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A look at oppression and racism in 100 years of degradation

Order your copy today. Cedric Robinson was fond of quoting his friend and colleague Otis Madison: For Blacks, guns and tanks are sufficient.

Griffith and the Rewhitening of America. Robinson In 1915 William Joseph Simmons, an ex-preacher who made his income selling memberships in fraternal organizations, led a group of his friends atop Stone Mountain, just outside of Atlanta, burned a giant cross, and launched the revival of the Ku Klux Klan. Simmons believed the new Klan could make America great again by purging it of un-American influences: Negroes, immigrants except for those of Anglo and Scandinavian stockCatholics, and Jews.

The second Klan appears to be a ball of contradictions—antagonistic to both big business and industrial unions, contemptuous of both elites and a huge swath of the working class the non-white and foreign-born. But as historian Sarah Haley recently argued, the Klan—whose membership rolls swelled to four million by 1924—mobilized a precarious middle class of small entrepreneurs, white-collar workers, and farmers facing the prospect of downward mobility and seeking hope in the elimination of the most marginalized segments of society.

A look at oppression and racism in 100 years of degradation

This was no ordinary film. The Birth of a Nation was historical alchemy, turning terrorists into saviors, rapists into chivalrous protectors of white women and racial purity, and courageous and visionary blacks into idle, irresponsible ignoramuses, rapists, and jezebels. Black people were not only unfit for democracy but they threatened social order. Nevertheless, racial regimes do possess history, that is, discernible origins and mechanisms of assembly.

But racial regimes are unrelentingly hostile to their exhibition. This antipathy exists because a discoverable history is incompatible with a racial regime. Racial regimes, in other words, are fictions. As such, they are unstable, fragile, and contested. The scramble to prove black inferiority and buttress white racial democracy in the era of Jim Crow was no cakewalk. The previous era had unleashed the possibility of radical change in the United States, and that struggle continued well into the twentieth century, when armed insurrection, political assassination, lynching, disfranchisement, imperialism, and federal complicity in the triumph of white supremacy destroyed the last sigh of black-led biracial democratic, populist, and radical movements.

Robinson lays out in great detail all the sites of contestation in 1915, and all the operations the new racial regime masked in the process. That intervention and long occupation until 1934 —driven by U. In the white American imagination, Haitians—like those blackface brutes in The Birth of a A look at oppression and racism in 100 years of degradation seen as coons, niggers, and malevolent witchdoctors incapable of self-governance.

And who could lead the struggle to topple this rapacious system? The latter resisted with pickets and boycotts, speeches and editorials, scholarship and art, and outright rebellion. They exposed the racial regime for what it was, the tyranny of white supremacy masquerading as enlightened democracy.

The former, backed by finance capital and the academy, manufactured the Negro as Problem, a campaign accelerated through newer technologies of mass media. Film—whether newsreel footage of U. Robinson demonstrates that the post-Reconstruction order was not a return to the antebellum but a new racial and economic order that deployed a reinvention of the past in the service of a new regime. If new media played a key role, print was also crucial to this campaign.

Adolf Hitler praised the book as foundational to his own thinking. White supremacy traverses the ideological spectrum, even now. Racial regimes are fictions, unstable, fragile, and contested. It was more than just the introduction of modern infrastructure, Western education, and civilization.

It was the creation of social cohesion through the rapid assimilation of subject peoples. Giddings insisted that social cohesion or some sense of solidarity is a precondition of democracy, and racial difference renders such solidarity improbable if not impossible.

Thus, while recognizing racism as a fetter on democracy, he nonetheless apologizes for white supremacy, arguing that blacks and whites have very different value systems. The consequences, however fragile, were devastating—not just for African Americans but for working-class whites. As Robinson writes, Griffith and this emergent film industry constituted the social and cultural platform for a robust economic and political a look at oppression and racism in 100 years of degradation an agenda in the process of seizing domestic and international labor, land, and capital.

White patrimony deceived some of the majority of Americans, patriotism and nationalism others, but the more fugitive reality was the theft they themselves endured and the voracious expropriation of others they facilitated. The scrap which was their reward was the installation of Black inferiority into their shared national culture. It was a paltry dividend, but it still serves. Trump The dividend still serves. Many who voted for him, including those of the alt-right, flocked to Trump because he villainized immigrants, black people, and anti-patriotic business moguls who sent jobs overseas.

A look at oppression and racism in 100 years of degradation

Most pundits insist that Trump appeals not to white racism but to working-class populism driven by class anger. The argument is both inept and confused. They are serious efforts to interrogate the sources of persistent inequality, the barriers to equal opportunity, and the structures and policies that do harm to some groups at the expense of others.

At the height of the culture wars, conservatives such as Gertrude Himmelfarb, William Bennett, and Lynne Cheney; liberals such as Arthur Schlesinger and Allan Bloom; and self-styled leftists such as Todd Gitlin and Michael Tomasky argued that identity politics had undermined a unified America founded on Enlightenment principles of individualism, liberty, and secularism.

More conservative critics of identity politics sought to rescue Western culture from its anti-racist, feminist, and post-colonial critics. Those many brave and humane Africans who are struggling these days for decent societies are animated by Western, not by African, ideals. White guilt can be pushed too far.

Robinson likened such antinomies to Christian attacks on heresy during the Middle Ages. But Robinson knew there was more at stake. How else can one defend their specious histories of knowledge, which invoke some pristine mythical moment in the life of the American academy?

