Friday, February 27, 2015

The doll experiments, "American Denial," Black Lives Matter!


       The powerful PBS film, "American Denial" - watch here -  captures the ferocious racism which is the other side of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.  America has since its inception been built out of slavery and genocide against indigenous peoples.  But there have been huge movements, including whites as well as blacks, which have fought against and significantly abated racism, even to the extent of electing Barack Obama President twice (see here).

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     "American Denial" focuses on Gunnar and Alva Myrdal.  He was chartered by the Carnegie Corporation in 1938 to do a 5 years study of the racism toward blacks  which he called the American Dilemma.  That dilemma is the attractive aspiration of the Bill of Rights accompanied by the slavery of black people and the continuing - he went around boldly, asking questions as a Dane to whites in the South, who answered disgracefully about Jim Crow - abjection of extreme racisms.  It was the era of Nazism - the attempt to impose such theories (eugenics) throughout Europe.  So the contrast was particularly heartbreaking.

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    In Georgia, he asked the head of a racist women's association whether she had considered Freud's point - that one hates most the thing that most attracts one.  She chased him out of the house, called the local authorities, and he and his companion Ralph Bunche had to leave the state.

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     As the film says, that Corporation (out of racism)  never considered asking an American black to do the report.  One has but to think of W.E.B. Dubois (see  Souls of Black Folks and here) or Kenneth and Mamie Clark (see below)...

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      Much social science is built on a false philosophical picture of the sciences - logical positivism, a modestly leftist view in philosophy on the part of Rudolf Carnap, Hans Reichenbach, Moritz Schlick - translated into IQ testing which was integral in the support for eugenics and racism, and spreading gradually to other social "sciences."

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       Sciences have their own theories and methods (philosophy of science is external, an accessory concerned with fraud and not vital to their functioning).

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       Social "science" has very limited, if any theories (arbitrarily excludes serious theories like Marx's or Aristotle's) and relies heavily on statistics.  Philosophy of science, in this case, a bad philosophical picture, is integral to the research and at the extremes, legitimizes,  in IQ testing and eugenics, errors and sometimes monstrous harms.

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       Kenneth and Mamie Clark, the first and at the time only two black Ph.D.s in psychology, however, initiated the doll studies which are emphasized in this film.  They showed black and white children a black doll and a white doll and asked which is prettier?

    The results, updated in "American Denial," are heartbreaking.  At the end of their study, they noted some actual remarks by the children, when asked which doll looks like you, replied,  "I burned my face and made it spoil"...

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      The exact quote in the Clarks' 1941 pathbreaking article, "Racial Identification and Preference in Negro Children," is:

     “Rationalization of the rejection of the brown doll was found among both northern and southern children…A northern medium [in color - these distinctions in the United States were like those of the Nazis, and now mercifully forgotten...] six-year-old justified his rejection of the brown doll by stating that ‘he looks bad ‘cause he hasn’t got a eyelash.’ A seven-year-old medium northern child justified his choice of the white doll as the doll with a ‘nice color’ because ‘his feet, hands, ears, elbows, knees and hair are clean.’    A northern five-year-old dark child felt compelled to explain his identification with the brown doll by making the following unsolicited statement: ‘I burned my face and made it spoil.’  A seven-year-old northern light child went to great pains to explain that he is actually white but ‘I look brown because I got a suntan in the summer.’”

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   Myrdal is shown, both as brilliant (he made discoveries about government policy in a depression which preceded Keynes) and as awful to his wife and children.  The film suggests an analogy between Myrdal's dilemma and the American dilemma.  In terms of fighting the latter, one would not know from this film of John Brown and militant whites who fought for emancipation or poor whites who took part in Reconstruction governments in the South or the IWW-led Southern lumber workers strike in the first decade of the 20th century or the Southern Tenants Alliance in the CIO...

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         Black Lives Matter! protests the degrading and ordinary (as American Denial emphasizes) police harassment,  hunting and murder of young black and latino people.  But as Michelle Alexander (in the film) has demonstrated in the New Jim Crow, what is worst for blacks and latinos also attacks many whites: a  prison system for 2.3 million people, 25% of the world's prisoners as well as casual police brutality.  See Police Killings: US 459 England and Japan 0" here.

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      That the United States is the world's biggest police state as well as (sort of) a free regime - the contrast drawn by Myrdal in 1941 - is obvious from this fact alone or from going around any American city.

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      Black Lives Matter! represents the hope of democracy,

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      Below I include a piece from July 17, 2009 on Leo Strauss's and the neocons' fierce opposition to Brown v. Board, especially its reliance on the Clarks' doll studies, advocacy of America's imperial wars and enforcing of increased oppression at home.  See also "What Leo Strauss set in motion" here.

    The Clarks did the doll studies - something straightforward, decent and true in the social sciences, without pretending to be "value-free" - the experiment is morally objective and represented the truth about unequal liberty in the United States.  Much denounced by those possessed by racism in psychology at the time, their work still shows, as American Denial now recapitulates 74 years later, something vitally important about the dishonorable and criminal American degradation of human beings.    The enduring importance of this study underlines the need, incorporated by Black Lives Matter!, to fight for equal liberty, in real, not formal terms, for all.

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July 17, 2009

Sotomayor, Brown v. Board of Education, the social science of Kenneth and Mamie Clark, and Leo Strauss


