Let’s talk about whiteness. Off the jump, I already know what you’re thinking, “here he goes bashing white people for being white.” Nah, bruh. Like a wise man once said, “this ain’t that.” Lets actually take a minute to discuss what Whiteness is, and most importantly how it came to be such a powerful weapon here in America.
What is whiteness? If I had to guess, I’d assume most people would answer that question with stereotypes they’d associate with white people. Shit like unseasoned food, making a casserole out of anything or listening to trap music on their way to their corporate 9 – 5. You know, shit like that. But what if I told you whiteness itself was an invention intended to socially control the masses? You’d probably think I was crazy, or smoking big dope huh? Well guess what, that’s exactly what whiteness is. It’s a tool used to oppress and control the masses.
I know, I know, that shit still sounds crazy… But if you take some time to study American history, you’ll notice that it’s actually well documented. First, it’s important to understand that race is what’s known in the social sciences as a cultural construct: something that only has meaning within a social or cultural context. There is a biological explanation for why people have variations in skin pigmentation, but it is only within a social context that those variations and characteristics are interpreted as meaning anything specific.
When Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no “white” people there. Nor, according to colonial records, would there be for another sixty years. Now, of course, there were “white people,” but race as we see it wasn’t a category of power or status back then. Back then the only colors that mattered were gold and silver. In other words, you had the working class, and you had the elites.
It’s well documented in American history that America’s ruling classes created the category of the “white race” as a means of social control. In Theodore W. Allen’s two-series book, The Invention of the White Race, he clearly outlines that since the invention of whiteness, “white privileges have enforced the myth of racial superiority, and that fact has been central to maintaining ruling-class domination over ordinary working people of all colors throughout American history.”
Notice that he said, ALL colors. The reason for the emphasis on all is, and you’ll soon find out, that we’re all pawns in this game of social control. The ruling class of America that created the very structure of this country has mastered the strategy of divide and rule. In the midst of our ignorance, they’ve been able to expand their wealth, while faithfully denying our fair share of the American Dream. Buckle up bruh, cause I’m about to take that ass on one hell of a history lesson.
17th Century America
17th century America was a mother f*cker for a lot of people. Many immigrants came to America seeking greater economic opportunity, while some, such as the Pilgrims in the early 1600s, arrived in search of religious freedom. These illegal aliens, I mean, immigrants all came to America for different reasons but shared one major theme in common, opportunity.
A lot of these early colonizers didn’t survive life here in early America. That history we’re all far too familiar with. We all know the hardships pilgrims faced those early years in America. And if it wasn’t for the graciousness of a few Native tribes showing the first colonizers how to grow their own crops and nurture the soil, America herself wouldn’t be here today.
Like I said, we all know about the pilgrims, but what many of us don’t know is that the elites have always had their say so in America. From the shit that goes down now, to way, way back in America’s brutal begin.
England’s first successful colony in America was not established by the English government, but by a privately-owned business called the Virginia Company of London, formally known as The Virginia Company (London Company & Plymouth Company). In 1606 King James I granted the Company organizers exclusive rights (ain’t that some shit) to settle in Virginia. The Virginia Company was a joint-stock company that was approved by King James I to create new settlements in the colony of Virginia.
What’s a “joint-stock company?” It’s a business organization in which investors pool together money in order to purchase stock in a company. The territory granted to the London
Company (the map to the left) included the eastern coast of America from the 34th parallel north to the 41st parallel. The Plymouth Company was permitted to establish settlements between the 38th and 45th parallels, roughly between the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay and the current U.S.-Canada border.
During this era, “Virginia” was the English name for the entire East Coast of North America north of Florida. The charter gave the Virginia Company the right to settle anywhere from roughly present-day North Carolina to New York state. The company’s plan was to reward investors by locating gold and silver deposits and by finding a river route to the Pacific Ocean for trade with the Orient. So in other words, England’s elite, with
the backing of King James I, created the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, Jamestown, to plunder natural resources, and expand their wealth and influence in the “New World.”
Jamestown Colony was the first permanent English settlement in North America, located near present-day Williamsburg, Virginia. Established on May 14, 1607, the colony gave England its first foothold in the European competition for the New World, which had been dominated by the Spanish.
Early Slavery & Indentured Servitude
I started this section by saying the 17th century of America was a mother f*cker for a lot of people. We all know that from the 17th to 19th centuries, hundreds of thousands of African slaves came to America against their will. That’s no secret, and even though many people wish we’d forget it, it’ll never be forgotten. But what is becoming more, and more forgotten is the life of the American indentured servant.