He pointed to the dangers of an essentialism that reduces complex, historical experiences to fixed, discrete racial, ethnic, and gender identities. What he proposes instead is that a radical impulse in multiculturalism constitutes both a critique of the absences and an appropriation of the positive contributions of Marxism.

We are not the subjects or the subject formations of the capitalist world-system. It is merely one condition of our being. Locating the elusive seed of opposition is a daunting task, but it seems that most people agree that repairing our broken democracy ought to be our priority. Cedric Robinson had a lot to say about democracy—as a theory, an aspiration, and a fiction. Robinson studied democracy at the University of California, Berkeley, and fought for it as a leader of the campus naacp and as an activist in slate, a forerunner of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.

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In the summer of 1962, he witnessed firsthand a struggle to create a multiethnic democracy in Southern Rhodesia crushed by the state. Founded by Harlem Presbyterian minister James H. Robinson and backed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Operation Crossroads was also a Cold War project designed to combat communism and spread American democracy to the continent.

During his month-long stay, Cedric watched the U. Upon his return to Berkeley, Robinson enrolled in three political science courses, including one on African politics, in his quest to comprehend democracy, and he would go on to do graduate work in political science at San Francisco State University and at Stanford. Perhaps what is needed are new political organisations without single or even multiple leaders, but with no leaders at all. That is a sophisticated social organization; a primitive organization is one where the courts are filled with defendants bound and gagged or where its citizens must be shot down in the streets and terrorized in to fitful conformity.

He traced the ideological roots of U. Plato survives because if he had not existed, he would have to be invented. Distrust of democracy was widespread.

For some proponents, the Electoral College would be the enlightened check against the threat of an ignorant populace backing a demagogue as president. But it also guaranteed a pro-slavery White House. The number of electors was to be equal to the number of representatives and senators from each state. This gave the slaveholding South an edge in presidential elections compared to other states, and that advantage lasted well after slavery ended, since the vast majority of black southerners were disfranchised after Reconstruction.

Edwards In 2016, on the heels of the centennial celebration of D. Nate Parker, the young African American actor who wrote, directed, and starred in the film appropriated the title from Griffith as a deliberate provocation. His historical epic is about Nat Turner, the Virginia slave-turned-minister who led the bloodiest slave revolt in U. Like Griffith, Parker simultaneously revised history while reflecting and refracting current political realities.

In both Births, women are territory to be fought over, attacked, and defended. Whereas the Klan avenged the nation and their manhood by rooting out alleged black rapists, Turner and his men avenged their nation and their manhood for the rape of their women by white masters and overseers.

Parker risks making them objects that he, and only he, can freely move around the screen.

Births of a Nation

For the past five years Black Lives Matter warned the country that unless we end racist state-sanctioned violence, we are headed for a fascist state. But he would have also insisted that the female-led, horizontal formations resisting state violence today are not aberrations but consistent with the black radical tradition. They are women of substance, of imagination, of formidable social force, women who would kill and wage revolutions against the state and the world economy.

For the past five years, the insurgencies of the Movement for Black Lives and its dozens of allied organizations have warned the country that unless we end racist state-sanctioned violence and the mass caging of black and brown people, we are headed for a fascist state. Others argue that fascism is already here. Refusing to play politics, they criticize both Democrats and Republicans. They have angered cops by insisting that no law officer is above reproach.

Skeptical of courtroom justice, they have taken to the streets, social media, the press, and even the United Nations, placing the moral, ethical, and legal question about the value of black lives before the world court of opinion. The movement has also proposed a plan to divest from a society of punishment, inequality, environmental degradation, and white supremacy and invest in a future built on free education, healthcare, housing, living-wage jobs, decriminalization, restorative justice in lieu of caging, food justice, and green energy.

Those of us who lived through the Reagan era have seen these dynamics before, though on a smaller scale.

  1. He focused on the ghettos, the barrios, the reservations.
  2. Beyond that, there is the question of intergenerational benefits and intergenerational deficits. They could not work in the upper echelons in the steel mills.
  3. It's like starting a 440 and one group of people are starting with balls and chains around their legs and the race starts off and about halfway through the race somebody says, Wait a minute. There is a perception in this country that it's a white country, that if you accommodate to this white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant milieu culturally and politically, it's fine.
  4. In fact, Herodotus and some of the others who wrote about it talked about the virtues of black people in the ancient world, about Ethiopia being a place in Africa that was highly civilized. Today, bosses continue to do the same, as when they hire nonwhite strikebreakers against a strike of predominantly white workers.
  5. Affirmative action was supposed to be the wedge issue in this action, though it may not be, but certainly immigration will be one of those issues.

In Mississippi in 1980, at least twelve African Americans were lynched. The same year at least forty racially motivated murders occurred in cities as diverse as Buffalo, Atlanta, and Mobile.

Across the country, police killings and non-lethal acts of brutality generated protests, notably a massive urban rebellion in Liberty City, Florida. Faced with a dramatic rise in racism, unemployment, and homelessness, followed by deep cuts in social programs and increases in military spending, black resistance ramped up. James, and Richard Wright—were all radicalized during the 1930s. Robinson teaches us that racial regimes are unstable. They can be disassembled, though that is easier said than done.

In the meantime, we need to be prepared to fight for our collective lives.