        In the hearings about Sonia Sotomayor this week, each senator made a political, at times quasi-legal speech about his views of the matter.  It is a committee largely of white men.  Except for Lindsay Graham, the Republicans often made fools of themselves.  Graham cagily announced that he might vote for Sotomayor – actually, concurring with Obama – but that he disagrees with the criteria on which he thinks Obama voted as a Senator.   But the most significant moment, for me, came in an account by Benjamin Cardin of Maryland of the significance of Brown v. Board of Education for his life, growing up as a jew, in Maryland. Maryland was the South (I once went on a freedom ride to Chestertown, Maryland).   Private clubs and perhaps some restaurants had signs: No negroes or jews allowed.  For a long time, there was an alliance of blacks and jews, of those oppressed, against American racism.  Cardin’s story brought it again to life.  What is the meaning of Obama’s nomination of Sotomayor?  She is a serious, moderate judge.  But she was also an activist against discrimination against Puerto Ricans (and others).  Obama and others rightly speak of the importance of  empathy.  Having grown up with a devoted mother in a slum in the Bronx, Sotomayor knows something about life which Justice Roberts – calling “balls and strikes,” as Jeffrey Toobin recently pointed out entirely for the corporations and the government, an “umpire” self-programmed to render verdicts only on behalf of money and power – does not.  Year by year, the Roberts court erodes the voting rights act, strikes again against Brown v. Board of Education (it may leave this great precedent intact, but, through every particular decision, it will render its spirit increasingly a shell).  But even Sotomayor’s  existence in a white male elite challenges its bigotry.  For all those who sacrificed, for instance my friend Andy Goodman who met his death in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the nomination and likely appointment of Sonia Sotomayor is a triumph of the great democratic wave which created and extended Brown, of democracy in America.
         The neoconservatives, stemming from Leo Strauss (even Irving Kristol, who wrote Neoconservatism: the Autobiograpy of an Idea is an enthusiast for Strauss), are bipartisan in the sense that they have worked for Democrats like Moynihan and Scoop Jackson as well as Republicans. Though they have damaged America fundamentally through aggressions waged ineffectually and at immense cost, wanton brutality and torture, and a fantasy reliance on weapons, they will, continue, as  critics with high positions (the Washington Post op-ed page, for example), to shape moves in foreign policy in the complex two-step of the two corporate-dominated mainstream parties.  Obama is setting a new direction, for instance with the Sotomayor appointment (see here),  But the dangers in his policies, in the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in retaining state secrets, trying to, at least on the surface, protect the war criminals of the previous administration, are real enough.  Still among former Trotskyists like Kristol, neoconservatism  emerged in opposing the entry of blacks into college, of fearing blacks.  Today one might neglect the underlying racism which is a core feature of the neoconservatism as an intellectual movement, shaping it before the emergence of its more recent international belligerence (of course, even the latter is racist; Iraqis are empty slates who may be molded by American brutality into preferring whatever Bush, Wolfowitz et al  think of as "democracy").
       A startling sign of this, one quite hard to place for many who admire Leo Strauss as a  conservative is that Leo Strauss was, on arcane grounds, an enemy of Brown v. Board of Education.  In researching in the Regenstein Library at Chicago last September, I studied letters between Strauss and Robert Goldwin, his most political student who rose high in the Ford administration and as an advisor to Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney.  In these letters, Strauss advises Goldwin in setting up the  Public Affairs Conference at the University of Chicago. Officially, Strauss's title is “executive consultant.”  But he makes clear that the Public Affairs Commission, of which his student Goldwin is the head, is “my business.”
      The Public Affairs conferences  involved prominent political, economic and media figures – Senator Charles Percy, the candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, Henry Jackson, Henry Kissinger, Eric Sevareid, Hans Speier, head of the Rand Corporation,  and students of Strauss – though perhaps, to represent the position Strauss seeks to oppose an occasional liberal. On June 21, 1961, Goldwin listed the nonacademics at one conference:
        “On the non-academic side, we have acceptances already from Mr. Percy, Thomas Watson (chairman of the Board of IBM), Emmet Hughes (Eisenhower’s former speech writer and now chief advisor and writer for Gov. Rockefeller) and Senator Muskie of Maine.  We will invite, in addition, Congressman Ford of Michigan ( who attended the first conference and who is a member of the Appropriations Committee and of the subcommittee on defense appropriations), Senator Henry Jackson of Washington (a member of the Armed Services Committee), George McGhee (head of the State Department Policy Planning Staff), Eric Sevareid, and Crawford Greenewalt, president of Dupont Co. We also want to invite a Republican member of the Armed Services committee, but I am awaiting Muskie’s advice on the best one for our purpose.  For a military man, Osgood suggested Maxwell Taylor; I objected that he would be busy with his study of the CIA; Osgood replied that it is now finished and that he would have time; but yesterday’s Times reported that he will be appointed Kennedy’s military aide; we will thus probably have to reconsider.  I will ask Osgood what he thinks of Rickover for this kind of meeting.
    I have mentioned all these names as a preface to asking you about Hans Speier…”
       Goldwin would evolve to sponsor conferences which while, on balance Straussian, nonetheless included academics who differed with them.  If one may judge from his many edited publications of these meetings, he became quite a good organizer of such events.  For Strauss, the point was to make American foreign policy more belligerent, to take out Cuba, as I indicated in a previous post here.  Emulating the Athenian Stranger in Plato’s Laws, Strauss and his students acted to make American foreign policy more brutal and reactionary, as brutal as the USSR had been in suppressing Hungary in 1956.   In this, Strauss created a pattern which has since been embodied in the sect (the sect is mainly those Straussians who have gone into politics plus some academics like Mansfield, Cropsey, Jaffa, et al). 
          On the extreme right in American politics or more exactly, aiming to move tyrannical politics toward blacks of the one-Party South – Democrats by day, the KKK by night - in a reactionary direction, Strauss also used these meetings to attack Brown v. Board of Education.  The brief Brown decision focuses famously in footnote 11 on social science, particularly the doll studies of Mamie and Kenneth Clarke as well as the works of  Gunnar Myrdal and Ashley Montagu.   A common cliché about Strauss is that he was simply interested in great thinkers or as he put it “philosophers” and had little time for politics.  Among philosophers, he opposed racism, taking Arabs like Al-Farabi as masters as much as Maimonides, and training lively students – Muhsin Mahdi, Charles Butterworth, Ralph Lerner – in Arab political thought.  But he could forget his seemingly most famous point in scholarship, his critique of value-freedom, to argue against Brown v. Board as a leading practical example of the despised “SS.”   Rightly and self-awaredly, none of the studies cited in footnote 11 claim to be "value-free," (it is particularly sad and ironic that a German Jew would use this symbol of the Schutzstaffel, the dreaded Nazi secret police, as an acronym for social science).  Strauss speaks to Goldwin directly as a student and addresses Strauss’s own role as the driving force in creating and furthering the subtle (not entirely even to invitees), political  aims of the Public Affairs Center.  To Goldwin on February 13, 1961, Strauss wrote:
“Dear Mr. Goldwin,
     I thank you for your informative letter of February 7.  In a way the most important piece of news it contained was the promise of your return to Locke. But I turn immediately to my business.  I am especially interested in a plan of having a debate on SS and its political consequences in the last generation.…I shall illustrate what I have in mind by two examples.  1) Economics and its limitations regarding economic policy, i.e. at what typical points ‘prudence’ or ‘common sense’ has to supplement the hand –outs of economic science.  Milton Friedman ought to be in on this. You can get ample clarification regarding both subject matter and personnel from Mr. Cropsey.  2) Desegregation and the findings of SS which allegedly demand desegregation.  Here I would think we should have a guy from the deep south, say Dean H[W]iggins, a sociologist at Emory. Such a conference could be educative for the non-academicians by making clear to them what they cannot expect from the academicians.”
          Against welfare state or Keynsian intervention (he hates the Democrats, incarnated by John F. Kennedy), Strauss seeks to further laissez-faire in economics.  He wants to involve Milton Friedman (as I mentioned to Robert Howse in the video here, Strauss  aimed to cooperate with Friedman and the “Chicago” boys; his interests prefigure Reagan and what has followed).  More importantly, however, he opposes the “SS” – which appears in the Supreme Court decision.  With Strauss’s counsel, Goldwin had invited the segregationist Virginia newspaper editor James Kilpatrick to present one of four papers at their first conference.  Goldwin regarded Kilpatrick as providing the leavening force, the lively or brilliant paper that would make the conference.   On December 17, 1960, he wrote to Strauss, 
            “Here is the paper by Mr. Kilpatrick, just received.  His assignment was to make the case that a reassertion of States’ rights would add to the essential strength of the United States in its present situation.  His response in the light of the assignment speaks volumes  Everything proceeds smoothly now, though in a great rush.” 
        Here is a strain of argument – what contributes to “the essential strength of the United States” – which is vital to Strauss’s understanding; hence, Strauss cooperated with the crude and murderous racism – sad for a Jew who had lived with this in Germany and saw its height in Nazism - of the segregationists   Following Max Weber whom he had admired before being mesmerized by Heidegger – two intense German nationalists -  he set his orientation in political theory, as Weber had in sociology, by great power politics (see my Democratic Individuality, ch. 11). But as a fan of empire (the Prussian empire, the Anglo-Saxon empire in his speeches during World War II, the American empire against the Soviet empire), he recommended the fiercest brutality to scare the USSR, a conquest of Cuba as brutal as the Soviet repression of Hungary.   As an authoritarian (see the 1933 letter to Loewith and my article “Do Philosophers Counsel Tyrants?.”Constellations, March 2009 here,  Strauss was to the right of Weber politically.   Given the primacy of inter-imperial rivalry, Strauss and Goldwin thought that affirming states rights would strengthen white American unity and purpose in its rivalry with the Soviet Union. The politics excluded the majority in many Southern states and was profoundly anti-democratic.  