Indentured servants first arrived in America in the decade following the settlement of Jamestown by the Virginia Company in 1607.
The idea of indentured servitude was born out of the need for cheap labor. The earliest colonizers soon realized that they had lots of land to care for, but no one to care for it. With passage to the Colonies expensive for all but the wealthy, the Virginia Company developed the system of indentured servitude to attract workers. Indentured servants and African slaves became vital to the colonial economy.
Not to mention that The Thirty Year’s War had left Europe’s economically depressed, and many skilled and unskilled laborers were without work. A new life in the New World offered a glimmer of hope, The American Dream. It’s important to note that one-half to two-thirds of the immigrants who came to the American colonies arrived as indentured servants. I must also note that a few immigrants also traveled from Africa to America as indentured servants, so yes, there was a lot of black indentured servant who were not slaves. This may be shocking to us, but understand slavery wasn’t tied to race at that current time in America.
Servants typically sign an Indentured Servant Contract which requires them to work four to seven years in exchange for passage, room, board, lodging, freedom dues, and often times large amounts of land. While the life of an indentured servant was harsh and restrictive, it wasn’t slavery. Unlike slaves, servants had laws that protected some of their rights, and most importantly, after their contract was completed they received what was promised to them (for the most part). But nonetheless, their life was not an easy one.
Richard Frethorne, an indentured servant in the Virginia colony during the 1620s, wrote in a letter: “Since I came out of the ship, I never ate anything but peas, and loblollie” (water gruel. Google it. It’s fucking gross bruh). And don’t imagine for a second that those peas Frethorne was gobbling down were some name brand, upper echelon, type shit either.
Nah bruh, in the 1620s, Frethorne, and his homies would’ve been eating on grey field peas resembling more like a kidney stone than anything actually edible. “As for deer or venison,” Frethorne wrote, “I never saw any since I came into this land. There is indeed some fowl, but we are not allowed to go and get it, but must work hard both early and late for a mess of water gruel and a mouthful of bread and beef.”
Frethorne’s letter is a rare surviving document reflecting the circumstances of the majority of English colonists who came to North America in the 17th century. Sounds like slavery? Well at this time in American history, slaves and indentured servants weren’t too far off from each other. In many cases, slaves and indentured servants slept in the same quarters, often ate the same food, and both were required to work from sun up till sundown.
However, slaves were often treated harsher, and unlike indentured servants, slaves weren’t working on a signed contract. They were slaves.
Nonetheless, slaves and indentured servants had more in common than we’d imagine. The largest thing they had in common was their oppressor, the Elites. Most of us believe indentured servitude and slavery ended at the same time with the passing of the 13th amendment in 1865.
But that’s not the truth. According to US documents, indentured servants were officially outlawed in 1827, but the practice itself ended much earlier than that.
The question is, why?
What could’ve caused the elites to give up such cheap labor?
Que the infamous, Nathaniel Bacon.
Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676
17th century America, believe it or not, was just as if not more, integrated back then than we currently are here in 2019. I know that sounds crazy, especially since slavery was legal back then, but understand that race hadn’t yet been weaponized to control the masses during those times. America was, and still is, a country of immigrants (as well as the native people who originally owned this land). Back in the 17th century of America, you had immigrants from all over the world traveling to America in search of a new life.
There were people from African, people from Europe, the elites and of course the native people to this land all calling America home. As I said before, the elites have mastered the strategy of divide and rule, but that wasn’t always the case. In the early begins of America, the elites tried to organize the workers & indentured servants from African, the workers & indentured servants from Europe, as well as the native people, all in an effort to control them and plunder resources.
We must remember that Jamestown and to a larger extent, the original 13 colonies starting with Virginia, was created by a corporation (A joint-stock company made-up of the English Elites) with the main goal of reward investors by locating gold and silver deposits. If that meant exploiting workers, then so be it.
It was under these pressures Africans workers, and European workers untied under a common cause. That cause being, “fuck the man.” During this time in American history, often referred to as the Pre-Columbian era, white and blacks often lived together, worked together, inner married, and even had children together.
It was also during this time of unity, the masses realized that even though they were the ones doing all the work they really had no real control over their own lives. After being robbed for so long, workers black and white alike began to rise and demand more rights, land, and freedom. But since they lacked proper leadership their demands fell on death ears. Well, at least that was the case until a man named Nathaniel Bacon came to town.
