AFRICANGLOBE – Race and ethnicity are such defining markers in our daily lives it’s hard to believe that they are of relatively recent vintage, but they are. . .
There is a racial hierarchy in the United States, an “ethnoracial” hierarchy to be precise. There are broad racial categories within each of which are various ranked ethnicities. This is how it began. In Virginia in 1676, poor Whites and Blacks rose up together against the plantocracy. The rebellion was put down after a hard fought little war. Subsequently, Blacks were largely relegated to chattel slavery and poor Whites placed a notch above in indentured servitude. This deterred any further serious alliance of poor Whites and Blacks against the powers that be.
Afterwards, each successive immigrant group has, at first, been ranked onV the level of native born Blacks. Each has subsequently launched an “ethnic project” to climb, what Dr. Vilna Treitler calls, the ethnoracial ladder. To the extent that they are successful, they reinforce the hierarchy confirming the notion that African Americans, as a group, belong at the bottom of the totem pole. According to Treitler in, The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions , it all began in Britain where the English systematically appropriated the land and exterminated and enslaved the people of Ireland for hundreds of years. “(There was a widespread belief) that the Irish were better off becoming slaves of the English rather than retaining the brutish customs of their traditional culture. . .”(p. 72)
“Irish people formed the bulk of the servile people who were eventually transferred to the New World English plantations during the 17th century.” (p. 48). . . The Irish made way for the Indians. . . . The Indian was deemed a heathen, the unenlightened person of an unrecognized religion who lacked morals and principles. The next heathens became the ‘Negroes,’ and Negros deserved no rights at all. They were deemed inhuman, with no country of origin, invoking all that was dark, black and unfathomable. (p. 50). . . the lore about the tainted races was plastered on any enemy in order to downgrade them from fully valued human status. (51). . . Difference is not immediately seen as hierarchical, so racialized thinking is required to make a hierarchy of difference. (52). . . Africans were not enslaved because they were Black; they were made Black because they were made slaves. (51). . . Elites purposefully created whiteness to suppress disquiet and pacify poor Europeans and their descendants by racially raising the status of the poor without having to share any of the wealth. (54). . . . Indeed, the lower classes became the enforcers of the racial status quo because they agreed to make “race, and not class,” the distinction in social life. (59) . . . White ethnics have been invited into the melting pot of Americaness, but perpetually thought of as “other” are those who descend from Thai, Nigerian, Pakistani, Jamaican, Peruvian, or some other ancestry understood as nonwhite in its roots.” (54)
And within the “other,” native born Blacks are at the bottom. Treitler here quotes Toni Morrisson’s observation. “Although U.S. history is awash in labor battles, political fights and property wars among all religious and ethnic groups, their struggles are persistently framed as struggles between recent arrivals and Blacks. . . . the move to mainstream America always means buying into the notion of American Blacks as real aliens. Whatever the ethnicity or nationality of the immigrant, his nemesis is understood to be African American. . .” (43)
Let’s go back hundreds of years to Britain and observe the treatment of the IRISH by the people now referred to as English. “In courts, Anglo Normans were found not guilty of rape or murder when the victim was Irish, just as (in later times) Whites would not be convicted of similar crimes against Africans. . . Anglo Norman priests granted absolution on the grounds that it was ‘no more sin to kill an Irishman than a dog or any other brute’. . . (In) Anglo Norman Ireland (the) native Irish of the free classes were deprived of legal defense against English abuse because they were not ‘admitted’ to English law, and hence had no rights that an Englishman was bound to respect.” ( 72) Recall that the Dred Scott case (1857) on the eve of the Civil War held that “Black persons have no rights that a White man need respect.”
In America, Initially, “The Irish and African Americans were both lynch victims and targets of race riots. . .and the two groups toiled together in degrading work in domestic service and transportation. They lived as neighbors in US urban slums in the 1830s, danced together in times of leisure and were lovers. . . Both groups were living under mind-numbingly heinous circumstances far from their homelands; return was nearly impossible.” However, eventually “(t)hey sought to get rid of Black workers by their side in order to rid themselves of the accusation that the Irish did ‘n*gger work’. . . By 1863, the Irish not only participated in but led mobs targeting African Americans (74). . . They had created and lauded ethnic differences between themselves and the persons at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, whom they publicly denigrated. The Irish segregated themselves from their former neighbors and coworkers, with the justification that the Irish were the racial betters of African Americans and should no longer be associated with people at the bottom.”( 76)
Look at how the CHINESE were initially treated and how they worked their way up the ethnic ladder. In so doing they likewise distanced themselves from their Black neighbors and coworkers and cut off contact with those Chinese who married Blacks. At first the Chinese were seen as a “stagnating, perverse, semi-civilized breeding ground for swarming inhuman hoardes. (77)…. The general sentiment was clear: the Chinese had an inferior style of life that harmed Whites who lived and worked near them; the Chinese encroached upon Whites’ jobs; and the Chinese threatened the entire social order. . . . (They are) an indigestible mass in the community, distinct in language, pagan in religion, inferior in mental and moral qualities, and all peculiarities, is an undesirable element in a republic. . . . there is not sufficient brain capacity in the Chinese race to furnish motive power for self-government. . . . (They are) a menace to Republican institutions upon the Pacific, and the existence there of Christian civilization.” It was said that “the Chinese were much like the Negro biologically. . .the Chinese and Negro had similar brain capacity (far inferior to that of the “Indo-Germanic” race), and that Chinese civilization had “thousands of years ago (risen) to the highest attainment of their brain capacity” and would progress no further. (70)