Klasie Kraalogies: On Racism, Apartheid and the Demons Within (Part 1)

On Racism, Apartheid and the Demons Within (Part 1)
By Klasie Kraalogies

(Before I start, let me state this: I am addressing racism as the issue I, and most people of European origin are familiar with, and rightly accused of. I am not speaking of other racisms. Those certainly exist, and are nefarious, but it is not the topic under consideration here.)

Tuesday 19 August 1856: The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (New South Wales)

It might seem strange that I would begin this article from a New South Wales newspaper from nearly a century earlier, and not with the horrors following the 1948 General election in South Africa.

The Master and Servants Act was created by the British Colonial government, and was enacted in various stages across the Empire, whose influence even extended into US lawmaking. It was an act designed to empower employers against workers. The difference was of course, that in the colonies, and in particular South Africa, the abundance of cheap, non-white labour led to the intersection of class and race, which would create unique modes of discrimination.

Those who have studied the plight of workers in the Victorian age will recognize phrases such as “the great unwashed” coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (English playwright and Secretary of State for the Colonies 1858-1859). Thus, class, colour, and the concept of “cleanliness” all became associated with one another. An example from my own past – a high school teacher, whose subjects were African languages and history, told us how he had hosted a Black academic in his garden (not home), but that he carefully marked the cups the man used so that afterwards he could dispose of them.

This illustrates the racist view that people of another race are somehow unclean.

In 1833 the Slavery Abolition Bill was passed; however, it was only enforced in 1834, and even then, the emancipated slaves became ‘apprentices’ to their previous masters. It was only four years later in 1838 when the British administration outlawed slave apprenticeship. Yet, even with these acts and bills, slavery did not end – it just took on forms through being codified into laws. This is what systemic racism is.

After the horrors of the Boer War, intense efforts by the British colonial authorities (in the now four colonies of South Africa), were put in place to eliminate the Afrikaans language and create a single white national establishment. These efforts failed and entrenched a bitter hatred in many of the Imperial Authority. After the creation of the Union of South Africa, Afrikaner politicians rose to the top quickly. Various racial laws were enacted by a people feeling themselves besieged by the Empire, and yet building on the legal framework set there by that same Empire.

During the Great Depression, the two main political parties amalgamated in 1934 under Jan Smuts to form the United Party. Prior to the amalgamation there was the National Party under J.B.M Herzog, and the Unionist Party under the leadership of Jan Smuts. Nationalist right-wing members of the National Party objected to the amalgamation and broke away to form the Purified National Party under D.F Malan. During the 1930s, many of these fascist elements formed the pro-Nazi Ossewa Brandwag (OB) which included a paramilitary wing known as the Stormjaers (assault troops). The National Party broke away from the OB in 1942, because of their sabotage tactics. However, the OB got absorbed back into the National Party at the end of the Second World War.

BJ Vorster addressing an OB rally

B.J Vorster, South African Prime Minister from 1968 to 1978, was an OB member who said the following in 1942:

We stand for Christian Nationalism which is an ally of National Socialism… In Italy it is called Fascism, in Germany National Socialism and in South Africa Christian Nationalism.

His brother, Reverend Koot Vorster addressed a student group in 1940, saying:

Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ shows the way to greatness – the path of South Africa. Hitler gave the Germans a calling. He gave them a fanaticism which causes them to stand back for no one. We must follow this example because only by such holy fanaticism can the Afrikaner nation achieve its calling.

The Prime Minister who followed Vorster, P.W Botha was also an OB member. Some of my readers will remember the two global leaders who unwaveringly supported Botha’s South Africa – Reagan and Thatcher.

In 1948 the National Party defeated the United Party, and Malan became Prime Minister. However, a new element was added to the rise of the right wing – the Afrikaner Broederbond (Brotherhood). Founded in 1918 to advance Afrikaner interests, it was a secret organisation of exclusively male Afrikaner Calvinists. The aforementioned Jan Smuts said that it was a dangerous, cunning, political fascist organisation. What is true is that every single South African leader from Malan to De Klerk (who started dismantling the legal framework of apartheid in 1990) was a Broederbond member. Through government and industry, the Broederbond worked to diminish the power of non-Afrikaners, including intense gerrymandering to keep progressives out.