        In addition, this practical judgment ignored the role of blacks, central to the American army – compelled to be disproportionally on the front lines - in Vietnam.  He was dramatically wrong even as an imperialist.  As Mary Dudziak, a professor of law,  has emphasized in Cold War Civil Rights the Soviet Union invoked the segregation and racism in the United States to point out the regime’s decadence to the new nations of Africa and Asia.  Ironically, the fight against racism by the NAACP went hand in hand with anti-communist or more aptly anti-radical ideology (differing from the plethora of reasonable objections to Soviet tyranny, this ideology interprets union or civil rights movements as stirred up among otherwise contented folk by “outside agitators” or foreigners speaking a distant language or rhetoric). Dudziak has creatively studied the paradoxical connection between McCarthyism – for instance, the application of loyalty oaths for public school teachers upheld by the Supreme Court [i]– and desegregation.  But in fact,  Brown v. Board and desegregation would make America stronger versus the Soviet Union or, in military terms,  in waging aggression in Vietnam.  Thus, anti-communist blacklisting and McCarthyism proceeded apace, often with the license of the courts, at the very time that the Supreme Court made its most famous, and anti-racist ruling.
        On  Dec 24, 1960, however, Strauss responded to Goldwin with an additional  emphasis – here a more standard segregationist one against centralism or judicial overreaching or for state’s rights - and a desire, once again, to oppose social science (the “SS”):
     “I have read the four articles and can hardly say more than that you ought to be congratulated on the good judgment you have shown in selecting the four writers.  It is not your fault that the States’ Rights position is presented in only one paper but in the future it might be wise to think well in advance of a possible substitute for a senator.  The advantage of Kilpatrick’s paper is that its main argument (local diversity) is not met in any of the three other papers, and so there is room for discussion.  All papers are well and interestingly written.  Jaffa’s statement is especially brilliant.  The only objection I have is to the word ‘freedom’ at the end of the paragraph on page 14; this is surely too much to hope for…Grodzins’ paper is clear, very well written and lucidly argued; but it does not go into the political reasons of the anti-centralists (especially the desegregation issue and the whole question of whether these kinds of matters can legitimately be settled by the Supreme Court).    It makes very much sense to me that Grodzins speaks on page 14, line 3 of ‘the most important services” but this qualification raises a well known ‘methodological’ difficulty which might be brought out on a proper occasion in order to bring in a plug for the anti-SS.”
         Whether Strauss himself agrees fully with the state’s rights argument – as a political scientist, Grodzins is sometimes a foil for his positions -  is less clear than with Goldwin’s remark about national unity.  Strauss was an admirer of a philosopher-tyrant who rules wisely but without laws. Churchill’s wartime “executive power” is a near, "statesmanlike" approximation.    More centralized than this, there is not in politics.  But one can be for executive or commander in chief power and still invoke anti-centralism or state’s rights to oppose judicial decisions that sustain the Bill of Rights.  This is a common reactionary thought – one aims to produce tyranny and grind ordinary people down, to fight democracy. Where centralized means do it, tyranny; where local tyrannies prevail, “state’s rights.”  Segregation has been wrongly or contingently connected to conservatives (since one may easily defend habeas corpus and the rights of each person, whereas segregation is brutal rule of others, denying habeas corpus in the most murderous ways).   In contrast, the purpose of a Court system is to uphold the equal liberties of each individual, particularly when under public attack. This is the point of John Rawls’ first principle of justice, and a broad array of modern democratic theories; it is Rousseau’s distinction between a general will and a will of all.  Strauss’s position is, fundamentally, anti-democratic.
           Goldwin also reports on the reception of Strauss’s students, Jaffa, Cropsey and Diamond at the conference.  On February 7, 1961, he speaks of them – as did Strauss - as “boys” to mirror their political and philosophical accomplishment of Strauss’s aims (“my business”).  The most revealing line about the political purposes of the Public Affairs Conference center in this letter is “Seated in the midst of the famous and powerful.”  The Center had one aim: to influence the famous and powerful in a particular political (“philosophical”) direction: to be the Athenian Stranger, the "reasonable" man, as in Plato’s Laws who advises the Cretan legislator.  Plato does not refer to his school or to the young whom Socrates spoke to (again, Socrates seems to me a radical democrat, and thus, perhaps different from Plato) as “boys” though Goldwin and Strauss seem to have this connotation (those who revered Socrates and were baffled by him often differed from him; admirably Strauss tolerated differences among his students, for instance, George Anastaplo who opposed the Vietnam war, and worked politically only with certain students, academic or policy-oriented; still, his closest student, Mr. Cropsey enunciated the basic character of the sect the first time he met Michael Goldfield who came to Chicago as a graduate of Williams and had studied with one of Strauss’s best students – “I cannot believe that a student of political philosophy opposes the Vietnam war.”   Goldwin also conveys in words (a philosophical eros) the ancient Athenian sense – an old man and the beautiful young – of homoeroticism: 
       “I will add only that you would have been very proud of your ‘boys.’Seated in the midst of the famous and the powerful, they conducted themselves admirably and displayed powers of the mind which earned the attention and respect of all.  Mr. Grodzins commented especially to me and to others, on the brilliance of some of Mr. Cropsey’s formulations in the discussion.  Mr. Diamond and Mr. Jaffa were the other most luminous ‘stars.’”
      Strauss aimed to nurture racism, but did not attend the conference.  It is worth emphasizing again: for an elite or in philosophy, Strauss was no racist.  What would have been most helpful in politics, particularly in Israel, would have been to support Israel settling in the Middle East not as a Western, dominating power, but as one among others.  Sadly, Strauss did not make that translation from philosophy to politics.  Strauss also once likened the situation of blacks and Jews in a talk on “Why We Remain Jews.”   But he overrode this decent opinion to move racist American politics  to the right, to harm blacks.
      James Kilpatrick’s speech at the Public Affairs Conference is reprinted in Goldwin’s edited collection A Nation of States.[ii] The title advances the state’s rights message of several important pieces (a late addition by Walter Berns, another of Strauss's close students, however, points out the limits of the tenth amendment to the Constitution).  To a political but also a Straussian audience, Kilpatrick suddenly becomes a fan of political philosophy, in particular Aristotle and Tocqueville, speaking as it were a la Straussian (he did not employ such allusions as an editor of a Richmond newspaper or in his books, The Southern Case for Segregation and The Southern States.    Grandiloquently attacking judicial “centralizers” i.e. an authority or executive alleged to be dictatorial, Kilpatrick notes for his own purposes the advice of the tyrant Periander to the tyrant Thrasybulus in book 3 of Aristotle’s Politics:
        “It was to this sort of immoderate greatness that Gibbon attributed the decline of Rome. It is to this sort of faceless nationalizing, to these idiot yells for equality, that our own Republic may yet succumb. Long ago a petty despot, troubled by insurrection in his realm, sent an envoy to Periander for advice.  The Ambracian tyrant did not reply directly.  He took the envoy to a corn field, and with a sharp blade lopped off the tallest ears until all the stalks were standing level.  The despot’s solution, he meant to say, lay in chopping down the strong to equality, with the weak, for when all men are equal none can excel.”
         Kilpatrick uses the murderous counsel of the tyrant Periander to inspire white Mississippians:
       “The hard counsel of Periander is lost upon some of the more naïve envoys of today’s zealous centralizers, but we may be sure it is not wasted on their masters.  Their god is the brutal bulldozer, squat as a pagan idol, whose function is to bring down the mountains and to fill up the valleys. They fear excellence as they abhor ineptitude.  The diversity of the States offends their pretty sense of order, and from the comfortable living rooms of Scarsdale they weep tears for Mississippi.”[1]
       Tyranny is only worrisome for Kilpatrick, however, if it works toward the equality of the rule of law; paradoxically, his example makes one think of Southern mobs, egged on by the police and the Democrats (they have now been reincarnated as some Southern Republicans) who hung innocents to preserve “their superiority.”  His sarcasm avoids the horror at racism which gripped many in the North.   Hundreds of white students, some perhaps from Scarsdale, would go South in 1964 to register votes. Some would be murdered…
      Kilpatrick adds more modestly and in the abstract, say about the Northern states, rightly: 
      “The Plan of our Fathers and it was a good plan, was simply to assure people of the best of both worlds – a central government strong enough to act boldly and powerfully in the preservation of national security and in the promotion of truly national interests, yet not so strong that it would swallow up the administration of those local and domestic responsibilities which the people wanted kept close at hand. 
           Tocqueville put it simply.  The federal system was created, he observed, ‘with the intention of combining the different advantages which result from the magnitude and the littleness of nations…”[1] 
