Posted by: kokoro | 20th Jan, 2009

Lott and Saxton readings

At first I had trouble figuring out exactly how the Lott reading on blackface minstrels was related to labor. It made more sense to me when he started discussing how ideologies of white working class manhood supported racist tendencies. The fear and hatred, but also envy (linked to genitalia) that white men had towards blacks is something that my anthropology professor discussed, but I had not thought about it in the context of labor and class. Blackface allowed white men to take on the enviable aspects of and fulfill the curiosity towards black culture, while also mocking blacks and making them less threatening for both the performers and the white audiences.

Lott also made a good point that blackface minstrelsy and other unfortunate aspects of American culture, should not simply be condemned, because they make us aware of racial attitudes that remain today. Painful or not, we need to consider all parts of our past if we are to understand ourselves.

The Saxton reading provides an example of the darker side of unionization by discussing the way anti-Chinese sentiments in California were used as a tool in organizing unions . In the late 19th century, unions perpetuated racism and supported exclusion acts and closing ports against immigrants in order to prevent jobs from being taken from American workers, an issue still argued over today. Chinese workers were excluded on the basis of being inferior, but that thinking was harder to extend to Caucasian Eastern and Southern Europeans who began immigrating to the U.S. in larger numbers at the end of the 19th century. They were charged with being uneducated, not as a result of inferior intellect or even inferior social conditions, but as a result of their own laziness. However, by being linked with Chinese and blacks, they were essentially excluded from the Caucasian race, and as a result the definition of Caucasian became exclusive to those of Anglo-Saxon or Nordic heritage. There are far too many examples of that sort of thinking ending very badly, and unions, for all their good qualities, can help support the racial and ethnic intolerance that leads to hate crimes, eugenics, and genocide.

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