All through this time, laws on race kept piling up in the law books. This process accelerated after 1948, especially with the infamous Group Areas Act of 1950. This quote from Wikipedia sums it up rather well:

The Act empowered the Governor-General to declare certain geographical areas to be for the exclusive occupation of specific racial groups. In particular the statute identified three such racial groups: whites, coloureds and natives. This authority was exercised on the advice of the Minister of the Interior and the Group Areas Board.

Once an area had been designated for sole occupation by certain racial groups, the proclamation would not become legally effective for at least one year. Once this time had expired, it became a criminal offence to remain in occupation of property in that area with the punishment potentially being a fine and two years’ imprisonment.

The Act also applied to businesses with racial designation being applied on the basis of the individuals who held a controlling interest in the company
(Note that the term “coloureds” refers to multiracial ethnicity created by the state, and included people of multiracial ancestry, Khoisan ancestry, and Malay slave ancestry).

Thus, the economic subjugation of people of colour, first advanced by the Master and Servants Act in 1856 was made complete.

The question is – why the obsession with race? In South Africa nationalism certainly played a role – but truth be told, it made little sense as nearly all white South Africans, such as me, have a portion of non-white ancestry. I personally count Khoisan, Malagasy, Indian (Bengali?) and Chinese ancestry. So why did the initial melting pot disappear so quickly?
Let us first ask two questions:

What is race?

Race is a social construct. Anyone who knows even a little about genetics will realise that. Genes for skin colour have nothing to do with genes for hair texture for instance. While a set of genes might dominate locally due to lack of movement, these are very minor affects. For instance, two Khoisan men living 200 km apart have a more varied DNA than a white Englishman in London, and a Han Chinese in Beijing. Why? Because the latter two groups left Africa as a rather small subset of humanity many thousands of years ago. The Khoisan ancestors did not. It should be understood that although race is a social construct, that does not mean it does not exist. It means it does not exist biologically. It certainly exists politically and sociologically. It is a created category through which suffering was meted out.

When did racism become an issue?

This is an interesting question. Race was not that much of an issue in the Roman Empire. For the Romans, free versus enslaved became the crux of the matter. Free Black Romans did exist – as traders and others. Tacitus tells us that in Nero’s days a great many Roman senators were descended from slaves. The implication here is that ethnic origin was not a major issue. So, when did it become an issue?

An interesting paper by Kubota et al (2012) explains the neuroscience of race points towards our ingroup/outgroup instincts. People from within the group are safe, people from without the group are dangerous. However, in considering this, we are left with the question asking why was race not an issue for the Romans, but a major issue in the British Empire for instance?

Consider though that for the Romans, the major question was citizen or non-citizen, freeperson or slave. This leads us to the fact that what we view as our inborn reactions, are learned or socially conditioned. Kubota et al refers to this when discussing techniques for change appraisal of perceived outgroup members:

Social psychologists already utilize techniques reminiscent of reappraisal that aim to decrease negative evaluations of outgroup members. Recent neuroeconomic research suggests that a perspective-shifting instruction designed to encourage reappraisal alters the emotional effect of choice outcomes and changes decisions, which appears to utilize an emotion regulation circuitry. It is possible that strategically instructing participants to encourage the reappraisal of an outgroup member may help to reduce the effect of unwanted implicit attitudes on social decisions, such as on legal decisions.

Therefore, we can conclude that a major societal shift caused the explosion of racism in the first place. And that moment brings an answer to my earlier question – why did racism become an issue that led to apartheid?

The age of colonization brought a shift in attitudes – conquered labour was cheap labour. During this time there was the rise of the nation state which aggravated racist attitudes as the ideals surrounding the nation-state require some level of racist ideology as a way to ‘unite’ citizens and hold on to power. Moreover, the mysticism of the nation state utilizes a religious narrative to hold power over its people. This is seen with the Afrikaner Calvinist, the Church of England, the State Church in Germany, as well as in some parts of Eastern Europe, where the church still currently operates as an arm of the state.