         The Straussians and others sat through this talk about the horrible leveling central government – the evil Court and Kennedy – with its lack of mention of what the issue was.  Lynching – Kilpatrick is silent.  Preserving shacks for schools – Kilpatrick doesn’t mention it.  No admission of blacks to the main colleges or law schools – Kilpatick says nothing. Failure of the mortally injured to get care at local hospitals – Kilpatrick is silent. Beatings of teenagers white and black who demonstrate for civil rights and the occasional murder – Kilpatrick doesn’t know about that. 
       One wonders how even the Straussians and public officials sat through this  performance.  But one must remember that in a racist society, as in Nazi Germany, such performances are the norms for governments, editors, and of course academics.  It is perhaps unsurprising that Strauss organized this  conference but did not manage to attend (Strauss also refrained as a foreigner from direct involvement; he feared that American bigotry, enshrined in McCarthyism, could also focus on him).  Walter Murphy, the conservative specialist in law and co-author with Struass’s colleague and friend C. Herman Pritchett, has a Straussian review in the Yale Law Review for 1958, based on Persecution and the Art of Writing,  of one of Kilpatrick’s books.  Murphy believes that Kilpatrick is an esoteric writer, trying to hint to the cognoscenti, that he is really against segregation.  A decent man, Murphy could not take in what Kilpatrick was for.  No whiff of esotericism – except perhaps that Kilpatrick doesn’t engage in Southern politician-like racism for the audience at Chicago – arises from his talk. Though he does not mention segregation, however, the Periander example is chilling enough.   As is clear in the Strauss-Goldwin correspondance, however, no thought about an alleged Kilpatrick’s hidden opposition to segregation crossed their minds. 
          Turning to the "anti-SS" theme of Strauss’s exchanges with Goldwin, Strauss refers to Kenneth and Mamie Phipps Clark’s “doll studies” cited in footnote 11 of Brown v Board.  The Clarks – I think Mamie did the initial work but Kenneth famously wrote and testified about the findings – purchased brown and white dolls at a store.  They gave them to black children, divided by status into groups according to darkness of skin (an interesting point since among the oppressed, such distinctions are common: “German Jews” like Strauss and Loewith looked down on, as Loewith implies in his response to Strauss’s 1933 letter, Eastern or Sephardic jews) in selected schools in the segregated South and in the North.  In answer to a series of questions leading to which doll would you rather play with and which is nicer or prettier, the children from the South chose more often to play with the white doll, not with the  black one.  The Clarks rightly took this as a sign of lack of self-respect on the part of the black children, already absorbing what Martin Luther King would eloquently call “little clouds of inferiority” when his 6 year old daughter learned that she could not go to the Funland amusement park, advertised on television, because of the color of her skin (see “Letter from the Birmingham jail”).  Kenneth Clark was the first black psychologist; Mamie Clark his student and the second black Ph.D.  This was initially her thesis research.   With great professional care as social scientists, the Clarks state their qualitative results which, in allowing the children to speak, are as striking and painful as King’s towering speech:
        “Rationalization of the rejection of the brown doll was found among both northern and southern children…A northern medium six-year-old justified his rejection of the brown doll by stating that ‘he looks bad ‘cause he hasn’t got a eyelash.’ A seven-year-old medium northern child justified his choice of the white doll as the doll with a ‘nice color’ because ‘his feet, hands, ears, elbows, knees and hair are clean.’ 
         A northern five-year-old dark child felt compelled to explain his identification with the brown doll by making the following unsolicited statement: ‘I burned my face and made it spoil.’  A seven-year-old northern light child went to great pains to explain that he is actually white but ‘I look brown because I got a suntan in the summer.’”[iii]
              Strauss’s argument against value-free social science was in the abstract the best argument he ever gave (I cite it favorably in Democratic Individuality, a long book on how a limited moral objectivity is the basis for any decent reflection on social life, for instance, that slavery and segregation are bad for human beings, which one can give almost obvious arguments for and are sound or true judgments, if any judgments of social thinking or social “science” are.  But Strauss’s criticism of the social science of Brown v. Board is wrong in two ways.  First, the Clarks made their study and spoke of it as anti-racists.  Despite the social science template which their articles mirror, they never thought their findings were neutral.  They were right.  So Strauss’s critique of “SS” does not apply to their article.  Strauss had, however, a political animus toward their findings.  He affirmed Kilpatrick and not the Clarks.   But their finding was right and Kilpatrck – too cowardly to mention the facts that his version of “state’s rights” licensed, was wrong  (monstrous might be a better word at least in terms of consequences).  In this case, Strauss was mistaken both about his leading argument which did not apply to the Clarks’ articles and, more importantly, about the substance.  The kindest thing one can say on Strauss’s behalf is that there is no evidence that he read the Clarks’ article or had the foggiest idea of what they said.  Instead, he displayed a knee-jerk antipathy toward social science – “SS” – and its use in a political context by the Supreme Court.  But his animus, in organizing for segregation is intensely political.
      Some reviewers, including a Dartmouth political scientist Herbert Garfinkel, a Columbia law review article, and even some of the NAACP lawyers looked down on the Clarks’ studies or thought them “flimsy.”  In retrospect, however, the Clarks’ articles go down as the most influential policy studies ever done by a social scientist, as well as the most straightforward and interesting, and of course – it must particularly be said of the psychology of “IQ testing” which has produced endless justifications of eugenics and public crimes down to Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve – decent.  The idea was not complicated, but given the scientism characteristic of American life – an ideology about science, not a scientific argument or fact – the Supreme Court would take it up.  The Warren court had just come about; at Chief Justice Vinson’s death in 1953, the vote would have been 5 to 4 in favor ofBrown.  But the new court managed the stunning and decent margin of 9 to 0.  They needed science to stand for a n honorable cause, anti-Nazism (segregation and eugenics were the American varieties) and the equality of the rule of law.
        Turning the coin to the present once again,  in the Sotomayor hearings this week,  Senator Jeff Sessions, a  racist from Alabama who was denied a judgeship by the Senate for telling a black colleague he must watch himself not to offend whites and calling the NAACP a foreign organization, asked vehement questions about Sotomayor’s impartiality. She answered him calmly.  A white man’s impartiality is not in question.  The impartiality especially of the important white men who asked her questions – Democrat and Republican – is not in question. No editorials mentioned it.   No one said this view of impartiality is the racism, even in the Obama era, of the status quo.  This vision of impartiality once prized segregation and the Klan. (comically, Sessions became upset with the Klan because some Klansmen smoked pot; he did not disagree with the organization’s principles). The racism of the South was broken by the sacrifices of Andrew Goodman, James Cheney and Michael Schwerner one summer night in blossoming, the air heavy with scent Philadelphia, Misssissippi, and by the efforts for civil rights of millions of ordinary people.  That movement mainly from below – though inspiring and inspired by Brown v. Board of Education and Lyndon Johnson’s speeches and actions in favor of the Civil Rights Bills - stood for democracy and the equality of the rule of law. Law is always, in embryo  democratic law, one that does not differentiate between persons, does not single out groups for special oppression.
        The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor and her courage and the fact that her nomination will almost certainly go through is a great thing for America.  Sotomayor is a moderate like the so-called liberal justices on the Supreme Court.  Most of the other "liberals" have been appointed by Republicans or by Clinton, fearing outcry, and shading the politics of acceptable nominees to the center.  4 members of the Court are reactionaries in the vein of Leo Strauss.  Clarence Thomas had Straussians trained at Claremont like John Marini and Ken Masugi as assistants at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, helping to subvert an institution to support equality into its opposite; the others just breathe the air of emergency and authoritarianism.  In a state of emergency, they know that Lincoln suspended habeas corpus – though always with his eye on the restoration of law – and Roosevelt jailed Japanese-Americans in concentration camps. The origins of the reactionary animus to the civil rights act, enshrined by Chief Justice Roberts and Samuel Alito in memos to abolish it in the Reagan administration, echo the grandiloquent words of Kilpatrick and the hatred of the “commie” Warren Court in the words of Georgia governor Herman Talmadge.  The four seek to weaken the voting rights act, to enhance the “free speech” of corporations – corporations with big money are “individuals”; the poor and the homeless, lacking money, count, as individuals in the flesh, for less. To vary Anatole France, the the megacorporations like AIG or Goldman Sachs, (perhaps one should say Geithner, Bush and in this case, even Obama) dressed up as “individuals” have the same right to sleep under a bridge as a homeless person.
         The hope of the law in the United States is that judges will continue to stand up (as they did in the Boumidienne case by a 5 to 4 margin) forhabeas corpus, the right of each prisoner to a day in court and not to be tortured.  Some of the hope of democracy rests there but bridling the power of corporations in American politics will take a resurgence of democracy beyond the rule of current law. 
      Obama who appointed Sotomayor, has stopped (most) of the torture and seeks to close Guantanamo.  Yet he has also, in difficult circumstances, endorsed the Bush adminisration’s corrupt state secrets doctrine, floats indefinite detention, extends the war in Afghanistan and the murder by CIA drones, coordinated from Langley, West Virginia, of civilians in Pakistan. This illegal and immoral use of collective punishment is tragically also Obama’s; though he tries to be careful about it, such a policy threatens to produce a terrible response in Pakistan.  Still like Lincoln in whose spirit he seeks to walk, Obama, unlike Leo Strauss, has his eye on the rule of law.  May Sonia Sotomayor help all of us to preserve it.

