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A Nation Built on the Hierarchy of Race

Sunday, November 9, 2008

John Brown doin' his thang!

While browsing through Modern Times Bookstore over in the Mission I decided to buy last months Monthly Review because of a quick blurb at the top of the magazine that stated, “A Parctical Guide to Beating White Supremacy.”  When I opened it up I was pleasently surprised to see that it was a book review of Chip Smith‘s book The Cost of Privilege: Taking On the System of White Supremacy and Racism which I had the pleasure of receiving (FREE!) in the mail with a note personally typed and signed by Chip Smith himself.  I’m in the middle of going through the book myself, I got halfway done when my semester started so I had to delay finishing it as grad school ain’t no joke (!); but I will have a review in on the blog Double Consciousness by the end of December.

Along with having been a fellow union steward Smith was a founding member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organizacion Socialista del Camino para Libertad (uhhh…the FreedomRoad.org group not the FRSO.org group [why do we leftists always spit?  Sigh])

In the meantime I wanted to just quote two paragraphs from the review by labor activist Fernando E. Gapasin:

Smith indicates that whiteness is maintained because many whites enjoy privilege without themselves being personally racists. The white ruling class exploits both white workers and workers of color and uses racial privileges to sustain their rule. White workers benefit in comparison to workers of color, while at the same time being exploited for their labor power. This is a crucial point made by this book. It points to the fact that ending exploitation and the system of racial privileges that support it is in the interests of white working-class people as well as people of color. But in order to accomplish this, white people will first have to recognize that white privilege exists.

To put it simply, Smith argues that patriarchy interpenetrates with race and class. Understanding one oppression requires an awareness of all three—and the profound impact each has on people’s lives. This is not to deny that capitalism is a system founded upon the exploitation of wage labor and that working-class struggle is central to its abolition. However, the class struggle is overlaid with others and, as a matter of politics, all of the struggles are central. In any given situation, one contradiction may be primary and need the most attention, while the others are secondary. But all contribute to the unique reality of the moment. And each contradiction is central to creating a core strategic alliance among the oppressed groups and their movements. Smith believes that only such a historic bloc of forces will allow all oppressed peoples—and each such person taken individually—to feel they are included in the movement’s vision of the future. And only such a broad-based alliance could develop the moral and political strength to make an effective challenge for political power and then use it to achieve national liberation, end the class system, and carry social transformation through to the complete elimination of racism and patriarchal oppression.

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