To summarize:

  1. Racial attitudes have deep roots in Colonialism and Imperialism
  2. Racial attitudes are taught and not innate
  3. Racial attitudes have a strong economic component, and are thus closely connected with class, gender, and power

In the next post we will get more personal.

100 thoughts on “Klasie Kraalogies: On Racism, Apartheid and the Demons Within (Part 1)

  1. The Renaissance may also have been a factor. One of its side effects was a Fanboy attitude of all thiings Greco-Roman (except maybe the homosexuality).

    Rome had a centralized absolute monarchy — SO MUST WE!
    Greece kept their wimmenfolk barefoot and pregnant — SO MUST WE!
    Rome ruled the World — SO MUST WE!
    Greece AND Rome kept slaves, lots of them — SO MUST WE!

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  2. HUG,

    Yes, the Khoisan part is present both in DNA and genealogical records. Individual names etc. Way back to the 1650’s

    The Broederbond was more akin to the Masons or even (hah the Illuminati. The OB was more like the Klan. The AWB is just a bunch of Neo Nazis. Different variations on the same theme in the end though.

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  3. Also note, I said NOTHING about what I thought about the protestors and their lack of safe distancing, so there was a leap in judgment about that.

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  4. “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

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  5. General stream-of-consciousness “reaction video” comments:

    The difference was of course, that in the colonies, and in particular South Africa, the abundance of cheap, non-white labour led to the intersection of class and race, which would create unique modes of discrimination.

    A history of South Africa I read (The Washing of the Spears?) mentioned the Voortrek of the Boers (ancestors of the Afrikaners) away from the coast to get away from the British. It spoke about the Boer idea of a “family farm” was a cattle ranch in the Veldt that stretched from horizon to horizon. And that such a huge “farm” would require lots of labor to work.

    “To the Boer settlers, the solution to the labor problem was a simple matter of Black and White.”

    ..phrases such as “the great unwashed” coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (English playwright and Secretary of State for the Colonies 1858-1859).

    Bulwer-Lytton was a Crown Official?
    The guy whose fiction writing was so long and over-Victorian even by Victorian standards that his name became a term for bad writing? (I lasted ten pages into his masterwork The Last Days of Pompeii before giving up. The only thing of his I’ve actually read was his proto-SF novelette “The Coming Race”, about the superhuman Vril-Ya and from inside the earth and their all-purpose “magic power” of Vril.)

    B.J Vorster, South African Prime Minister from 1968 to 1978, was an OB member who said the following in 1942:

    We stand for Christian Nationalism which is an ally of National Socialism… In Italy it is called Fascism, in Germany National Socialism and in South Africa Christian Nationalism.

    Was the OB (AKA the South African Nazi Party) the predecessor of the AWB (who just traded in the four-armed Swastika for a three-armed Triskelion)?

    His brother, Reverend Koot Vorster addressed a student group in 1940, saying:

    Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ shows the way to greatness – the path of South Africa. Hitler gave the Germans a calling. He gave them a fanaticism which causes them to stand back for no one. We must follow this example because only by such holy fanaticism can the Afrikaner nation achieve its calling.

    I think Harry Turtledove quoted this in his Alternate History/Time-Travel SF novel Guns of the South (great read; scare up a copy sometime), where AWB go back in time to 1864 Virginia to help the Confederates win the American Civil War by supplying them with high-tech smallarms. Then the (victorious) Confederates find out what the “Rivington Men” are really like and the price they demand.

    However, a new element was added to the rise of the right wing – the Afrikaner Broederbond (Brotherhood). Founded in 1918 to advance Afrikaner interests, it was a secret organisation of exclusively male Afrikaner Calvinists. The aforementioned Jan Smuts said that it was a dangerous, cunning, political fascist organisation.

    The Broederbond.
    I have heard it described as a “South African Ku Klux Klan” in black robes/hoods instead of white, with all the secret society trappings of the Second Klan and the political power the Second Klan grasped for but never completely achieved.
    “TRAITORS REMEMBER — THE BOND NEVER FORGETS!”

    …nearly all white South Africans, such as me, have a portion of non-white ancestry. I personally count Khoisan, Malagasy, Indian (Bengali?) and Chinese ancestry.

