YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

July 2, 2013

Groupiness, group-think, and “race”

EyeshapesThe close attention that the media are giving to the George Zimmerman trial in Florida is being justified by reporters because the verdict may trigger civil unrest in the form of “race riots.” Thus it is assumed that politicized “blacks” and “Hispanics” are potential mobs, like guns cocked and ready to shoot.

Yesterday I asked some Facebook friends what they thought “race” and/or “racism” meant.  I got some intriguing replies (several amazed me), that will be answered here.

First and foremost, no Russian revolutionary deployed the notion of “race” to divide their capitalist enemies. Marx had some nasty things to say about Jewish money and hucksterism; he was also demeaning about “the idiocy of rural life.” Lenin, influenced by J. A. Hobson, took up Hobson’s  anti-imperialism and blamed wars on a ring of international Jews in finance and the media. (See http://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.)

In his own imagination, Lenin was defending the colonized victims of capitalist imperialism, and many a New Leftist or post-colonialist, sought to defend “the Other” from the depredations of evil white people in Europe and America. (On formulations of “the Other” see http://clarespark.com/2014/09/08/why-progressive-social-psychologists-make-us-crazy/.) As good Marxist-Leninists they were “anti-racists”.  Until the New Left period, communists were ardent foes of “racism” along with antifascist liberals like Julian Huxley who sought to criticize the assumptions of racism and even ethnicity. (See We Europeans (1936). Huxley and Haddon argued that the original meaning of “ethnos” signified a given population, with no intimation of group characteristics transmitted through heredity.

Which brings me to “racism” as it was taught to me in graduate school. Everyone knows that physical variations in skin color and susceptibility to diseases characterize different human groups as they have evolved.  But “racists” take that further: they create a hierarchy of “races” in which they claim that each race has particular mental capacities, emotional, and moral characteristics that pertain to every individual in that “race.” (For Herder’s counter-Enlightenment project in developing the notion of the rooted cosmopolitan see http://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/, and http://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/. Such thinking led straight to Hitler and the notion of the racially pure “organic nation” or “people’s community.”)

The notion that communists of any sect put “race” above “class” as a way of predicting the future is ludicrous. It was certain liberal and New Left American historians, contemplating the expansionists of the 18th and 19th centuries, who collapsed “class” into “race.” The U.S. field is still divided over this matter, with a very few still admitting class struggle to the classroom, while others prefer “racial” struggle to explain the horror of “American identity.”  (Gender and Nature got added to that model, sometime during the 1970s. See http://clarespark.com/2011/03/26/race-class-and-gender/. It is true that some leftists applauded “whiteness studies” in order to conform to Leninism. Why the Left  has not outed black supremacist doctrines as advanced by James Cone puzzles me, for “black skin privilege” is a contradiction in their social theory. See http://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/. )

Blueeyedwhitedragon

There was a time when people threw around the word “race” to signify any group of people, for instance, the English race, the French race, or any other group. Throughout this website I have criticized the notion of national character, which can only be valid to a limited extent, i.e., owing to the laws and traditions of any particular people or peoples in this oddly fractured world that is often divided up by diplomats into internally incoherent “nation-states” as spoils of war.

Multiculturalism, as I have explained ad nauseum, is covertly racist while pretending to be anti-racist.  MC is groupiness at its most lethal. Anyone can spot a hater, but the racialist discourse of progressives is harder for most people to decode.  Beware of “professionals” whether these be social psychologists, teachers, textbook writers, or other advocates of groupiness, for they look not into the minds and emotions of unique individuals, but make broad generalizations about group minds and group-think.  Compare Freud to Carl Jung and you get the picture. Freud dealt with suffering individuals; Jung with racially-specific archetypes. One was a would-be healer, the other a quack, whose occasional formulation of universal archetypes was a sop to his liberal followers. (See http://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/. )

Such quackery could kill us all. We are one species, and humanity (though we may differ in how we view conflict or how we identify the source of evil) is objectively linked together, forever.  

brownwhitehands

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12 Comments »

  1. “Alle Menschen werden Brueder.”

    Comment by JP — November 28, 2013 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  2. Hmmm, Lenin denigrated rural life as idiocy, sorta like bitter clingers of guns and Bibles. Both of which were removed from personal ownership under communism. Maybe Barack was showing his true colors, a bright crimson red. Nice to have an intellectual exercise about communism but, the most important fact is that 60-80 million human beings died under various commie regimes. All else pales in comparison.

    Comment by DrSique — July 22, 2013 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

    • It was Marx, not Lenin who wrote about the “idiocy of rural life.” I recommend Frank E. Manuel’s book Requiem for Karl Marx for more details.

      Comment by clarelspark — July 22, 2013 @ 4:45 pm | Reply

  3. “The notion that communists of any sect put “race” above “class” as a way of predicting the future is ludicrous.”

