Race and Racism: A Comparative Perspective

By Pierre L. Van Den Berghe | Go to book overview

IV
The United States

Historiography might be defined as a new secularized way of creating a country's national mythology. This chapter takes issue with a long tradition of ethnocentrism and racism in the study of United States history. My central thesis is that, with the early development and later florescence of racism in the United States, this republic has been, since its birth and until World War II, a Herrenvolk democracy" [ 1].

The American "Revolution" was in fact a movement of political emancipation by a section of the white settlers against control from England. That many of its leaders had been exposed to the French Enlightenment and used the rhetoric of freedom has led to the "official" interpretation of the American Revolution as a democratic, equalitarian, and libertarian movement similar to that of the French Revolution. Although a few idealists like John Quincy Adams interpreted the Declaration of Independence literally to apply to all people, and though a few more like Jefferson were perturbed by the contradiction between the libertarian rhetoric and the practice of slavery, to most whites of the time "people" meant "whites." The Constitution was a conservative document, a compact between the northern bourgeoisie and the southern slave-owning aristocracy. The economic life of the infant republic was so heavily dependent on slavery and the

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Race and Racism: A Comparative Perspective
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • I - Introduction 1
  • Notes 37
  • II - Mexico 42
  • Notes 58
  • III - Brazil 59
  • Notes 75
  • IV - The United States 77
  • Notes 94
  • V - South Africa 96
  • Notes 110
  • VI - An Analytical Comparison 112
  • Notes 130
  • VII - Social and Cultural Pluralism 132
  • Notes 150
  • Selected Bibliography 151
  • Index 161
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