    Khoi-San?
    That’s the most ancient of Ancient lineages.
    As far as we can tell from genetic analysis, the Khoi-San (once called “Kalahari Bushmen” and before that “Hottentots(?)”) were either the original Homo Sapiens or the closest fo today’s peoples to that First Ancestor. Dioramas at the Kentucky Creation Museum notwithstanding, this means an actual Adam & Eve would have been somewhat short and of wiry build, with heavily Africanized (i.e. BLACK) features and medium-brown skin.

    Therefore, we can conclude that a major societal shift caused the explosion of racism in the first place.

    Which some (including me) trace to the European discovery/colonization/exploitation of the Americas and the establishment of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Humans, like all primates, are SIGHT-oriented creatures; if two things appear visibly different, they ARE different; in this case, “not us”, “not really people”. And such visibly-different “not really people” were in great demand as cheap labor for a colonial plantation economy. You’re not really enslaving people, just humanoid livestock/work animals.

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  6. Rick Ro. so you were against the protesters the past days who were not in mass and not heeding to safe distance advice?

    i.e.
    “WHATABOUT…?????”
    “WHATABOUT…?????”
    “WHATABOUT…?????”
    “WHATABOUT…?????”
    “WHATABOUT…?????”

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  7. “Many miles away
    Something crawls from the slime
    At the bottom of a dark Scottish lake…”

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  8. That was the biggest flaw of the British Empire, especially in its later years. They never could think of any of their Empire’s indigenous populations as equals.
    White Supremacy, with “the Anglo-Saxon Race” as the “whitest” of Whites.
    (Just ask the Irish and Scots of the period immediately earlier. Don’t know much about the Welsh.)

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  9. My dad was told to his face when he was growing up that “the only thing lower than a N*r is a Catholic”.

    Your dad grew up in an area where the Second (1920s) Klan was strong?

    The town I lived in was a Klan town during the Roaring Twenties — “Klananheim, Kalifornia — KIGY!” Mayor was KKK, City Council was KKK, Cops were KKK, Fire Department was KKK. Rallies and cross-burnings held at the northern edge of town in what’s now LaPalma Park. At the time, it had a very small black population (I don’t know about the Jewish population), so the main thrust of the Klan there was Anti-Catholic, spun as Christians resisting an Antichrist Roman Dictator.

    The Knights of Columbus operating out of St Boniface (the downtown Catholic church at Harbor and Lincoln, at the time the only RCC parish in town) were the nucleus of the Anti-Klan Resistance. Oral history is they had to organize their own fire department (with lookout in the steeple) to keep the church from getting torched. Took them years, but they finally got the Klan out of power.

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  10. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. In short, it was a time like any other.”
    — Charles Dickens, prologue to A Tale of Two Cities

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  11. Yep, scary stuff. 1970 wasn’t that long ago. It wasn’t the dark ages. We had just come through the 60s, I was 10 years old, and I already felt part of an enlightened generation though I didn’t feel enlightened myself.

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  12. He did. He did.

    Are we talking cognitive dissonance yet? He’s not living in the real world.

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  13. they get to prove their ‘loyalty’ to him personally be putting their lives on the line for HIM

    He admits what he is doing is harmful by requesting that these waivers be signed.
    He is complicit in the demise of anyone who sickens and perishes as they worship him on stage and feeds his sick narcissistic ego

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  14. why is the group that follows DT blindly

    the same ilk that fostered the horrific abuse of the people in Flint MI

    that tragedy didn’t have to happen either

    there is a core of contempt for ‘the others’ in MI, not everyone though, thank God

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  15. serendipity?

    had thought there were no silver linings to the trump debacle, but you have a point

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  16. a gift

    ‘you know when the day has finally begun when there is enough light to look into the eyes of a stranger and recognize your brother or sister’

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  17. Isn’t it funny?
    Little kids don’t hate and fear until they’re taught to hate and fear.

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  18. “Now Racism I can understand. That’s just one tribe shaking its spears at the Other.”
    — Steven Barnes, (black) SF Author, on an SF con panel many years ago.