    Hmm, see Max Shachtman on Communism and the Negro. And Bea Lumpkin, a CP militant, on her initiation of multiculti approaches to math. Lots of indications the CPUSA started the race ahead of class issue that one wing of the New Left (mostly the whacky Weathermen) turned into modern day identity politics.

    Comment by btraven — July 12, 2013 @ 3:33 am | Reply

    • Communists were among the leading anti-racists in the 1930s. The notion of blaming such persons as the destroyers of class struggle remains mistaken. They wanted to recruit blacks to the movement. See A World View of Race for example. Ralph Bunche wrote that essay while he was still on the Left. And he had a very sharp and consistent class analysis as did his colleagues at Howard University.

      Comment by clarelspark — July 12, 2013 @ 5:47 am | Reply

      • No doubt they wanted to recruit blacks but did advocacy of black separatism in the form of a Black Belt advance genuine class interests? Genuinely curious about your view.

        Comment by btraven — July 13, 2013 @ 12:43 am

      • Bunche was furious over the Black Belt idea, and had I been his contemporary and shared his politics, I would have agreed with him. I can’t tell if he was ever in the CP, but he wrote angrily about it in notes. He hated the Garveyites too and all separatist movements.

        Comment by clarelspark — July 13, 2013 @ 1:12 am

  4. Clare — Wonderful piece. As an undergraduate Business major in the early 1970s I had to take the obligatory/required introductory Sociology 201 (sophomore level) course at my university. As I recall, the course begin with such concepts of race, ethnicity, and culture. But now, as with so much, it seems profound confusion seems to have increased in public discussion (or else I haven’t recalled correctly what I was exposed to in that course). For instance, from my learning I have determined that the correct identification of Mr. Zimmerman’s “race” is Caucasian. And, again, what I was taught is that American Indians (on both continents) are also Caucasians. Accordingly, when you combine a European Caucasian (a Spaniard for example) with an Aztec or Inca, voila, you still have a Caucasian not a “Latino” from a race perspective. If nothing else from Sociology 201, one of the other key things I remembered was the term and concept of Ethnocentrism — a word that seems to have totally disappeared. While I hope I properly understand the classification of Ethnicity and can appreciate the value of one having a non-pathological appreciation for one’s own ethnic group (if deserved?), Ethnocentrism was presented in that course almost exclusively in a negative context (most likely because only a quarter century earlier one ethnic group was trying to wipe another ethnic group — which they defined as the Jewish “race” — completely off the face of the Earth, not to mention the blatant racial, ethnic, and nationalistic motivations of that other Axis power, Japan. Seems in just a mere 40 years, the whole race, ethnic, culture paradigm is in a complete mess as far as public understanding; and the ugly head of Ethnocentrism is being encouraged

    Comment by D. Mark Ward — July 10, 2013 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

  5. […] can surmount: anti-imperialists and postmodernists control teaching in the humanities. (See http://clarespark.com/2013/07/02/groupiness-group-think-and-race/.)  The result? Most of us lack the tools (or the access) to determine who is lying to us, and who […]

    Pingback by Preconditions for “hard liberty” | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — July 10, 2013 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

  6. I am having a collegial discussion with a college classmate of mine. We recently met again at our 50th year reunion. He still clings to the notion that Republicans are evil. Yet, he agreed with me that, while much Great Society legislation was well meaning, it has been a tremendous failure. He cited the abject poverty that his daughter encountered in the South Bronx where she was did volunteer work. I told him of early efforts of the Johnson administration, through the Moynihan Report to tackle absent fatherhood among blacks and how black academia rejected that approach, in favor of Affirmative Action. Well, black fathers are still absent, 45 years later, but race politics still reigns, to the disadvantage of blacks. I also told him that in rural PA where I still work, there are many impoverished white people who deserve our help and have a claim to the public purse. We call them white trash. Why is is that pejorative and their poverty considered a lower priority among “progressives”? Makes you wonder who are the real racists.

    Comment by Bob Ennis — July 2, 2013 @ 9:46 pm | Reply

  7. Sorry to jump on so quick, but have a confirming anecdote. Have been in a decades-long conversation with a PhD Sociologist who explained that “racism” is defined as two things. 1., the idea that one’s own race is better than any other, and 2., the identity-political power to enforce that belief. In the beginning of our conversation I was at an educational disadvantage, but even then it seemed to me that his definition was dependent on and enabled the idea of race as something concrete. Conveniently, this white-guilt merchant continues to hold that the “white race” is the only race with sufficient identity-political power to be called “racist.”

    In response to your facebook friends and the challenge of a good definition, I’d define racism as “the archaic and mistaken belief that the accidental genetic characteristics of skin color, eye shape, and hair texture, are culturally and/or morally relevant.” We DO need to move beyond what has been shown to be at best a quaint convention and more often a vicious weapon in the hands of race merchants and other ideological tyrants. Race is an invented and nearly meaningless construction, but OTOH, Culture matters greatly.

    Comment by Terbreugghen — July 2, 2013 @ 8:28 pm | Reply


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