White Supremacy and the Assignment of Color

Abraham Lincoln knew all too well about the assignment of the superior position of the white race by virtue of the assignment of the color white to human bodies.

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“…and inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” — Abraham Lincoln

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while back, I wrote an essay entitled, “White Supremacy, White Superiority and The Value in the Colors of Black and White. In it I discussed the intrinsic value placed on the colors, “black” and “white” and the meanings and connotations that existed both inside and outside of the ideology of White Supremacy. In my book, “White Supremacy and the Post-Racial Color Blind Era: Exploring Visible and Invisible Whiteness in the United States — An Unbleached Unbook Look,” I went even further in discussing the apparent importance, made by the wealthy and powerful of color distinctions on human bodies, as part of an overarching definition of superiority and inferiority, and the value connotations ascribed to each color in everyday, ordinary life.

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Abraham Lincoln knew all too well about the assignment of the superior position of the white race by virtue of the assignment of the color white to human bodies. He declared that there “must be a position of superior and inferior.” He perfectly understood the arbitrary nature of such an assignment having been given to white people and was in favor of having been placed into the “superior position” as a result. Even though history recounts his upbringing as meager and Lower class, much like the wealthy Southern Gentry of the time, Lincoln understood the importance of maintaining such a caste construction to sustain their power once he became the President of the United States.

The Southern Gentry were few in number and were the most powerful and the wealthiest. This class was comprised of powerful professions like doctors, minist­ers, lawyers and merchants. In addition, the controllers of the courts and governments, architec­ture, and etiquettes of the society were included in the Gentry class.[1] In the South, however, the masses of poor people with European ancestry were not part of the Gentry class. In fact, The Gentry of colonial America and of the United States placed poor people in the Lower Class. This class included sailors, apprentices, laborers, servants, slaves, or wanderers; transients who went from place to place looking for work.[2]

Yes, the Enslaved were included as part of the Lower Class caste structure of the colonies and burgeoning states along with people who, in the United States today, identify as the color white.

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In my essays I often explain how the use of color is just one of the tools in the White Supremacist arsenal of the absurd, used to control and subjugate the masses of people who identify with the color white. In my essay entitled, “Why Do White People Hate Black People So Much,” I even delved into the historical construction of “when” the behavior began among white people in the newly formed colonies and eventually new states, because the abhorrent behavior exhibited by many of them today had a genesis. Lower class people in the colonies who shared the same skin color were assigned the color white by the few wealthy of the Gentry class, not because they had anything in common or shared anything substantial. They neither cared for nor liked the Lower class. In fact, the wealthy Gentry class loathed the Lower class, and the only thing they shared with many in the Lower class was skin pigment.

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You see, it wasn’t until Bacon’s Rebell­ion that the wealthy Gentry class felt endangered by a loss of their own power. Not until their power was threatened did they assign the color white to the masses of ordinary poor Europeans and others who shared their skin pigment, creating distinctions, and differences. It was the fear of retribution and redistribution of wealth and power that began a feigned “shared” experience with the Lower class, newly defined whites; the wealthy Gentry offering land and a modicum of power over Black people, not power over themselves. Even with this lie of comradery and shared skin-based likenesses, the idea of Whiteness as superior forever changed the way Whiteness would be ex­press­­ed, both as a color distinction and an ideology of superiority among the Lower and Middle class white people toward Black people generations later.

“After Bacon’s Rebellion they increasingly dis­tinguish between people of African descent and people of European descent. They enact laws which say People of African descent are heredi­tary slaves. And they increasingly give some power to white independent white [sic] farmers and landowners.”

