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The White Supremacy Mith: The lifeline of racism in the 20th-century American dream (Paperback)
As the possibilities of the 21st century appear on the horizon, it seems an appropriate time to look back on and critically analyze the past century which also began with reflection and expectations. Although many people in the United States are sure that "as far as race relations go, things have gotten better," a closer look at examples of material and popular culture from either end of the 20th century illustrates that "things have stayed very much the same." Even though the original "scientific" ideas that constructed our understanding of race are now presented in more subtle forms, their legacy continues to perpetuate the divisions that preserve inequality in our society.
Some people speak about the shift from earlier blatant to overt forms of racism which might seem to imply that things have gotten better. Instead, It exists a subtle, covert, and possibly more insidious brand of racism that surfaced and created] what has been referred to as America's 'second reconstruction.'
The 'new racism' began to emerge in the late 1970s and solidified in the Reagan era. It has taken the form of social and public policies, sanctioned by the courts and America's political elites. The resulting budget cuts in public education, housing, medical care, and other services that assist the poor ensure that black and Hispanic people remain the poorest Americans. Historically, African Americans consistently remained at the bottom of the social hierarchy, as some immigrants managed to rise to higher levels. Now, new immigration laws prevent "third world" minorities, and particularly "Hispanic" people from becoming a part of the "American Dream."
This more subtle and "new racism" is in reaction to and follows the "racial progress" of the heightened civil rights and black power movements during the 1960s and1970s when black Americans organized nationally and took to the streets to protest racism and oppression. African American's demands for political and social change pushed politicians to begin dismantling the obvious signs of racism. Laws that legislated segregation based on race in education, housing, employment, and suffrage were slowly repealed. The blatant images that also worked to maintain the status quo--images that were designed to ridicule and construct stereotypes of African Americans also seemed to slowly disappear. However, a closer look at contemporary material culture shows that the old images live through their descendants and are still very much with us. Like their earlier counterparts, printed advertisements, television commercials, children's books, popular movies, "scientific" films and exhibitions, and pictorial natural history magazines produced for Americans during the past one hundred years have continued to provide tangible evidence of white supremacist assumptions. These tangible materials are "consumed" at all age levels, and they are connected to broad-based intellectual constructs.
At the beginning of this century, the discipline of anthropology, the "science" of eugenics, and the ideas of social Darwinism continued to build on earlier assumptions and capture the imagination of many people. The relationship between these abstract arguments and concrete culture has maintained a perpetual and vicious cycle, even with a few sporadic doses of antidote. It is important to point out that the negative effect of the white supremacy myth impacts African Americans and Africans in very real ways, and that without social action the mere discussion of racism is ineffective.
This book aims to provide history and context to convince readers to take action and become more vigilant in critiquing the barrage of images and words that influence us every day. The first section provides a broad history of the complex development of ideas and belief systems that form the foundation of racist ideology. In the following two sections, I discuss the background of some stereotypes of Africans and African Americ.