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Big Lies and Grievances

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Message Hugh Curran
 

The strident arguments put forward that "voter fraud" has taken place in the recent election continues to resonate with a segment of the population. What do the deniers really want? Is it a return to a status that kept blacks and indigenous in a secondary role? Is it that those who have, up to the present, been possessed of majoritarian status are convinced that an authoritarian government is necessary, or is it that the ideology of white supremacy is uppermost in their minds?

In a World Values Survey (WVS) in 1995, 25% of Americans believed in a "strong leader who does not need to bother with election results", whereas by 2017, "38% of Americans considered this non-democratic result as acceptable". This belief has now been adopted by one-third of the population, and Donald Trump's claim regarding the election being stolen has found an electorate willing to accept his "big lie".

Why is this sense of privilege and victimhood so pervasive? Is it a recent phenomenon? According to sociologist Jacqueline Battalora, white rights and white privileges are historically based. The use of the term "white" was invented following Bacon's Rebellion in 1674, as a strategic way of dividing the laboring classes from the privileged land-owners. Such property-owners decided on a "divide and conquer" policy to prevent further rebellions. In addition, an anti-miscegenation law had been passed in 1664, which was not discontinued for three hundred years. By diverting white grievances from class-based to race-based, the white laboring class considered themselves as possessing a higher status than African-Americans.

The anti-miscegenation law was deliberately contrived to prohibit free blacks from possessing weapons and from testifying against whites. "White", as a designation, was built up on the idea that white people were freeborn and deserving of rights and privileges denied to non-whites. In other words, "whiteness" became a political tool whose intention was to maintain control.

The result of this was that the 1st Congress in 1790 decided that in order to become a citizen of the U.S. one had to be white, a stipulation that continued for 150 years. This stipulation made sure that, not only blacks, but also Native Americans, as well as Asian immigrants were not allowed to become citizens, which also meant they were not allowed to vote or to have political clout.

This attitude became embedded in the body politic to such an extent that a man with authoritarian pretensions such as Donald Trump could gain considerable support with his attempts to invalidate the elections in key states. His legal efforts never gained traction in the law courts, and even the Supreme Court, which Trump had convinced himself would support him, refused to do so since there was absolutely no evidence of voter fraud.

Although causes of white privilege extend back several hundred years, our present dilemma has a recent history. In the 1920s Lothrop Stoddard became a popularizer of the Nordic Theory of race superiority while Madison Grant was known as the author of "The Passing of the Great Race", published in 1916. Grant's book was translated into other languages and read by a future German party leader, who praised the book as "my bible". Grant used the term "master race" to designate white supremacists and later became one of the directors of the American Eugenics Society, a society that encouraged sterilization as a means to control populations deemed unsuitable. This was also true of Lothrop Stoddard, whose 1920 book, The Rising Tide of Color: The Threat Against White World-Supremacy, had an introduction by Madison Grant. Lothrop Stoddard's views were decried and derided by WEB Dubois in a 1929 Chicago debate with several thousand in attendance.

Grant's and Stoddard's discredited theory is contrasted with the current science behind genetic studies, which asserts that human differences in intelligence are relatively minor and all humans share most traits in common and that differences within racial groups are far more similar than differences between racial groups.

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I posted two op ed articles: TO REPEAT: I am a lecturer in Peace & Reconciliation Studies at the University of Maine. I was born in Ireland and immigrated to Canada where I lived for 16 years. I now live in Maine where I have been on the (more...)
 

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