[i]  For a New York law, see the 1952 Adler v. Board of Education.  For a list, see Dudziak, “Desegregation,” p. 177, n. 3.
[ii] New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1976.
[iii] Kenneth B. Clark and Mamie P. Clark, “Racial Identification and Preference in Negro Children” (written 1941, first published 1947) in Jonathan Scott Holloway and Ben Keppel eds., Black Scholars on the Line: Race, Social Science and American Thought in the Twentieth Century (South Bend, IN: Notre Dame, 1997), pp. 427-28.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Dubois, Marx and Weber on caste and democracy, part 1


      Comparing Weber and Marx on racism and its constriction of radical democratic movements is deepened by WEB Dubois’ comments on caste.  Lawrence Schaff’s 2012 book on Max Weber in America features chapter 6 on “The Color Line.”  The phrase is from the beginning of the brilliant chapter two on the Freedman's Bureau and the defeat of Reconstruction in Dubois’s Souls of Black Folk (1903; Dover Publications, 1994); the idea of blacks as a caste Dubois first used at the end: 

     "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line, the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Africa and Asia, America and the island of the sea." (p. 9)

      "For this much all men know; despite compromise, war and struggle, the Negro is not free.  In the backwoods of the Gulf States, for miles and miles, he may not leave the plantation of his birth; in well-nigh the whole rural South, black farmers are peons.. bound by law and custom to an economic slavery from which the only escape is death or the penitentiary.  In the most cultivated sections and cities of the South, the Negros are a segregated servile caste with restricted rights and privileges.  Before the courts, they stand on a different and peculiar basis. Taxation without representation is the rule of their political life." (p. 24)

***

        Dubois also wrote “The Negro Question in the United States” – 1906 - at Weber’s request for his Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaften und Sozialpolitik (it is available online in German, not in English, here) – part of a common project to understand the special oppression of black farmworkers/sharceroppers in the segregated South as well as an analysis of prison labor for Northern capitalists like US Steel.

