. Malan, making no apologies to the world for his policies, was a fervent anti-communist, and was thus granted appeasement by the West. His government also allowed large-scale production of uranium for U.S. sale.
By the mid-1950’s, there were several prominent anti-apartheid movements, most notably the African National Congress (ANC). In 1955 they had drafted what would become known as the Freedom Charter – declaring to South Africa and the world that “our country…belongs to all those who live in it.” These protestors also rejected racial identity as a basis for mobilization. (Hiram, 195) This regime was allowed to continue under U.S. support up until 1994, when Prime Minister De Klerk began negotiations for its abolishment. In the 1980’s the U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Apartheid Bill, which outlawed support for the regime, meeting President Ronald Reagan’s veto.
Racial struggle is therefore a struggle from within the boundaries of states, which would otherwise, with time, vanquish if not being oppressed further from external pressure. For a minority group living inside of a nation-state as powerful as the U.S. it would difficult as it is to escape the confines of a socially dominant racial superior mindset. Suggesting that the U.S. Government’s economic partnership with South Africa was contributing to this oppression, at least economically and politically, it maintains that globalization seeks to exasperate the obvious problem. For many centuries it was simply something one would grow up learning from one’s father; a white five year old would not know the difference between morality and equality at the tender young age – it would just be taught to him by his racist father sitting at the dinner-room table who happens to work for Boeing Aircraft or somewhere else. For a young black youth sitting at a dinner table in S. Africa, it would also not be obviously suggested that the dominate Apartheid regime was being helped along with its own partnership with the West. This in itself suggests that globalization is carried out by dominant military and economic forces, and is therefore something to be warned against.
In the 21st Century, in this brave new world of political correctness, it is taboo for a white man to use the word “nigger.” This demonization of the usage of racial slang is forgotten or left-alone whenever a black comedian is on stage telling jokes about “whitey.” Multiculturalism has morphed into a one-sided justification due to the undeniable fact of racial inequality in America. Tiger Woods truly embodies a person who cannot be prone to contempt by use of these words, and is “above” any honest attempt to do so.