Racism

The four legged stool that won the US presidential election

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What are Barack Obama's political roots? Manning Marable considers his historic election and argues that he is part of a new generation of post-racial black politicians.

My initial reaction to Barack Obama's victory is that of a historian - race has been the fundamental chasm in US democracy for 400 years. Blacks arrived here as slaves in 1619, about 150 years before the American Revolution and 170 years before the US constitution was ratified founding the nation state. All of that rested on slavery and the exploitation of black labour. So in 1790, in the very first law passed by the incoming administration of George Washington, the definition of a US citizen was a free white person, preferably with property.

After the election

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I was with an African American guy on the morning of the election; a thoughtful working class guy who must have been in his 50s. When I asked him what it felt like to come out from voting he started crying. Even he didn't know where it came from.

I met up with him later that evening in a bar on the south side of Chicago. People were out celebrating the possibility of what the US might be. That sense of possibility had all but been extinguished over the past seven years. There had never been a consensus for George W Bush. Bush didn't win his first election and in the second he only got around 52 percent of the vote. People felt that they had been excluded from the national conversation, and therein comes the symbolism of this black man who is the kind of anti-Bush.

Barack Obama as president symbolises change

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Barack Obama as president symbolises change and finally something I'd consider a revolutionary transformation.

People often see revolution as being an event where people have picked up guns and have seized the state. That is certainly one manifestation of it, but revolution is also a process and not necessarily a conclusion.

O is for oppression

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One of the common accusations thrown at Marxism by others in the movement is that it is "economistic" - it reduces everything to the economy and class relations and therefore can't deal adequately with questions of oppression.

On the surface this can seem a reasonable point.

Oppression doesn't mirror class but cuts across it. All women suffer from sexism, whether an Indonesian factory worker or a highly paid (though not as highly paid as her male counterparts) London City trader. A factory worker's experience of her oppression, however, is very different to that of a rich woman.

Carpentaria

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Alexis Wright, Constable, £16.99

This is a truly wonderful book. Written by an Australian Aboriginal woman, it tells the epic story of the inhabitants of the fictional town of Desperance, a godforsaken dusty red-earthed settlement abandoned by its river in northern Queensland.

The Westend Pricklebush people, led by the Phantom family, are engaged in battles with Joseph Midnight's Eastend people as well as the white community of Uptown and a multinational mining company.

Challenging the whitewash: ruling class stereotypes of workers

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The recent BBC White Season painted a bleak picture of the white working class in Britain today as bigoted and broken. Martin Smith argues that these stereotypes are encouraged by politicians and the media to divide us and are far from the experiences of working people's real lives.

The white working class is an embittered minority: racist, bigoted, broken and fragmented. That was the view of several programmes in the recent BBC television series The White Season. The problem, according to the programme makers, is that the white working class has lost its identity due to the impact of de-industrialisation and immigration. Richard Klein, the commissioning editor of the White Season, went further, saying "I feel that the white working class has been ignored by the political classes because they feel the pressure of political correctness."

From great to disgrace

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When Nobel prize winner James Watson made racist comments about black people and intelligence last month, he was using his scientific credentials to legitimise bigotry.

It has been said that if the 20th century was the age of the atom, the 21st century will be the epoch of the gene. With the completion of the human genome project we are offered a future in which the genetic basis of disease has been fully worked out and medical treatment is tailored to each individual.

Architects of their own liberation

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Much has been written about the American Civil War, but less is known about the decisive role of black soldiers in the conflict. Michael Bradley unearths the role of free blacks and escaped slaves whose heroism helped secure victory against the Confederate South and ended slavery.

The American Civil War of 1861-65 was the world's first truly industrial conflict. It saw the mobilisation of huge economic resources and resulted in the death of some 600,000 people. Northern supporters of "free labour" fought the Southern planter elite to decide which system would dominate the country's future.

New Myths of the East End

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Racial divisions in East London are exacerbated by state welfare provision that benefits Bangladeshi migrants at the expense of the white working class - or so says a new report. Chris Jones uncovers the hidden hand of neo-liberal ideology.

In common with many social science undergraduates in the early 1970s, I read Peter Willmott and Michael Young's Family and Kinship in East London. Published in 1957, it was regarded as one of the classics of British urban sociology. Although I cannot recall in fine detail all of its arguments, the book was one of the few around at that time which gave space to the varied voices of the working class in east London.

Racism: 14 Years Can be a Long Time in Politics

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One of the most striking aspects of The New East End is the picture it paints of virulent racism. The authors note, "of the white respondents, a majority expressed an often bitterly negative attitude towards foreign immigrants, and particularly towards Bangladeshis".

If true, this is a very divided society on the verge of turmoil. But many of the interviews have a dated feel. One example, which immediately stands out, is an interview with a white respondent who complains of allegedly preferential service offered to Asians, "last Saturday at the children's hospital in Hackney Road". This hospital, a few hundred metres from where I live, closed in 1998.

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