Nathaniel Bacon (1647–1676), the wealthy son of English gentry, arrived in Virginia in 1674. He was a cousin by marriage to Governor Berkeley, who honored him with a seat on his Council. After Native Americans killed a laborer on his plantation in 1676, Bacon took on the mantle of a so-called “Indian fighter,” leading a band of men, who made no distinction between friendly and hostile tribes – in a series of deadly attacks.
Bacon then led his men to the capital, where Berkeley and the colonial Assembly were in session, and demanded a commission to clear Native Americans from the remote areas of the colony. When Berkeley refused, Bacon’s men extorted the commission by threatening to kill him and the members of the Assembly.
On July 30, 1676, Bacon issued his “Declaration of the People,” in which he proclaims Virginia’s colonial governor, William Berkeley, corrupt and expresses his displeasure at what his followers regarded as unjust taxation and the government’s failure to provide colonists protection from some tribes of Native Americans. Even though Bacon’s beef was with Native Americans, he also held deep restain for Virginia’s Governor, William Berkeley and the wealthy planters and politicians known as the Tidewater Aristocrats.
On August 3, 1676, Bacon held a gathering at Middle Plantation securing many of the colony’s leading men (around 70) allegiance. The next day, thirty of those seventy called for a new assembly under Bacon’s authority. In the meantime, the rebels confiscated the property of twenty leading Berkeley loyalists.
Bacon and his band pillaged and ransacked tidewater plantations, gathering slaves and indentured servants who shared his destain for the Elites. The elites were shooked, but hope remained as long as the stronghold, Jamestown remained functional. Jamestown was the elites everything. Jamestown was the hub of wealth in 17th century America. Think of Jamestown as the Wall Street of its time, and just like Wall Street, Jamestown was in for one hell of a surprise.
Early in September, Bacon, and Berkeley both prepared to transfer their troops to Berkeley’s Green Spring plantation, about three miles from Jamestown. Berkeley arrived first, retaking Jamestown without a shot on September 8. Six days later, Bacon and his boys pulled up on Berkely, forcing him, on the evening of September 18, to abandon the town for the Eastern Shore.
Bacon and his boys had done the impossible… They forced the elites out and entered Jamestown the next morning. Knowing that they couldn’t hold the capital for long, and they damn sure weren’t going to allow the governor to retake it. Bacon had the bright idea (pun intended) to “laye itt level with the Ground.”
His men ran from building to building with burning brands, torching numerous homes as well as the statehouse complex, warehouses, taverns, and even the church bruh. Though their gains were enormous, they were short-lived. Bacon died of dysentery in October, and elite order was restored in Virginia when a thousand troops arrived from England.
After Bacon’s “somewhat” successful rebellion, and Jamestown being burnt to the ground, the elites were fucked up. The rebellion cost millions in lost profits, but the biggest blow to the elites was the lack of social control over the masses. Bacon might’ve been the face of the rebellion, but the forces that brought many slaves, workers, and indentured servants together were there long before Bacon arrived. Bacon, in the eyes of many historians, was an opportunist who was able to seize the opportune moment to give the elites what many believed was long overdue.
Divide & Rule
When I say the elites were shook after Bacon’s rebellion. There’s no other way to put it. A coalition of workers, slaves, and indentured servants beat the breaks off their ass and left them in a state of fear. That fear, the fear of losing it all, caused the elites to revisit their divide and rule strategy. They realized that they have too many workers and that if those workers got together under a unified front, as they did in Bacon’s rebellion, they could lose it all. Knowing this, the elites begin to implement different tactics and laws that created divisions in their workforce.
For starters, elites in Virginia and neighboring Colonies turned away from using indentured servants and began to invest heavily in slavery instead. This is also when we begin to see a rise in “slave code,” laws across the colonies.
Between 1689 and 1865, Virginia alone enacted more than 130 slave statutes. Virginia’s slave codes were made in parallel to those in Barbados, with individual laws starting in 1667 and a comprehensive slave code passed in 1705.
In addition to switching from indentured servants to slave labor, elites realized that they still had to control the white working-class somehow. However, they had to do it in a way that made the working-class whites relate more to them, the elites, rather than the slaves to avoid another rebellion. They decided that the best way to accomplish this trick was to focus on race. That way poor, working-class whites can identify themselves with the elites instead of the slave, even though they were both being exploited by the same oppressor.
One of the first definitions of “whites” in America, was described as being someone who isn’t black. In other words, it was a negative definition. In 1697, English slave-owners wrote a new law, using the word “white” instead of “Christian.” It declared that “every white man professing the Christian Religion, the free and natural-born Subject of the King of England, or naturalized, who hath attained to the full Age of One and Twenty Year, and hath Ten Acres of Freehold… Shall be deemed a Freeholder.”
