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John Garvey and Noel Ignatiev The New Abolitionism Race Traitor calls itselfa journal of the New Abolitionism. Its motto is "Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity." Thejournal takes its stand on two points: first, that the "white race" is not a natural but a social category; second, that what was historically constructed can be undone. The first of these points is now widely accepted; scientists haveconcluded that there are no biological standards for distinguishing one "race" from another, and social scientists have begun to examine how race was constructed and how it is reproduced. The "social construction of race" has become something of a catch-phrase in the academy. However, few have taken the next step: indeed one might say that up to now the philosophers have merely interpreted the white race; the point, however, is to abolish it. The white race is a club, which enrolls certain people at birth, without their consent, and brings them up according to its rules. For the most part the members go through life accepting the privileges of membership , without reflecting on the costs. When individuals question the rules, the officers are quick to remind them of all they owe to the club, and warn them of the dangers they will face if they leave it. The white club does not require that all members be strong advocates ofwhite supremacy, merely that they defer to the prejudices of others . It is based on one huge assumption: that all those who look white are, whatever their reservations, fundamentally loyal to it. This assumption is kept in place by a pervasive system of race privileges, so embedded in the social structure that they are reproduced daily without any intention on the part of most of the actors. Just as the capitalist system is not a capitalist plot, racial oppression is not the work of "racists," but ofpeople who in many cases would be sincerely offended if accused of complicity with white supremacy. For an example of how the club works, take the cops. The natural attitude of the police toward the exploited is hostility. All over the world cops beat up poor people, and it has nothing to do with color. What is unusual and has to be accounted for is not why they beat up black people but why they don't normally beat up propertyless whites. It works this way: the cops look at a person and then decide on the basis of color whether that person is loyal to or an enemy of the system they are sworn to serve and protect. They don't stop to think if the black person whose head they are whipping is an enemy; they assume it. It does not matter if the victim goes to work every day, pays his taxes and crosses only on the green. Occasionally, they bust an outstanding and prominent black person , and the poor whites cheer the event, because it confirms them in their conviction that they are superior to any black person who walks the earth. 106the minnesota review On the other hand, the cops don't know for sure if the white person to whom they give a break is loyal to them; they assume it. The nonbeating of poor whites is time-offfor good behavior and an assurance of future cooperation. Their color exempts them to some degree from the criminal class—which is how the entire working class was defined before the invention of race and is still treated in those parts of the world where race does not exist as a social category. It is a cheap way of buying some people's loyalty to a social system that exploits them. Race Traitor aims to abolish the club, to break it apart, to explode it. The abolitionists recognize that "whites" cannotindividually optout from the privileges of whiteness. The white club does not like to surrender a single member, so that even those who step out of it in one situation find it virtually impossible not to step back in later, if for no other reason than the assumptions ofothers. The point is not for individuals to become unwhite (although that is great when it...


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pp. 105-108
Launched on MUSE
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