Is This Cherry-picking?


When you develop a grand theory, you like to find supporting evidence. The trick is to avoid looking ONLY at items that support your thesis. But at times I do find things that are so striking I feel I am fully justified in adding them to the pile.

One such is from a book I just started to read. I read the prologue before, from underlining and marginalia, but it seems I never got beyond that. The author, Ira Berlin, wrote what I think is the very best introduction to the topic of North American slavery. Many Thousands Gone. On page 9 of this other book, Generations of Captivity, I found the following, which, if accepted, is the linchpin of my Magnum Opus, tracing contemporary patterns and practices back to the earliest founding of the American South. Add to that the recent notion of the “Southernization of America”, (google it) and you see the connection to anti-labor and anti-labor unions, anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, anti-Black attitudes along with authoritarian and hierarchical structures backed by religious conformity. Here it is:
“In slave societies, by contrast [to societies with slaves, as in the North], slavery stood at the center of economic production, and the master-slave relationship provided the model for all social relations: husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee. From the most intimate connections between men and women to the most public ones between ruler and ruled, all relationships mimicked those of slavery.”
What I would add is: show me where the transmission of those values and practices down to the present was broken. I don’t think it has been broken. Diluted and modified but not broken.
The evidence? Voting patterns are one.The obdurate insistence on the subordination of Blacks to Whites is the most outstanding and egregious. Berlin cites Frank Tannenbaum from 1946, the major statement for decades on Black/White relations in connection to slavery, Slave and Citizen:
Nothing escaped, nothing and no one.”
Clearly, we cannot do more than build a case for this view. It is not like cotton production, for instance, which can be charted via numbers and statistics. But when you saw the total and upending shift from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party on the part of White Southerners after the S.C. decision, Brown v. Board of Education and matched that with the rhetoric of the G.O.P., most of us have little doubt as to the connection.
It may be a bit harder to see the anti-union, anti-immigrant, anti-democratic approaches to society and the economy as stemming from this master-slave model, but some of us do and we are not stupid. I just don’t have the expertise in labor relations, the economy, the law, and so forth to bolster my argument. I would point to the anti-ERA hysteria, the transgender and homosexual hysteria, the great popularity of interracial porn, the extreme religious fundamentalism, and many other factors that most people agree characterize the South as evidence of a trend in thinking that can be dogged all the way back to this basic model of human relations: the master-slave relation.

I have more quotes just from the Prologue. Stay tuned.

Ah! One more and this one is very hard to convince African-Americans of, they are so conditioned by the color distinction and believe their ancestors were enslaved due to “the color of their skin.” On p. 12: “Against the onrushing tide of change [emancipation], former masters hastened to reconstruct the old regime on new ground, sometimes conceding what they could not resist, sometimes asserting their old power in novel ways, and sometimes redefining the terms of conflict by creating new mechanisms of domination. Among the latter was a redefinition of the terms of superordination and subordination. In the color-coded slave societies of the Americas, these inevitably included new definitions of race. Without slavery to order society, blackness and whiteness gained in importance.”

The practice of presentism allows people to impose and project onto previous generations the values and definitions of their current world rather than allowing the people of the past to distribute definitions and values by their own lights. A quick example: in the Spanish colonies, a White person born in the Americas of Spanish parents was not considered under the law the equal of a Peninsular born person and were called “criollos” (the origin of our term Creole, which came, in English, to mean someone with “black blood.”)

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