America's Lingering Infection: Racism

In the novel, “Cold Mountain”, the hero deserts because he determines that he is going to die of his festering wound if he stays in the hospital.  He steps out of the window and attempts to go home.  Going home proves difficult, to say the least.  The war was over  for him, and it wasn’t.

In many ways the life of a single confederate soldier is a metaphor for the civil war and the nation.

Yesterday we observed Martin Luther King junior Day.  Despite the fact that every major city now seems to have a Martin Luther King junior Boulevard, and his life and death are celebrated annually, we as a nation still suffer from a festering wound.  The wound of that war is still a pus oozing sore that won’t seem to heal.

Why is that?  Will the wound never heal because it was never treated properly?  What wasn’t done then that should have been, and is there anything to do now?


Eric Clapton’s rant at a 1976 appearance:

“Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back.”

In 2009, Britain’s Prince Harry, referred to a member of his platoon as “our little Paki friend”.  Paki is considered a derogatory term for Pakistani’s.

Prejudice is not solely an American affliction.  Neither is it a white affliction. Prejudice and racism are not the same thing.  Prejudice is the expectation that individuals from a group will act in a way that a person thinks the group exhibits.  Racism is the belief that one group is inherently superior to another and should derive privileges due to that assumed superiority.

White supremacists are by definition racist.

Are the comments of Eric Clapton or Prince Harry necessarily racist?  What difference is there – if any – between tribalism and racism? 

Oddly enough, while Eric Clapton’s comments are revolting ( and he has since admitted to being “ashamed” of them)  they seem more aligned with tribalism than racism, and Prince Harry’s comment sounds more racist.  Clapton wanted to keep Britain as he had always been comfortable, English speaking and white.  His rant seemed more aligned with loyalty to his group than a feeling of superiority.

Prince Harry, on the other hand, used a condescending tone in describing his fellow platoon member suggesting a feeling of superiority.  It has to be kept in mind that Harry, being a member of the royal family of Britain, probably feels superior to everyone, however, this seems different.

Vietnamese rarely leave the house without the familiar cone hat.

By protecting themselves from the sun they give the illusion of being wealthy and not needing to work.

When I was in Vietnam I found the Vietnamese to be quite prejudiced against Cambodians.  They expected certain behavior from Cambodians, and seemed racist in that they saw their lighter skin color, compared to Cambodians, as a preferable trait.  However, lighter skin color was sought by Vietnamese because dark skin meant that a person had to be outside doing manual work in the sun.  Light skin was a marker of class.  A brief web search reveals that, now, Cambodians are described as prejudiced against Vietnamese based on a past history of perceived mistreatment by Vietnamese.  That prejudice is described as racism because of ethnic and skin color differences, but is it? Do Cambodians consider themselves to be inherently superior to Vietnamese and deserving of privilege as a result?

Are black Americans who hate white Americans racist?  Perhaps, but more likely they are prejudiced against whites who have, as a group, shown centuries of behavior indicating attitudes of racial superiority – racism – and blacks are not racist.

The problems with racism and prejudice are that both assume things that are not true.

Not everyone within a group acts alike so prejudice is based on a fallacy.

Racism suffers on two counts; race itself is an artificial construct, and there is no evidence that any group of humans, divided along any arbitrary set of criteria, is inherently superior to any other group.

Returning to our original question about the civil war and the wound that won’t heal, our nation was founded on racism.  Racist policies were furthered, it is true, by economic interests, but the basic fallacy was race and racism.  Furthermore, while economic interests in the South were fundamentally threatened by abolition, racism existed throughout the nation.

Racism is the infection that keeps America's  wound open.  The notion of race should have been systematically eliminated at the end of the War between the States.  True, there was some effort to do so, but safeguards were not adequately put in place to eliminate race and racism.  Allowing states to maintain separate rules about the treatment of individuals along a number of lines should have been eliminated. 

Our present problems with immigration are rooted in tribalism and racism.

I’m not a religious person, but religious leaders throughout humanity’s history have understood the evils of tribalism and racism.

Leviticus 19:34 – “And when a stranger is dwelling with you in your land, you will not mistreat him; the stranger shall become for you like one born from among you, the stranger with you, and you shalt love him like yourself; because ye were strangers in the land of Mitsráyim…”

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Comment by Ron Powell on January 16, 2018 at 8:05pm

Nice piece....