***

      Dubois argued that caste, an idea drawn from the poisonous sanctification of divide and rule in Hindu India involving ritual shunning, plays a central role in the domination of blacks.  This creative contribution to Weber’s then in process of forming notion of status - divisions of honor - is vivid, and one that limits or shapes, as Weber’s idea of status does, the way class conflict from below and its democratic potentials occurs. 

***

      Marx was profoundly interested in the American Civil War – thought it, along with the reform of serfdom in Russia,  the most important international events of the early to mid-1860s.  The theme of a new working class movement arising out of the death of slavery is central both in his work in the International Workingmen’s Association and to his writing in Capital.  He even looked to Lincoln  for a hope that a new working class movement would shape post-Civil War American politics peacefully - see below.  Just after the Paris Commune, he also had the hope – though perhaps an illusion from his own point of view – that the American state structure could change peacefully into socialism because it was not so elaborate as a professional army and bloated officialdom as the "parasite state"  of Louis Napoleon. 

***

       Marx perhaps underestimated the role of local police forces. Chicago's was formed to suppress immigrant workers central to 19th century American capitalist development, the Haymarket police attack and framing and hanging of four of the speakers are a central example.  See the last piece by Sam Mitrani here and consider also the emergence of Pinkertons (private capitalist police forces).  But Marx's hope for nonviolent transition in the American setting is, nonetheless, heartening and suggestive.  Still, the revival of racism in the American Soutb, with its quasi-ritualistic/religious inflection. that a black must step off the sidewalk as a white man passed... - was, as Dubois underlines, reminiscent of the caste system.   Thus, a Brahman from Travancore even cleansed himself and his garden after meeting Gandhi, from the trader class, there – see Joseph Lelyveld, Great Soul.  That the Brahmans and other racists are the ones who are spiritually unclean is named  by Mao in his "Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan" (1926).  As a rich peasant's son, he recalled, he had thought poor peasants "dirty," but after being in contact with them, now he saw that he himself had been....

***

     Dubois’s notion of caste is at the least a clarification of Marx in the light of subsequent historical experience in the South.  Dubois also speaks to Weber’s concerns about America and they had a common intellectual project, which included Weber publishing Dubois in his journal.  So the Civil War and post-Civil War American experience is a test caste (I have previously written of this aspect of Marx's argument in "Journey from the South" here, here and here).

***

     Marx centrally recognizes racism or what Weber calls status as crucial to upholding the status quo; it is what organizing in the interests of the most oppressed, internationalism, is meant to combat. 

***

      For instance, Marx names the domination of Irish Catholic immigrants in England and their divisions from (fatheaded) English workers who looked down on them, mirroring the elite which looked down on English workers. in an April 9, 1870 letter to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt. These two German emigres to St. Louis had participated with Marx in the German Revolution of 1848 (Marx himself thought of emigrating to Texas - see Robin Blackburn,  An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln, introduction); Marx also corresponded with his friend and comrade Joseph Weydemeyer who became an officer for the North in the Civil War.  As Marx put it:

     "And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the 'poor whites' to the Negroes in the former slave states of the U.S.A.. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker both the accomplice and the stupid tool of the English rulers in Ireland.

          This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this."

***

       Thus far, Marx, Weber and Dubois have a common, initial position, one which Dubois thinking about caste deepens, though of course Marx was vastly more critical of the oppression of poor people  than Weber.  Still, a crucial disagreement between Marx and Weber is that class conflict can sometimes overcome status or caste divisions.  From the standpoint of democratic theory and decency, one might hope that Marx is right about this, i.e. if status divisions are overpowering, then nationalisms, bigotries, genocides and fascisms will, very likely, always win.  So one should be careful before one insists, as many social scientists have, that Weber’s notion of status should be adopted without question, and provides "an antidote" to Marx..  For if Weber is right, civil rights and genuine democracy have little hope, anywhere…

      These are large moral - “evaluative” - stakes and a supposedly “value free” avoidance of them is one of the worst errors of America social “science.”

***

       In chapter 10 - "Democracy and Status" - of my Democratic Individuality, I note that some democratic struggles from below historically in the United States fit with Marx’s argument that such divisions can be overcome and undercut Weber's.  “Labor cannot be free in the white skin where in the black it is branded,”  Marx pointed out at the end of chapter 10 of Capital, and with the “death of slavery” in the Civil War, a great movement arose for an 8 hour day, beginning with the Baltimore Congress of Labor in 1866 and a resolution of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association, written by Marx, in that same year.  The movement was international in its impact in many ways, and furthered by immigrants who often had contact with the International Workingmen's Assocation like Meyer, Vogt and Weydemeyer.  

***

      Marx’s aim in Capital was to instigate that struggle (see my “The Storming of Heaven: Capital and Marx’s Politics” in J. Roland Pennock, ed, Marxism Today, Nomos, 1984). This became a huge movement culminating once again, in the demonstration in Haymarket in Chicago in 1886 in which an undercover cop blew off a bomb, killing a policeman – and the state then sentenced to hang  8 immigrant radicals, mainly anarchists, who spoke at the march.   This struggle gave rise globally to the formation of Social Democratic parties in Europe, America and Chile, the Second International in 1890 (see Engels’ new Preface to the Communist Manifesto of 1890).

***

    So the fight for abolition in the American Civil War had vast, unexpected, positive, international ramifications for working people of the sort Marx envisioned in Capital. 

***

      In addition, in Radical Protest and Social Structure: the Southern Farmers Alliance and Cotton Tenacy, Michael Schwartz has analyzed the 1890s movement which fused hundreds of thousands of black and white sharecroppers and led to the anti-racism of the early Populist Party. See here.  Poor whites in  Kentucky and Tennessee fought for the Union in the Civil War.  The Southern tenant farmers union in the CIO – see Ted Rosengarten’s oral history of Nate Shaw's experience, All God’s Dangers here - and the CIO itself, are among the others.  

***

      This is the theme and final speech of Martin Luther King in Montgomery in Ava Duvernay’s wonderful film ‘Selma” (see here).  And it is also a theme of my writing about black and white sailors, "impressed' into the Navy by the British and learning from 20 slave revolts in the Caribbean.  They brought the news to London (J. Philmore, Two Dialogues Concerning the Man-Trade) and Boston (James Otis, The Rights of the British Colonists Asserted and Proved, in which “Every man is free, black as well as white") in the early 1760s.  Abolitionist views were widespread in the revolutionary crowds not only in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, but even in Charlestown - during the American Revolution as my Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence, ch. 2, emphasizes.   

***

        This international revolt from below produced gradual emancipation throughout the North, and thus, the possibility of a Union side in an anti-genocidal Civil War in the South. This illustration about the revolt against slavery and its consequences for freedom in North America, was not known to Marx, but is also pretty striking evidence for his theory.

