Racism – exploitation and super-exploitation, oppression, and ideology – is a constant and defining feature of U.S. historical development from nearly the moment of arrival of colonizing settlers to what would become North American shores in the 17th century. Indeed, it is fair to say that every aspect of the country’s historical process has been deeply and indelibly marked by racism, which obviously is more, indeed much more than a prejudice toward people based on their skin color.
But while racism and racial inequality have been essential cornerstones to the country’s development as well as the guarantor of political, economic, and cultural hegemony of its white ruling elites, the racialized structures, institutions, legal framework, language, symbols, mode of accumulation and exploitation, and, not least, the terrain and trajectory of racist and anti-racist struggle, have changed over time. In this sense slavery is not so much the “original sin” of our country as the first racial (or racist) order, albeit the most searing, brutal, and exploitative one, that took root at the pre-dawn and dawn of the country’s formation, stretched out over two and a half centuries, and co-evolved with contemporaneous racial orders during that time.
It also left its distinctive mark on racial orders that followed to this day. While it never formally announces its presence in contemporary life, it, nevertheless, stubbornly and persistently insinuates itself at the level of ideology and practical politics and economics.
Which brings to mind the words of William Faulkner, the great novelist of the South, who wrote, “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”