My post on the Charlottesville event has elicited two comments, both of which, in different ways, are I believe misguided. Here are the two comments:
Frank said... Professor Wolff, Does your critique extend to white racists who are not within any positions of power (social, economic, or political)? If so, I'm wondering how one could square the view of white supremacy for the power it provides white people with the fact that many of the people holding up Nazi symbols and whatnot in Charlottesville likely do not hold any position of power or privilege in this society.
"The Africans were not seized, brought to the Americas and enslaved because they were thought to be inferior. Quite to the contrary, they were enslaved because they were thought to be good workers, and hence well worth their price and the cost of their upkeep." What an odd assertion. To be sure, the motivation to enslave was not black inferiority, any more than a farmer's motivation to employ a mule is the inferiority of the beast. But the status of the mule as beast is the cause of its employment by the farmer, just as the perception of blacks as something inferior was the cause of their enslavement. Blacks were enslaved because they were thought to be inferior (your strange "quite to the contrary" notwithstanding).
To Frank, I respond: You are mistaken. All of the people “holding up Nazi symbols and whatnot in Charlottesville” hold a position of power and privilege in this society, one that is, I would imagine, desperately important to them, and which they feel is threatened. What position of power and privilege? They are White. That fact by itself, regardless of their education, wealth, or position in the economy, confers on them in America a position superior to that of Black people. You think not? When was the last time a White father had to have “the talk” with his White son? It is precisely their lack of status and position and wealth in White society that makes it so desperately important to them to be superior to any Black man [or woman – that raises other issues as well] in America.
To Anonymous: You are simply wrong. The West Africans sold into slavery were not selected to be sold by the local Black bigwigs because they were perceived as inferior. They were captives in local wars or were otherwise vulnerable. Some were in fact local nobles who had been captured. Hence such names as “Prince” given to male slaves by the American owners. The American slave owners tried to enslave Native Americans but for various reasons that did not work well. They also did their best to enslave indentured English servants, but there was sufficient protection by the English Common Law to make that unfeasible. The White characterization of the slaves as inferior was an ex post rationalization, not an ex ante reason for or cause of their enslavement.