That was the first time that “whiteness” was used to determine status.
To ensure their trick worked the elites granted privileges to working whites, based solely on the idea of whiteness. For example, instead of being indentured servants working alongside slaves, elites created slave patrols. Slave patrols, are America’s first police
forces, but that’s another blog piece. Slave patrols were organized groups of predominantly white men who monitored and enforced discipline upon black slaves in the antebellum U.S. southern states. The slave patrols’ function was to police slaves, especially runaways and defiant slaves. They also formed river patrols to prevent escape by boat. But the main goal here is that “power” was given to one group to oppress another, solely based on race, and this will be a common theme throughout American history.
Present Day AmericaKKKa
I know, I know, that was a lot of history to read through. You’re probably wondering, why make such an effort to highlight all that shit that happened centuries ago, or what does all that history have to do with what’s going on today since we’ve passed laws to amend these mistakes?
One of my favorite intellectuals, Ta-Nehisi Coates once said, “I think about history as some kind of planetary body asserting force. Like Jupiter is so big it affects the other planets in the solar system, and I think of history in that way. It bending and affecting the orbit of everything else,” and I couldn’t agree more.
The structure of this great nation was founded on the idea of whiteness. Whiteness, in America, is not about one’s biological makeup. Like I said in the beginning, whiteness is simply a social construct: something that only has meaning within a social or cultural context.
I’ll give you a quick example; When the Irish migrated to the states they were heavily discriminated against even though their biological makeup was white. It wasn’t until they bought into the idea of whiteness, the idea that “we’re not them,” were they accepted in America’s society.
I’ll give you a more recent example; NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw recently got into some trouble for saying something many Americans believe.
He said, “I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. That’s one of the things I’ve been saying for a long time (in other words he’s always felt this way). You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities.”
This might seem like a harmless quote, and some of you might even agree with what he said. But we must understand the main point he was trying to make. That point being if Hispanics want to be here in America they have to “buy-in,” or I should say assimilate in American culture which ultimately means buying into the idea of whiteness.
A threat to whiteness is seen as a threat to this country. Barack Obama was seen as a threat to whiteness, so what did this country do? It elected Donald Trump, who ran on that very threat. In fact, Trump’s huge entry into American politics as we know it was on the idea of Birtherism. The thought that Barack wasn’t a legit president because he was a black man.
Since Trump became president he’s done nothing but uphold the idea of whiteness. The idea that it’s “us” against “them.” The idea that he stands for the working man, and not the “government moocher.” The idea that he’ll keep white America safe from the brown rapist and murders “infesting” our country by building a huge wall. And to add a little extra racism in the mix, he’ll make those same brown people pay for it.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, Whiteness, the myth of racial superiority, is the central tool used to maintain the ruling class’s domination over ordinary working people of all colors. From 17th century America till now. Donald Trump (a fucking millionaire) ran on whiteness, and one of the first things his administrations did was cut taxes for the richest Americans (the elites). Not for the poor, working-class white Americans. Nah, Y’all were just pawns, just like the rest of us, he used to do exactly what the elites have been doing since the foundation of this country.
I hope after reading this piece I’ve inspired you to research whiteness on your own time. Whiteness is a very complex issue, and for one to truly understand it you have to dedicate hours of research to American’s dark history.
For my white friends reading this piece I hope you did so with an open mind. I told you I wasn’t about to bash Y’all for being white 😉 But in all seriousness, thank you for reading this. I know the title is a bit much, but if you know me, you know I’m not one to hold back.
To my brothers and sisters reading this piece… If there is anything I want you to take from this history lesson is the FACT that you aren’t what society has told you are your entire life. That the feeling of inferiority we often feel isn’t natural, but in fact, it’s man-made, and therefore it is bound to fail.
Stay woke bruh…
- Concept of ‘Whiteness’ in America: Evolution & Categories
- The Invention of the White Race, Volume 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control
- The Virginia Company
- The Jamestown Colony
- Indentured Servants In The U.S
- Thirty Years’ War
- Indentured Servant 1627
- “Our Plantation Is Very Weak”: The Experiences of an Indentured Servant in Virginia, 1623
- BIOGRAPHY OF NATHANIEL BACON
- Declaration of the People of Virginia
- Bacon’s Rebellion Facts & Summary Lesson
- The Tidewater Gentry
- Bacon’s Rebellion (1676–1677)
- Slave patrol