Author: Matthew Barlow

The Enduring Legacy of Slavery

This came through my feed on Facebook a few days ago.  It’s worth re-posting and it’s worth a deeper commentary.  The United States was founded upon slavery.  Fact.  The Founding Fathers included slave owners.  Face.  The Founding Fathers didn’t deal with slavery in the Constitution.  Fact.  The Civil War happened because the South seceded over slavery.  Fact.  The Southern response to Emancipation was Black Codes, the Ku Klux Klan and segregation.  Fact.  Desegregation only happened because of the intervention of the Supreme Court.  Fact. But.  None of this is a Southern thing.  Slavery initially existed in the North as well.  But even after the North banned slavery, it benefited from slavery.  The American industrial revolution began in Lowell, MA, due to the easy availability of Southern cotton.  The North got wealthy, in other words, on the backs of Southern slaves.   The North countenanced slavery. After the Civil War, the North countenanced segregation.  The second Ku Klux Klan emerged in Atlanta, true, but it operated all over the country.  And, following Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that desegregated schools, the North was affected, most notably during the Boston Busing Crisis in the 1970s. But even with the official end of desegregation with Brown v. Board, it’s not like segregation went away.  Schools today remain very segregated across the United States due to the outcomes of racism, poverty and...

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Popularity Contest

You know what amazes me the most about this blog?  That this is consistently my most popular post.  It is almost five years old, and yet, every week, there it is either at the top of my most read list, or in close 2nd or 3rd.  It’s not my most interesting post nor is the best written.  But there you have it. Source: Matthew...

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Commenting Policy

Whenever I write about racism, white privilege, feminism, etc., I get a slew of comments from usually anonymous trolls calling me every name you can imagine.  And then I get some comments from people who may or may not be using their real names, almost always identifying themselves as white, who complain that the world is racist against them.  Or white men complaining that the world is sexist against them.  And so on.  Usually, these comments also include a series of ad hominem attacks on me. I can handle the abuse, I’m a big boy.  But I will not approve comments that include racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynistic commentary.  Nor will I approve comments that are nothing more than insults. You don’t like it?  Too bad.  Go read something else. Source: Matthew...

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Black and white

Last week, in writing this piece on white privilege, or white hegemony, I cited David Roediger’s excellent book, The Wages of Whiteness, and in so doing, I linked to the book on Amazon.  I spent some time reading the reviews of the book, especially the 1-star ones. Most of the 1-star reviews are predictable, complaining about how to point out how whiteness was created in the United States is racist against white people, or claim (clearly without actually reading the book) that the book demonizes white people or the working classes.  It is hard not to call such responses racist at worst, or ignorant at best. But one stuck out to me, because the author took a slightly different tack.  It is worth quoting the review at length here: A small but very significant difference in terminology prevented me from getting far with this book. Roediger refers to black persons as “Black” (capitalized) and to white persons as “white” (lowercase) throughout his entire book. This rather meaningful difference in terms is utilized in every single instance that a cursory glance through the text revealed these words appearing either as nouns or adjectives. Thus the white person is consistently devalued in contrast to the black individual, solely by the word used to designate him or her. Since this racial devaluation of the white indiviudal is the premise upon all of what...

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Hegemony vs. White Privilege

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece about Jordan Peterson, who I dismissed as a professional bore.  A friend of mine shared it on his wall on Facebook and holy hell ensued.  One commentator took great exception to my point that ‘frankly, you cannot claim there is no such thing as white privilege and not be racist’ and, oh-so-wittily demanded a citation. I come at this question after spending most of my adult life working from a place of anti-racism, of insisting that we recognize our diversity and that we work to a world where none of this even matters anymore because it’s the de facto response to all things. The very term ‘white privilege is heavily loaded.  It does two things.  First, it points a finger at white people.  Second, it suggests to white people who have a difficult time due to class or gender or sexuality that they have something they generally consider themselves to lack: privilege. White people get defensive when the finger is pointed at them.  I know, I am a white person.  The general defensive response from a white person is to claim that they have nothing to do with slavery, genocide of the indigenous, etc.  And, moreover, this all happened in the past.  But racism isn’t an historical exhibit in a museum, it’s still very real and prevalent. And then there’s the question of...

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