Thus is one serious downer of a book. There are examples of naked racism in BC, but they are very few. But go south and east into the US., and it is still on full display. About a year ago, I saw a reporter ask a question of a local. His answer was to refer to the "Martin Luther Coon Way", a local street . He paused after uttering the reference and said he probably should not have said it on TV. But other than that, it was what he considered normal speech.
Caste is baked in in the southern US, but it is rarely referred to as such. It was thought of as a way to keep the inferior black man "in his place". Most people would refer to it as an issue of race, but rather it is an issue of tacit caste. When one thinks of caste, India leaps to mind. Their caste system is complex and alive and well. The US was the first to carve out an entire group of people from the human race.
Here is a typical headline from the day: "Two men and two women and three Negroes were killed in a car accident…".To solidify the castes, teachers and the like would never refer to a black person as "Mister", "Mrs.", or "Miss". They would be referred to by their first names or by catch-alls like "boy", "girl", or "auntie". One black man got so annoyed by all this bullshit that he decided, if he were to ever have a daughter, to name her "Miss"… which he did. One day, she (Miss) was called to the school principles office. The principle asked her name. "Miss Hale" she replied. He repeated the question several times in different ways and got the same answer. He looked up her records, and found himself hoist on his own petard. He could not refer to her by name without embarrassing himself. He asked where she was from. She named a neighboring state. "That explains it… colored folks around here would not behave like this".
Race is a social construct. When immigrants came to Ellis Island, they were asked "Are you black or white.". They did not understand the nonsensical question, but the their lives and the lives of their children would be deeply affected but the answer.
Another famous state that indulged in caste and racism was Nazi Germany. They were only in power for about 15 years, and they had some pretty harsh views with regard to Jews, Gypsies, and many other groups. They were forced to create racial purity laws, which included rules on miscegenation. The Germans were rookies at this, so they turned to the US where similar laws had been in place for centuries.
Fun fact: the babble (aka bible) justifies slavery because Ham, Noah's son, saw him naked. Makes sense, right?
The US did not ditch its last endogamy laws (laws restricting interbreeding) until the year 2,000. Thanks Alabama!
One minister (Lichlitter of Pennsylvania in 1910) argued before a congressional immigration panel that "oriental scum" was diluting American blood. Governor Vardaman said negroes were designed by god for menial tasks. Thanks, god! A 16 year old girl pondered what might be an appropriate punishment for Hitler after the war. Her solution: put him in black skin and let him live the rest of his life in America.
Castes are supported by caste members. One thing every white man knew was that no matter how bad he was, he was better than the best black man. Each person had a caste below them that must be held in place. This kind of logic cemented the various castes in India and the US. In India, the Dalits (untouchables) are on the bottom of the heap. They do not like it there and created a group called the Dalit Panthers (patterned after the US's Black Panthers) to fight back.
In the southern US, it was easier for a white felon to get a job than for an honest black man. The best predictor of whether the death penalty should be applied was not the color of the skin of the perpetrator, but the color of the skin of the victim. You would be 11 times more likely to be executed if your victim was white. In the US, it is best to avoid saying you are Danish, or Irish, Polish or any other group, especially when it comes to race and caste. Best to say you are Nordic. This seems to be the carte blanche (no pun intended) of castes. So far, no one has implied that "Nordics" were anything other than the perfect people.
The US continues to lead in racism. States are purging your voter registration if you miss one year; voter ID cards are being required and, at the same time, barriers are being put up to get one. Voting stations for the people that Republicans do not like, like students and black people, are moved without notice, possibly reappearing in a farmer's field.
Robert E. Lee said "The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically." Sound familiar? Similar ideas are still popular with politicians today.
After WWII, Germany paid restitution to survivors of the holocaust. After the Civil War in the US, The US paid restitution to the slave owners.. How messed up is that? Einstein was sickened by the treatment of the Jew (and blacks) in America, infinitely better though it was than the fate of European Jews.
This book is hard to read. It made me sad to be a member of my species. Race is a social construct without scientific meaning. Caste is best term. The worst example of caste is the US, with India a close second. The US civil war ended more than 150 years ago, but the caste system is still alive and well today.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.