***

     There is thus much surprising evidence for Marx’s view, as opposed to Weber’s.  The latter's is by implication (he does not discuss the possibility): status divisions nearly always override class.  Weber did not imagine the potentials for multiracial unity in America even though the history of the previous fifty years, in the South, had been full of examples, and Dubois had written (Weber read Souls of Black Folks) or would shortly write about some of them. 

***

      Further, a large anti-slavery movement in England and during the French Revolution for 70 years meant that English textile workers held demonstrations which  blocked English intervention in the Civil War on the side of the South, a stirring act of internationalism praised by Marx in his letter to Lincoln below and occluded by Weber's social theory.

***

     Nonetheless, many American whites did support slavery, segregation and today, the "New Jim Crow" (Michelle Alexander), and Weber’s argument, as long as it is not taken as a necessity as American social science often does, casts important light on this, as Marx might also affirm.   That the divisions, say, between English and Irish workers exist, after all, is what it means to organize to overcome them, i.e. internationalism….  

***

      As I argue in Democratic Individuality, ch. 10 "Democracy and Status," the Weberian views dominant in Seymour Martin Lipset and American sociology/political science have the bizarre effect of  expecting that Martin Luther King cannot have led a successful civil rights movement in the United States (or would not have led a serious poor people’s s movement  if he had not been assassinated in Memphis, April 4, 1968) because white majority "status" would block enforcement of civil rights for blacks, chicanos, indigenous people and the like.  If American social "science" had been right, there would only be the repeated scene from “Selma” where the Oprah Winfrey character is denied the right to vote….  

***

    Given this view, it is unsurprising, for example, that Michael Walzer and Tom Pettigrew who actively supported the civil rights movement in the South were an exception on the social sciences faculty at Harvard in the early 1960s, and that SNCC emerged, under the impact of a few faculty like Jim Lawson and Howard Zinn, in the South as a primarily student movement...

***

   The standard social "science" view of status is, thus, morally speaking, anti-democratic and  frightening, and, further, one that flies in the face of powerful evidence.  To purport “value-freedom” in adopting, in this context, so pointedly reactionary and racist a view is both false and foolish.

***

     In addition, that people who claim otherwise to have affection for a decent democracy not even to see that the civil rights movement alone raises startling questions about the anti-Marxian, social “science” argument on status they routinely disseminate is remarkable.  Many are not even aware of a democratic and Marxian alternative that poor folks often have common interests across status lines and that genuine democracy must be driven from below  by the unity of the oppressed, black and white. 

***

     Democratic Individuality was published at Cambridge in 1990; it is again strange – shows the continuing power of an enforced Cold War consensus from above - that a radical political philosopher has to  point out this fundamental issue about how American sociology/political science discuss race and status, to underline that a well-stated liberal  view must endorse this feature of a Marxian view (further, as I argue in Democratic Indvidiuality, it is bizarre for political scientists, in the name of "value-freedom." to leave the entire moral territory of liberalism or decent conservatism to radicals) and that there has been, so far, little taking up of the challenge or reformulation in “mainstream” literature.  I should note again, powerful dissidents in sociology like Michael Schwartz and, broadly speaking, the study of social movements is often motivated by a spirit of a common good and is inflected with greater insight. 

***

    Still, the era of the election of Obama, of challenging the New Jim Crow, the fierce emergence of Black Lives Matter! - see here - and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s apology for the Sand Creek Massacre - see here -  all suggest, however, that the founding amnesias and anti-democracy of much social science and history are likely to change.

***

     Given more historical investigation and developments in the anti-colonial and anti-racist movement, Dubois himself moved over time toward  Marx (see among his writings Black Reconstruction  in  which he read the debates in Southern Reconstruction legislatures which furthered education for poor blacks and whites; no decent book on Reconstruction was published in academia until Eric Foner’s Reconstruction (1988  - some 50 years later…); he became a Communist at the end of his life…As his John Brown, deepening the judgments of Frederick Douglass shows (1909), he was also a much more impassioned, fierce and lyrical writer than Weber.  Yet Weber admired and  learned much from Dubois.

***

      Scaff rightly emphasizes DuBois’ concept of caste at pp. 105-08;  for the striking correspondence of B.R.. Ambedkar, the great leader of the dalits (outcastes) in India, who studied at Columbia, near Harlem, and Dubois, see below 

     The solidarity revealed in the letters and common movements – Sudarshan Kapur, Raising up a Prophet traces about black interest in and solidariy with Gandhi from 1919 on – is another central meaning of Marx’s leading public idea: internationalism (democracy across borders from below and often in opposition to the policies on one’s state).

***

     Dubois’ book on Johm Brown is here.

***

       How much there is to be reconsidered as well as to achieve at least acknowledgment and perhaps  restorative justice over time about is visible in the recent New York Times’ editorial on a new report on the lynching of 4,000 named individuals in the South.  

        Hangings were genocidal public spectacles to which the lynchers brought their children as if on a picnic… 

***

         This was the Southern ‘education” – the first lynchings were in 1877, the year after the defeat of Reconstruction…, as was the mutilation of the genitals of men and women at Sand Creek in late 1864, and  parading around Denver with them by the Colorado Third Regiment.  

***

        The editorial emphasizes that the great migration from the South to the urban North was partially driven by these lynchings.  Bryan Sinclair and  the Equal Justice Initiative are set to abate this Historic Amnesia by making memorials at the many sites of these lynchings,  There is a founding amnesia, as I have emphasized, over Presidential slave-owning in the early Republic and this is a further unfolding of that amnesia; a festering criminality is what all the blame the victim rhetoric, including in academia, conceals…

***

"The Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL
Lynching as Racial Terrorism
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD FEB. 11, 2015





A crowd at a lynching in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, in 1925. CreditBettmann/Corbis


It is important to remember that the hangings, burnings and dismemberments of black American men, women and children that were relatively common in this country between the Civil War and World War II were often public events. They were sometimes advertised in newspapers and drew 
hundreds and even thousands of white spectators, including elected officials and leading citizens
who were so swept up in the carnivals of death that they posed with their children 
for keepsake photographs within arm’s length of mutilated black corpses.

These episodes of horrific, communitywide violence have been erased from civic memory in lynching-belt states like Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. But that will change if Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney, succeeds in his mission to build markers and memorials at lynching sites throughout the South as a way of forcing communities and the country to confront an era of racial terror directly and recognize the role that it played in shaping the current racial landscape.

Mr. Stevenson’s organizationthe Equal Justice Initiative, took a step in that direction on Tuesday when it released a report that chronicles nearly 4,000 lynchings of black people in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. The report focuses on what it describes as “racial terror lynchings,” which were used to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. Victims in these cases were often murdered without being accused of actual crimes but for minor social transgressions that included talking back to whites or insisting on fairness and basic rights.

The report is the result of five years of hard work. Researchers reviewed local newspapers, historical archives and court records; interviewed local historians, survivors and victims’ descendants; and scrutinized contemporaneously published articles in African-American newspapers, which took a closer interest in these matters than the white press. In the end, researchers found at least 700 more lynchings in the 12 states than were previously reported, suggesting that “racial terror lynching” was far more common than was generally believed.