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  19. I’m still left scratching my head wondering why was race not an issue for the Romans, but a major issue for the British and Germans?

    As I understand it, the establishment of the transatlantic slave trade was what made it a major issue. Before the slave trade really got going, black Africans in European art were primarily “funny-looking foreigners”, emphasis on exotic and FOREIGN. After the slave trade was established, Black became Subhuman in White art and literature.

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  20. Funny thing is, many in the alt-right are neopagans who want to revive the old European gods mixed with the ethnonationalist idea of the Volk.

    Isn’t that straight out of the NSDAP?
    As in Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler, the Reich’s number-one occult fanboy?

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  21. Sorry for my poorly constructed sentence. I did not intend to say that the White supporters of the protest movement had suffered hundreds of years of oppression, although that’s what it sounded like.

    Re: MI’s infection rates: I would have to read more extensively about it to make an educated statement. All I know is that the rates are jumping tremendously across the country in the wake of states reopening, nowhere worse than Arizona. A thousand plus people are currently dying each day from the disease across the country; it will get worse than that in the next couple of weeks with reopening having happened a few weeks ago in many places. And, yes, the protests will make it worse, too. The virus doesn’t care about oppression, politics, or the economy.

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  22. Yes we’ll have to work at it. No doubt. I grew up in the rural American south and nothing gives me more pleasure than to see these symbols of the Old Dominion come down. But I hope it’s more than American no-nothingism. Out of sight out of mind. I’ve always thought we need to keep just one place, leave one monument unmolested, just so we can remind ourselves. So we won’t ever forget.

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  23. Robert, unless you know the protesters how in the world could they have suffered hundreds of years of oppression? Many are white collage kids and young people. Perhaps as in the sixties they are just joining in. Real reform will come when we sit down together and discuss the issues without violence. I also live in Michigan which has one of the toughest rules on gathering yet we have one of the highest rates of covid in the country. Why?

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  24. Protestors could perhaps reap the unfortunate seeds of the virus as well. But most of them were masked, and they were at least outdoors.

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  25. And true to form, he wants rally attendees to sign waivers declaring his campaign not responsible if they get COVID-19! LOL!

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  26. From what I have read, prior to fairly recently “race” was a matter of language, culture, custom, history and territory as much as, indeed more so, than physical appearance. Nation and race were also not particularly well distinguished – I am not at all sure when the concept of a single “white” race even arose, but certainly not until at least fairly modern times, and I suspect arose largely as a justification for colonialism, more than anything. English, French, Scots, Lombards, Germans, Venetians etc etc were all separate races. Europeans may have lumped together actually quite diverse non-Europeans as larger “races”, but I suspect through their own ignorance of their differences than any particular racial theories. Some sets of peoples might have noteworthliy different physical features than others, but (when they understood the differences at all) that didn’t make them the same race.
    I think it would be more accurate to say the Romans were actually racist as f*ck, but didn’t regard anyone but Romans as being the same race as themselves. That some races of foreigners were notable for the darkness of their skin and others weren’t probably didn’t make much odds, no more significant than say Gauls, Danes and Angles having fair hair to the Roman (and Arabic / Parthian / African etc) black. The idea that the Gauls, Germans, Goths, Celts etc were the same race as them in contrast to, say, the Egyptians, Nubians or Ethopians wouldn’t have made that much sense.

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  27. He is a leader. Don’t compare the desperate actions of protestors who have suffered hundreds of years of oppression — and their supporters — with the privileged, rich leader of the nation. There’s no comparison to be made.

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  28. Over a thousand people a day are dying from COVID-19 in the U.S. This is far from over; these waves will crest again and again in different places across the country. With states reopening willy-nilly as residents become lax in maintaining social distancing and the rate of infection currently escalates by orders of magnitude in more than a dozen states, and with the spread caused by the protests that will manifest in the next month or so, this is not anywhere near over. We have a social darwinist national leadership that wants to round the curve.