Comment by Maui Surfer on January 16, 2018 at 8:12pm

I've observed, lived within, and been victimized and forced to participate by both prejudice and racism all over the world. In order to keep things civil on OS, I stay away from the Haole situation in Hawaii, which, due to acknowledgement by some if not most of the missionary family descendants who helped start it, has actually gotten better though it is in no way solved or close to perfect. We get along though, and a big reason is they don't lie about what happened. Unlike the lower 48 where false information and pure lies are the norm.

As far as this site, I mainly stick to the USA mainland. Here, it is pure and unadulterated hatred, racism, prejudice and just plain disgusting ignorance that plagues this nation and always has. The idea of a white race was started here, it never existed before, and the initial separation between the colonized, colonizers, slaves and indentured servants was at first religion. It quickly moved to race. It is hard to follow but an observation of the metamorphosis of the story of Tituba during the Salem Witch Trials is a good indicator of what really happened and went on.

Until we first deal with the lies of Reconstruction, the damage of the Dunning School and how its legitimization contributed to the Nazis and their horrible deeds, admit to the theft of Mexico, go further into 1812 and how we fought Canada, and finally and foremost not just acknowledge the absolute horror, murder, mutilations and rape of Black and Native Slavery, and the truth of Manifest Destiny and the events between colonizers and First Nation people, we will NEVER truly either understand or solve anything with finality.

I've pointed out over and over again here, when psychologists ask the questions in a certain way, the hater Whites admit their fear is of revenge ... they are so ignorant as to not see that world no longer exists, and is already multi-racial and cultural, and, they are stuck on their own hate, they think others would seek revenge because they would, if they could, as if they had a reason to. There's plenty, a huge amount, of research to back every bit of this ... check it out people.

Comment by Rodney Roe on January 16, 2018 at 8:32pm

Scenario: two women unwinding after work at a Memphis bar, one white - my wife - the other black. They hit it off. One, too bad we can’t be friends. The other, why is that. Because we are afraid of you. The other, that doesn’t make sense, we are afraid of you. Without the construct of race they would have been friends. 

The way events unfolded in South Africa following Apartheid shocked whites everywhere.

Comment by Rodney Roe on January 16, 2018 at 8:38pm

That bar scene was shortly after MLK was killed. I think things are different 40 years later, but we still check race on all kinds of forms and.surveys.

Comment by Ron Powell on January 16, 2018 at 9:05pm

@MS; "The idea of a white race was started here, it never existed before..."

The concept of 'race' goes all the way back to the 1st Crusade...

There were intractable black-and-white distinctions made between(white) Christians and dark/black) Saracens during the medieval period beginning with Pope Urban II and the Fist Crusade.

There are versions of Pope Urban II's historic crusade sermon at Clermont in 1095, in which the dark- skinned: the Moors, the “Nubles and Blos,” and the Nigres are vehemently vilified and demonized:

"Oh, race of Franks, race from across the mountains, race chosen and beloved by God as shines forth in very many of your works set apart from all nations by the situation of your country, as well as by your catholic faith and the honor of the holy church! To you our discourse is addressed and for you our exhortation is intended. We wish you to know what a grievous cause has led us to Your country, what peril threatening you and all the faithful has brought us.

From the confines of Jerusalem and the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth and very frequently has been brought to our ears, namely, that a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God, a generation forsooth which has not directed its heart and has not entrusted its spirit to God, has invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; it has led away a part of the captives into its own country, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures; it has either entirely destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of its own religion. They destroy the altars, after having defiled them with their uncleanness. They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcision they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font. When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, bind it to a stake; then with flogging they lead the victim around until the viscera having gushed forth the victim falls prostrate upon the ground. Others they bind to a post and pierce with arrows. Others they compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow. What shall I say of the abominable rape of the women? To speak of it is worse than to be silent. The kingdom of the Greeks is now dismembered by them and deprived of territory so vast in extent that it can not be traversed in a march of two months. On whom therefore is the labor of avenging these wrongs and of recovering this territory incumbent, if not upon you?".....