The report argues compellingly that the threat of death by lynching was far more influential in shaping present-day racial reality than contemporary Americans typically understand. It argues that The Great Migration from the South, in which millions of African-Americans moved North and West, was partly a forced migration in which black people fled the threat of murder at the hands of white mobs.
        
It sees lynching as the precursor of modern-day racial bias in the criminal justice system. The researchers argue, for example, that lynching declined as a mechanism of social control as the Southern states shifted to a capital punishment strategy, in which blacks began more frequently to be executed after expedited trials. The legacy of lynching was apparent in that public executions were still being used to mollify mobs in the 1930s even after such executions were legally banned.

Despite playing a powerful role in the shaping of Southern society, the lynching era has practically disappeared from public discourse. As the report notes: “Most Southern terror lynching victims were killed on sites that remain unmarked and unrecognized. The Southern landscape is cluttered with plaques, statues and monuments that record, celebrate and lionize generations of American defenders of white supremacy, including public officials and private citizens who perpetrated violent crimes against black citizens during the era of racial terror.”

Mr. Stevenson’s group makes the persuasive argument that this history needs to be properly commemorated and more widely discussed before the United States can fully understand the causes and origins of the racial injustice that hobbles the country to this day.

*** 

What B.R. Ambedkar Wrote to W.E.B. Du Bois
APRIL 22, 2014




     In 1913, B.R. Ambedkar arrived in New York City from Bombay at the age of twenty-two, on a scholarship to attend Columbia University that Fall and pursue an M.A. in Economics. After returning to India (not before completing a Ph.D. in London), Ambedkar would go on to become the most influential Dalit leader in India in the 20th century, the chairman of the constituent assembly that drafted the Indian constitution, and one of the most incisive theorists of caste and greatest intellectuals of modern India. From the perspective of a researcher, Dr. Ambedkar's proximity to Harlem during his years of study at Columbia has always raised several questions about his experience in the U.S. How might have his experiences in New York impacted his thinking? Aside from his influential mentors at the University (John Dewey, Edwin Seligman, James Shotwell, and James Harvey), who were his personal acquaintances in the U.S.? And did his experience witnessing anti-Black racism in America influence his thinking on the caste question in India? Despite the many allusions to race in the U.S. in his oeuvre, Ambedkar -- as far as I know -- left no first hand account of his time in New York to answer such questions.

An interesting record appears in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois, the prominent African American intellectual and activist, whose archive is housed at the University of Massachusetts. In the 1940s, Ambedkar contacted Du Bois to inquire about the National Negro Congress petition to the U.N., which attempted to secure minority rights through the U.N. council. Ambedkar explained that he had been a "student of the Negro problem," and that "[t]here is so much similarity between the position of the Untouchables in India and of the position of the Negroes in America that the study of the latter is not only natural but necessary." In a letter dated July 31, 1946, Du Bois responded by telling Ambedkar he was familiar with his name, and that he had "every sympathy with the Untouchables of India."








    As other commentators have pointed out, Du Bois had long been fascinated with India’s role as a harbinger of anticolonialism.1 He had befriended Indian "Home Rule League" nationalist Lajpat Rai, during the latter’s exile in the U.S. between 1914 and 1919. Du Bois' interest in India turned up in editorials of the N.A.A.C.P.-issued magazine The Crisis over the decades, as well as the novel Dark Princess published in 1928. For Du Bois, the cause for Indian independence was one facet of a larger movement to undo the color line that belted the world. Du Bois’ correspondence with Ambedkar, however, does not appear to extend beyond this letter.2

The analogy between the caste system and racism in the U.S., on the other hand, has a much longer and sustained history. In 1873, Jotirao Phule, an important social reformer in Maharashtra, began his polemical Gulamgiri (Slavery) with a dedication to American abolitionists "in an earnest desire that my countrymen may take their example as their guide in the emancipation of their Sudra Brethren from the trammels of Brahmin thralldom."3 Nearly a hundred years later, an organization led by Dalit artists and activists named themselves the "Dalit Panther," in reference to the Black Panthers in the U.S. In their manifesto, issued in 1971, the Panthers wrote: "From the Black Panthers, Black Power was established. We claim a close relationship with this struggle."4

In honor of Dalit history month this April, we wanted to highlight this brief but important historical exchange in the archives between two important leaders in the global struggle against the systems of racism and caste.

[Special thanks to Professor Gary Tartakov for scanning and sharing these documents, and Robert Cox of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for allowing us to post them.]

1. Several books have highlighted this history, including most recently Gerald Horne’s End of Empires (2008), Dohra Ahmad’s Landscapes of Hope (2009), and Nico Slate’s Colored Cosmopolitanism (2012). Kamala Visweswaran's Un/common Cultures (2010) contains two chapters on the work of Ambedkar and Du Bois, with reference to their correspondence.
2. For further reading on the Ambedkar-Du Bois correspondence, see Kapoor, S.D. "B.R. Ambedkar, W.E.B. Du Bois and the Process of Liberation" Economic and Political Weekly 38.51-52 (2003): 5344-5349, and Immerwahr, Daniel. “Caste or Colony? Indianizing Race in the United States” Modern Intellectual History 4.2. (2007): 275-301.
3. Prashad, Vijay. The Karma of Brown Folk. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. 26.
4. Limbale, Sharankumar. Dalit Panthar. Pune: Sugava Prakashan, 1989. 260.



Manan Desai teaches at Syracuse University and serves on the Board of Directors for the South Asian American Digital Archive.

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Address of the International Working Men's Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America

Presented to U.S. Ambassador Charles Francis AdamsJanuary 28, 1865 
From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant [Marx here ignores the genocide against indigenous people, the Civil War in the West...] or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver?

When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, "slavery" on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding "the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution", and maintained slavery to be "a beneficent institution", indeed, the old solution of the great problem of "the relation of capital to labor", and cynically proclaimed property in man "the cornerstone of the new edifice" — then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.

While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world. 

Signed on behalf of the International Workingmen's Association, the Central Council:
Longmaid, Worley, Whitlock, Fox, Blackmore, Hartwell, Pidgeon, Lucraft, Weston, Dell, Nieass, Shaw, Lake, Buckley, Osbourne, Howell, Carter, Wheeler, Stainsby, Morgan, Grossmith, Dick, Denoual, Jourdain, Morrissot, Leroux, Bordage, Bocquet, Talandier, Dupont, L.Wolff, Aldovrandi, Lama, Solustri, Nusperli, Eccarius, Wolff, Lessner, Pfander, Lochner, Kaub, Bolleter, Rybczinski, Hansen, Schantzenbach, Smales, Cornelius, Petersen, Otto, Bagnagatti, Setacci;
George Odger, President of the Council; P.V. Lubez, Corresponding Secretary for France; Karl Marx, Corresponding Secretary for Germany; G.P. Fontana, Corresponding Secretary for Italy; J.E. Holtorp, Corresponding Secretary for Poland; H.F. Jung, Corresponding Secretary for Switzerland; William R. Cremer, Honorary General Secretary."