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  29. Rick Ro. so you were against the protesters the past days who were not in mass and not heeding to safe distance advice? You are making individual choice to have a meeting that you feel is important without being given permission from the state officials. Should the protesters be shamed for getting thousands of people together to demonstrate their concerns? Also please call me Dan as even thought I am extremely obtuse I am not big headed about it and consider myself as just a humble American, in that regards I am like another icon of American who was always referred to as Mr. Ed, but retained the common touch.

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  30. Italian immigrants were considered an inferior subbranch of the White race by the German and British Euro-Americans that were already here and in power in the last quarter of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. It’s amazing how the racism that European nation states developed extended to so many other European nation states, including the European nation state next door. That is indicative of its being a social construct rather biological.

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  31. Well, Mr. Dan… Joe Biden and Dems aside, here I am, hesitant to re-start the Saturday morning men’s group that I help facilitate for fear of having one of the guys get Covid-19 and die, and yet we have a president so blinded by his ego that he’s willing to put thousands at risk. Shame on him.

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  32. I think it’s complicated. The British changed the face of India, in a way forging a national Indian and religious Hindu identity straddling a wider area than it ever had before, and encompassing far more people. They used the existing caste system, and extended it far beyond its existing bounds, to their own advantage, and degraded the condition of the people that occupied, and those came to occupy, that lowest caste. Complicated.

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  33. I think Biden is using Napoleon’s playbook – “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

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  34. Well at least you own it. They say admitting you have a problem is the the first step. Godspeed.

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  35. Well, the Democrats could have their convention is Joe Biden’s Basement , it is safe. The Democrats will want to not have a convention as they can keep Biden in his basement and keep the party division out of sight.

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  36. Clay Crouch, thanks, I inherited the obtuseness from my Mother. I can take no credit for excelling at being obtuse as it is just comes natural . It has been so useful as many times people ask me “are you serious” and of course due to my genetic make up I can respond “No, I am obtuse. Thanks for noting my obtuseness and yes, it can be marvelous. Many say ignorance is bliss but I say obtuseness is bliss.

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  37. An awful event, and crazy timing for holding a large event there.

    Speaking of holding a large event…
    Do you think any Democratic strategist, in developing plans for how to win the White House in 2020, had in their playbook the line item: “Get Republican leadership to congregate en masse during a pandemic”???

    You can’t make this stuff up!!!

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  38. Clay Crouch https://www.charlottein2020.com/

    Perhaps this will answer the question for the cynic in you. Of course , Trump being a brilliant political strategist , planned in advance to move the convention from N.C. to Jacksonville because he knew the social distancing policy in N.C. might be a problem. I know many here always denounce conspiracy theories but as you surmise sometimes they are right. Trump is playing political chess while others play checkers. Most Americans are completely unaware of Ax Handle Saturday but they will not be when the RNC convention starts as it will be on a loop of newsworthy history on cable news and another reason to rename Jacksonville. Good observation.

    Unless they can convince Americans Jacksonville was name after Jack Daniels.

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  39. It is like a clone army. Every time he gets a new press secretary, for example, you can guess exactly what she’ll look like.

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  40. +1. Thanks for sharing your insights, and your set-up to sharing some more personal stuff that I’m sure is shaped by a different world experience than most of us here at iMonk. Look forward to reading more.

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  41. When they are not male, they are females who (when I have seen them) are tall, usually thin, and have loose, long hair, like his wives and daughters. Creepy from that angle, too.

    Dana

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  42. My mom inherited the black hair and light olive skin of her father’s northern Italian family; most on her mother’s northern Italian side have light skin and medium-brown to strawberry blonde hair. My mom told me that when she went to Kansas to meet my dad’s family, she was afraid she wouldn’t be “white enough” for them. My parents were already married, so the union was a done deal, and they were Catholic, so divorce was not an option. She didn’t hear anything disparaging, But she did worry.

    My dad was told to his face when he was growing up that “the only thing lower than a N*r is a Catholic”.

    Dana

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  43. Klasie, good article and I am looking forward to your personal observations. Japan and China were/ are very racist , how did that evolve , I do not think it was the western influence but I do not know.

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  44. The RNC has announced that Trump will accept the nomination on August 27th in Jacksonville, FL. That is the 60th anniversary of a brutal attack on black, Jacksonville residents by white mobs brandishing baseball bats and ax handles, an event known as “Ax Handle Saturday”. I was living in Jacksonville when it happened. My father was appointed to a commission that investigated the riot. The cynic in me believes the chosen date is no coincidence.

