“What white bodies did to Black bodies they did to other white bodies first.”
~ Janice Barbee
How Racism Began as White-on-White Violence
by Resmaa Menakem
Yet this brutality did not begin when Black bodies first encountered white ones. This trauma can be traced back much further, through generation upon generation of white bodies, to medieval Europe.
When the Europeans came to America after enduring 1000 years of plague, famine, inquisitions, and crusades they brought much of their resilience, much of their brutality, and, I believe, a great deal of their trauma with them. Common punishments in the “New World” English colonies were similar to the punishments meted out in England, which included whipping, branding, and cutting off ears. People were routinely placed in stocks or pillories, or in the gallows with a rope around their neck. In America, the Puritans also regularly murdered other Puritans who were disobedient or found guilty of witchery.
In such ways, powerful white bodies routinely punished less powerful white bodies. In 1692, during the Salem witch trials, eighty-year-old Giles Corey was stripped naked and, over a period of two days, slowly crushed to death under a pile of rocks.
We know that the English in America, and their descendants, dislodged brains, blocked airways, ripped muscle, extracted organs, cracked bones, and broke teeth in the bodies of many Black people,Native peoples and other white colonists. But what we often fail to recognize about this “New World” murder, cruelty, oppression, and torture is that, until the second half of the seventeenth century, these traumas were inflicted primarily on white bodies by other white bodies — all on what would become US soil. […]
Throughout the United States’ history as a nation, white bodies have colonized, oppressed, brutalized, and murdered Black and Native ones. But well before the United States began, powerful white bodies colonized, oppressed, brutalized, and murdered other, less powerful white ones.
The carnage perpetrated on Black people and Native Peoples in the “New World” began, on the same soil, as an adaptation of longstanding white-on-white traumatic retention strategies and brutal class practices. This brutalization created trauma that has yet to be healed among American bodies of all hues today.
Equally interesting, while some minority groups in US seem to become more unhappy as they gained power, Asians in general still has little political influence in US, and yet remained very calm.
The clue laid in some worst examples: Kevin Yee, the 3rd Generation Chinese American neo-Nazi supporter, and Adolf Hitler himself (who had a Jewish grandmother).
1 friend said to me: These neo-Nazi “White nationalists”. They don’t even know who they are (where they came from)
Same problem with Yee and Hitler: They forgot (or never knew) their own heritage, so they convinced themselves to follow/worship a mythical “White” identity that really never existed. “White” is just the color of their skin, it doesn’t tell them anything about where their ancestors came from.
Heck, some neo-Nazis probably also had Native American and African slave bloodlines in their families!
The Monolithic “assimilation” in America has forced too many Americans to integrate and forget their own native culture and their native languages of many sides.
The opposite examples are the “hyphenated Americans”, Chinese Americans, Jewish Americans, etc..
The “hyphenation” denoted a multi-faceted identity of these groups. Chinese Americans are known for strongly preserving their Chinese culture and language, even as they integrated into US political economic processes.
Being “hyphenated” multi-faceted in identity has the benefit of greater tolerance for the “others”. As such groups recognize that they came from elsewhere, they tend to give higher tolerance to those who are different, or who are new to US, because a Chinese American himself is also different from many other Americans.
It’s hardly sensible for a Chinese American to demand a new immigrant to “speak proper English”, when others could easily make jokes about his accent. (Though Kevin Yee might do so).
For this reason, many hyphenated American groups with strong multi-faceted identities tend to be very tolerant, less inclined to feel that they are under threat from other groups, and more likely to be liberals in political social views, even if they are conservative in fiscal beliefs. For example, Jewish Americans are typically conservative fiscally but liberal socially. Similarly, Mormons (with their religious enclaves in Utah), tend to be conservative, but very welcome of immigrants. Mennonites of Dutch origin, also tend to be conservative in lifestyle, and yet hold some very liberal tolerant and very friendly views of others.