Legislators and others in the wealthy Gentry influenced attitudes of the white populations in all classes, but especially the Lower class, by literally en­couraging racial animosity of these people with shared pigmentation toward Black people. Other important laws provided additional distinctions, such as differ­ences between the “white servant” and “black slave.” The Virginia Assembly enact­ed a law which prevented any Black person “…from raising a hand to any white person.” This law essentially provided impunity for Lower class whites when abusing enslaved Black people and “stripped en­slaved Black people of any right to self-defense.”[3]

The Caste structure that existed generations ago in the colonies still exists with much the same construct intact today, except that instead of the Gentry class, they are known as the Elite, or the 1%. It would appear many white people are either unable or unwilling to realize that the assignment of the color white to their bodies and sharing the distinction of shared color with the Elite is a way to control and subjugate them today as well, to secure power and wealth distribution for those Elites among them generations later. Masses of these assigned whites live in poverty and are mistreated through state sanctioned police violence, only to a lesser degree as Black people, subjected to Racism in those two areas of activity. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is, for these people assigned the color white, the lure and lie of superiority in the United States based on the color white is tremendously seductive.

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To become aware and acknowledge that their behavior has a root in a design to subjugate them because they shared pigment with the wealthy gentry of the time, and are being used by the Elite today the same way, is probably too much for them to comprehend or accept. The sad reality is, if one simply removes the white from “Supremacy,” there is still a structure in place among themselves as to superiority and inferiority, whether it is between sex and gender, economics and finance, or education and scholarship. They use Meritocracy as the system through which they apportion and deny even themselves opportunities, and call it “competition.” They acquiesce over the realities of their own lives as long as they can live with the scant privileges they are afforded over Black people in most areas of humanity. Perhaps it is because most understand, even subconsciously, that there but by the grace of their white color assignment, they would be subjugated as harshly as those given the black color assignment. Perhaps they just simply refuse to see they were pawns of an “assigned color” scheme and accept the assignment as one of the root stems of their cognitive dissonance. Perhaps these reasons are likely why they consistently work against their own best interests time and time again when the question of “who is to blame” for their own sabotage is clear to everyone else.

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When Lincoln said, “…and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race,” he thought he was part of those who wanted to unify the states. He is revered as having brought unity back to the new nation, and for freeing the slaves. He was, however, so wrong. He was part of the problem of division and separation which permeates the nation today. Now, because of the ideology spawned by the wealthy Gentry class and espoused by people like Jefferson, Lincoln, and others, people who identify with the color white are at a crossroad where all but the Elite among us all are in grave danger. People who identify as white are going to have to realize how Democracy and Fascism are deeply connected with the assignment of skin color, and of superiority and inferiority. They will have to come to grips with the fact that they too are subjugated under the banner of superiority and inferiority and that Democracy is the only thing separating them from entering full Fascist subjugation, a form of terror from which the system of Racism is partly derived. If Democracy dies, no one will be safe. If Fascism is brought into its fullness in this country, it will not survive. Everyone, even self-described white people will need to appreciate that all of us remain at risk until the assignment of skin color with superiority and inferiority, and superiority and inferiority itself, is finally detached from the value of humanity.

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[1][2][3] Excerpted from the book, White Supremacy and the Post-Racial Color Blind Era: Exploring Visible and Invisible Whiteness in the United States — An Unbleached Unbook Look. Sources from Hierarchy Structure. Colonial America Social Hierarchy. Retrieved from: https://www.hierarchystructure.com/colonial-america-social-hierarchy/, Transcript of Interview with Ira Berlin. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-08.htm and Vanessa Williamson, Brookings.edu. When White Supremacy Came to Virginia. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2017/08/15/when-white-supremacy-came-to-virginia/

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Dr. Cynthia Alease Smith

Written by

Anti-Racism Essayist & Educator offering discussions about Race, Racism, White Supremacy and the language used, from perspectives not ordinarily considered

The Baldwin

BALDWIN pushes the idea of defiant criticism. Written and produced by Black people, BALDWIN is literary reparations for society and culture. We challenge the idea that an educated opinion looks and sounds one way.

Dr. Cynthia Alease Smith

Written by

Anti-Racism Essayist & Educator offering discussions about Race, Racism, White Supremacy and the language used, from perspectives not ordinarily considered

The Baldwin

BALDWIN pushes the idea of defiant criticism. Written and produced by Black people, BALDWIN is literary reparations for society and culture. We challenge the idea that an educated opinion looks and sounds one way.

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