    Here is the link to the wikipedia page for the Ax Handle Saturday”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ax_Handle_Saturday

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  45. –> “In the end we might have to thank Donald Trump after all. Perhaps he has brought to boiling a pot that might have simmered on for decades.”

    Whenever I see photos of President Trump “in action”, I always marvel – and not in a good way – that he’s surrounded by nothing but white folks. And usually nothing but middle-aged MALE white folks. He’s the most white-centric president we’ve had in a LONG time.

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  46. I understand “untouchables” pre-dated the Raj; in any sort of caste system, there’s always going to be a caste on the bottom.

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  47. Calvinism and the OT were just the closest tools to hand.

    And when “We Evolved Beyond That Imaginary Friend In the Sky” somewhere around the late 19th/early 20th, you got “Scientific Racism”, proving White Superiority/White Supremacy as a basic Law Of Nature because… SCIENCE!

    SCIENCE! such as measuring skulls, facial angles, neoteny, and other PROOFS that Whites were the Most Evolved of all — “Survival of the Fittest” and all that. (Including in the Eugenics movement “Extinction to the Unfit”.) They’d just traded in one Cosmic-level Authority for another.

    Stephen Jay Gould, “Apostle of Evolution”, also taught History of Science at Harvard; and many of his collected essays (the ones showing up in trade paperbacks) detailed how Bad Science was used to prop up White Supremacy as a Law of Nature equal to Gravity.

    P.S. The Scientific Racists of 100 years ago defined “White” much more narrowly than today, usually including only the tribal sub-group of Europeans the Racial Scientist belonged to. By their definitions, both Klaasie and I are NOT “White” — him because of his Khoi-San and me because of my mother’s Northern Italian. (Yes, Italians weren’t White back then.)

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  48. Funny thing is, many in the alt-right are neopagans who want to revive the old European gods mixed with the ethnonationalist idea of the Volk. They have no use for Jesus, but plenty of use for White American Christians who are afraid that “my country” will be overthrown by people of color.

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  49. This would have been circa 1970, but I remember my father talking about a South African official being interviewed on TV (no further details), and that the South African said in the interview “GOD created the Black to Serve the White.”

    (And the connection of White = Light = Good and Black = Darkness = Evil sure doesn’t help…)

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  50. part of the answer might be discovered by examining the ways of the early ‘anglo-saxon’ inhabitants of the British Isles . . . take a look at their value system concerning the ‘weregild’ and how they valued persons

    the anglo-saxon invaders of the British Isles brought with them certain ‘values’ concerning their own feelings of superior worth as a people

    in short, the origins of racial identity and superiority can be found in the northern mists of Europe, whereas the Roman and Greek civilizations were not so much focused on racial identity as were the Germanic pagans of the north.

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  51. Yes, Trump seems to have accelerated the progressive fires in our country, especially among the young.

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  52. At its height, the British Empire ruled over 23% (or 410 million people) of the world’s population. Yes, a very different scale, requiring different ideology, and different technology.

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  53. That’s the scariest stuff. Mix religion with racism and you’ve got misery in waiting for someone.

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  54. Eventually yes, Stephen. But we also have to work at addressing the massive amounts of harm caused by centuries of racism. That has to happen first.

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  55. It seems like a good example of “scale changes the problem”.

    At the height of Rome’s power the population of the WORLD was ~300,000,000 (compared to 7,800,000,000 today – a ~2,500% increase], and probably something like ~20% [1 in 5] humans lived under Roman rule.

    In order to federate people on such a grander scale requires rhetorical innovation.

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  56. “So Rome was an Empire, but its ethos and self-understanding was that of a city state, not a nation state.”

    Correct. A lot of the quirks of Roman governance, and why and how it transitioned from republic to empire, become clear when looked at in that context.

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  57. Excellent post. Can I insert a hopeful note? If as it seems our concept of race is a modern historical phenomenon, then it can be unlearned. It doesn’t have to be like this.