The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Christianity edited by John Arnold, John H. Arnold

Dana C. Munro, "Urban and the Crusaders", Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsy

Comment by koshersalaami on January 16, 2018 at 9:31pm


Jews in Palestine (yes, there were Jews in Palestine then) fought on the side of Saladin

Comment by Maui Surfer on January 16, 2018 at 9:56pm

Ron- that is invaluable, absolutely true, and I have read various events within before. I know you are right, but, let me clarify again, I was focusing on the USA Mainland and how lighter skinned people, who once identified as English, Irish, Welsh, Danes, Vikings, Russians, etc. suddenly became a "race" instead of those and so many other groups. Of course you are absolutely right and the Holy Roman Empire and they say was neither Holy, Roman, or a real Empire. Interesting too that they sacked their own capital of Constantinople, all the idolatry garbage they killed each other over, and how it is not about just black and white in America, but, as this post started, Vietnamese and Cambodian, both of which I have a great deal of experience in dealing with hate between and different shades of color to each. In fact, in my world travels that now span over five decades the group that most resembles Southern American Whites, who, ironically range from Cavalier to Scots Irish in background and used to be ruled by one another, is the Han Chinese. Never have I come across a group who feels so superior to others. But, this is MLK week here in the US, and that is why, with a RACIST KKK son in the White House, I feel compelled to write about the early 1600's in North America and the differences used to divide and conquer Natives, Slaves and Indendutrued Servants. All of which culminates in a Civil War which is followed by one of the greatest lies and whitewashes of herstory regarding the TRUTH of Reconstruction and Nadir, well, sadly, we both know the struggle continues. But, yes, you are so right, the larger struggle began long before, and yes, Rodney is right, it is both global and still in full force in certain parts of the North and South American continents. We ALL have a long way to go. I think we are on track though, believe it or not. Science is on our side. DNA testing will soon be so commonplace that only the worst haters and biggest idiots will be able to to deny fact any more than they can climate change.

Comment by Tom Cordle on January 16, 2018 at 10:02pm

I refer to America's long and painful history with racism as the Curse of Columbus. It not only reared it's ugly head with blacks; it was at the dark heart of the decimation and degradation of Native peoples, what I refer to as the Native Holocaust. Indeed, in parts of the American West, Natives are still referred to as prairie niggers.

I wrote about this matter back in the Open Salon days, in a piece entitled I'm A Racist. The title was admittedly intended to be provocative, but I was trying to differentiate between racism and bigotry. The point I was making is along the lies of what you pointed out with Clapton's rant, that is to say, his racism was not about superiority so much as it was familiarity. But I think you were kinder than he deserved, given that in addition to being racist, his rant was ironic, ignorant, illogical and hypocritical coming as it did from a man whose success was largely a result of riffing on a black musical idiom.

Comment by Maui Surfer on January 16, 2018 at 10:09pm

BTW, just as an aside, and it is just me, BUT I NEVER LIKED CLAPTON ... Not Cream especially, not the Dominos much at all, and hated all his solo work, and, yes, at least Keith Richards had the eggs to say to B.B. King and Chuck Berry, that hey, all I did was copy everything you did! And admitted like a man, not a lying mouse. White Room with Black Curtains indeed!

This is just musical trivia but Cobain admitted also that with Nirvana all he was trying to do was copy the Pixies as much as possible, now, that was also a good choice, too bad the wrong one kicked his habit.

Comment by Rodney Roe on January 17, 2018 at 4:34am

I did like Cream, but mainly because I loved Jack Bruce's bass.  In Clapton's apology he admitted that his rant was illogical as well as ugly; that he played black music, played with black musicians, dated a black woman and blamed the rant on being drunk.  If true, his lack of inhibition merely let his true feelings come to the surface.  I wasn't defending Clapton; I was just talking about motive.

Ron, thanks for the quote from Pope Urban II.  I've never seen that.  I think the word race is used in a number of ways that seemingly make no sense.  What is the Human Race contrasted against?  That meaning goes back to one of the earliest meanings in English:

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

"Original senses in English included "wines with characteristic flavor" (1520), "group of people with common occupation" (c. 1500), and "generation" (1540s). Meaning "tribe, nation, or people regarded as of common stock" is by 1560s. Modern meaning of "one of the great divisions of mankind based on physical peculiarities" is from 1774 (though as OED points out, even among anthropologists there never has been an accepted classification of these)."  The word, race, came from French "race < razza".  There is no etymological evidence of the origin of that word.  I think the important thing is that the origin meaning "division of mankind" dates to two years before America's declaration of independence from Great Britain.  In that sense Maui Surfer is on track.


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