Spitting Out My Coffee While Reading the New York Times Liberal White-(Supremacist)-Wash

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Revolution received the following from a reader:

I open the pages of the Sunday New York Times about two weeks ago to find this remarkable sentence:

“In the early 19th century, the United States was one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet.”

This statement—bold and brash—appears in an essay The Self Destruction of the 1 Percent, by Chrystia Freeland, in the New York Times Sunday Review, October 14.

And I go: “What The Fuck!”

What about the slavery of Black people, at its peak—or its worst, depending on your point of view—in that time period? What about the genocide of Native peoples? Are they invisible, less than human? There is no mention of any of this in the article.

As American fugitive slave James Pennington put it, “The being of slavery, its soul and its body, lives and moves in the chattel principle, the property principle, the bill-of-sale principle; the cart-whip, starvation and nakedness, are its inevitable consequences ….” What, to the slave, is “most egalitarian” about this?

Being sold and bought as property at an auction block, body parts inspected like beasts of burden, worked from "can’t see in the morning till can’t see at night," constantly at threat of being sold and separated from loved ones forever, the whippings and the “lickin’,” marched in shackles for hundreds of miles and many weeks to the most profitable markets, raped by the slave-owner at whim and fancy. What, to the slave, is “most egalitarian” about this?

“The dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!” So commented Frederick Douglass, when sent to be “conditioned” by the slave breaker Edward Covey … What, to the slave, is “most egalitarian” about this?

(Douglass later escaped and became a famous advocate and fierce fighter for the abolition of slavery, penning the famous speech What To the Slave, Is Your Fourth of July?)

And we are not talking about a few scattered isolated instances of slavery in “early 19th-century United States.” We are talking about an entire way of life, the entire ideological, social and economic foundation of the South, and quite a bit of the North as well. We are talking about a third of the population of the South being subject to slavery. Most egalitarian indeed!

Native people, Indians, massacred—the “rosy dawn” of what was to be a genocide committed against them, lands stolen, every single treaty with the United States government violated, forced into reservations in conditions of desperate poverty, stripped of ways of life and livelihood. What, to the Indian, is “most egalitarian” about this?

Now, it is bad enough for Freeland to write this—it’s a whole other thing for the New York Times, America’s “paper of record,” to voice and propagate this—without qualification, comment, or edit. Did the—vast—editorial apparatus of the NY Times not bat an eye at this statement? Is this how normalized white-supremacist “white”-wash and amnesia of history is in so-called “enlightened” society? Or, rather, is this a Founding Myth (i.e.: LIE) and Grand Narrative of America that the NY Times consciously and actively is working to propagate?

Imagine a scenario in which a contributing author made the statement “Life under the Nazis was a pleasant affair”—without sarcasm, irony, qualification, comment or edit. One would be indignant and respond, “Not for the Jewish people, who had a horrific Holocaust committed against them! Or the communists, gays and lesbians, other 'non-Aryan' nationalities”—and one would be right and righteous in doing so. “Life under the Nazis was a pleasant affair”: Does one think this statement would pass the editorial muster of the New York Times Sunday Review?


The truth is, such a white-wash of slavery and genocide is necessary if one wants to propagate—as Freeman does—a return to the vision of Thomas Jefferson and other “founding fathers” as a solution to the gross inequalities and the social instability of these times.

Not only were Jefferson and most of the “founding fathers” slave-owners, the very “egalitarianism” proclaimed by Jefferson—and upheld by Freeland—was an equality of whites. This “egalitarianism” had its basis in slavery and racism, and the lumping of “Black people, Indians and mulattoes” into a pariah class, less than human. It is on the basis of this exclusion that the Founding Fathers could proclaim the inalienable rights of all, freedom and equality for all—while owning slaves, presiding over and expanding a slave system, and committing the wanton genocide of Native peoples.

The depth of this truth and its full consequences go beyond the scope of this piece, but are brilliantly and penetratingly exposed in Bob Avakian’s must-read work Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy.

But for now, and in conclusion, let me say that no one should take seriously the “solutions” and visions of “freedom” advocated by someone who idolizes a slave-owner like Jefferson while blatantly white-washing one of the most monumental crimes in human history. Nor should they look to the bourgeois mouthpieces and institutions which echo and amplify this bullshit!


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