    In the end we might have to thank Donald Trump after all. Perhaps he has brought to boiling a pot that might have simmered on for decades.

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  58. > why was race not an issue for the Romans, but a major issue for the British and Germans?

    Change in economic systems. “Race” is, and always was, a concept fueled by the need to justify privileging the economic interests of an ARBITRARY group (as a Nation State is not a natural entity, but itself an Economic one).

    Rome was a “nation”, but not in anything like the same way that The United Kingdom or the United States, or even modern France, is a “nation”.

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  59. I didn’t plan it, but today is the anniversary of the Rivonia trial sentencing, when Mandela was sentenced to life in prison.

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  60. Sounds right Robert. Again referring to Kubota, our reactions are learnt. So the ruling ethos matter.

    A very different example: Sone cultures viewed exposed female ankles as provocative, even titillating, a mere 150 years ago. This implies that physical reaction could follow seeing an exposed ankle. Obviously inntjkse same cultures this is no longer a case. Behaviour is learnt from the ruling ethos to the extent that one can mistaken them for being innate.

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  61. So Rome was an Empire, but its ethos and self-understanding was that of a city state, not a nation state. As you point out, the rise of the nation state, with its need to unify large numbers of people on the basis of identity more comprehensive than the city state, happened later on in Christian Europe. Nation state identity, and the racism needed to maintain it, was produced to meet this need. Is that right?

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  62. Think of it this way: For the Romans their in-group was more based on an ideal – citizenship. You could be of Greek origin and a citizen. Or a slave. You could be a Thracian slave – or a Thracian Emperor (Maximus Thrax, 235 to 238 AD).

    The Romans were well aware of other races early on – Julius Ceasar went to Egypt after all. But for them the distinguishing factor seems to have been the ideal of Roman Citizenship. See how quickly they changed their treatment of the apostle Paul as described in the book of Acts.

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  63. It seems that way. It was a colonial tool used by Christian Europeans to exploit the people of the areas they colonized, and to justify that enslavement and exploitation to the “Christian” conscience by asserting that those subjected to it were of an inferior race that required the “White Man’s Burden” of protecting those people from themselves. My understanding is that it was the British colonization of India that produced the class of “untouchables”, as a slave class not only for the British raj but for the Indian nationals who they appointed to help them rule the country.

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  64. “why was race not an issue for the Romans, but a major issue for the British and Germans?”

    This is just my best guess, but I would suggest that the Romans got their “practice runs” at conquest and slavery on peoples who were not unlike them physically – other Italians, Goths, and Greeks. By the time darker skinned people were on the block, slavery was already established as a economic-military and not racial affair.

    “Apart from their Calvinism and OT emphasis would the Afrikaner have NOT been racist?”

    Again, not an expert, but I suspect that the economic and social forces at hand – a minority of high-tech whites dominating and exploiting a vast majority of blacks – meant that they would have constructed some form of justification for their actions regardless. Calvinism and the OT were just the closest tools to hand.

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  65. I’m still left scratching my head wondering why was race not an issue for the Romans, but a major issue for the British and Germans? You indicated that it is learned, a function of religion, and an element of nation-state building. Did the “purity” factions within 2nd Temple Judaism nurture the roots of modern racism? Apart from their Calvinism and OT emphasis would the Afrikaner have NOT been racist?

    What I see as your answer to these questions is that the Colonial empires needed cheap labor. Was racism simply a tool to economically enslave certain groups without admitting to a reality of slavery?

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  66. racism connected to ‘power’

    yes, as in the rise of the ‘Alt-Right’ and Richard Spencer’s ‘white nationalism’

    “According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alternative Right is a term coined in 2008 by Richard Bertrand Spencer, a white nationalist who advocates for an Aryan homeland and the “peaceful ethnic cleansing” to halt the “deconstruction” of European culture.”

    when we hear good Christian people talk about ‘halting the deconstruction of the Western European culture’, you can bet they are being served up doses of alt-right propaganda wrapped up in Christian dominionist language . . . for those unfamiliar with it, it can be quite jarring, but for the ‘in-crowd’, it is just a form of ‘conservative Christianity’

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