- Politics and Social Issues
White envy of black people: projection of repressed desires
Now, my brodder niggars, I do not think it right,
Dat you should laugh at dem who happen to be white.
Kase it dare misfortune, an' dey'd spend ebery dollar If dey only could be gentlemen ob color.
It almost break my heart to see dem envy me. And from my soul I wish dem full as black as we.
Lyrics to the Original Jim Crow song of 1828
First came black slaves in the USA. For the then dominant WASP population the drive for liberation was partly a result of repugnance for the idea of slavery, but also a desire to bring the slaves, who, being unfree and seen as barely human, if that, were largely exempt from the laws, culture of repression and work-worship imported from the Old World by puritan work worshippers.
Managing a society always involves a balance between personal freedom and social order. In this note I try to show how new groups of immigrants used to personal freedom gradually became absorbed by the WASP tendency to control the population in the name of order, morality and decency. Clearly work is needed some of the time as is self discipline.
Throughout the History of the USA new groups of immigrants from countries not trapped into an addiction to work and repression of basic desires were first seen and treated as Black then assimilated into the dominant white culture, shedding cultural identity, music, dancing, fun and freedom on the way. In the process the White majority projected their repressed desires onto the immigrants, partially demonising them.
This article was inspired by Thaddeus Russell's book A Renegade History of the USA which details the long war Puritanism fought against freedom in the USA, part of which was the war against fun in all its forms. It seems to me that during this period “White” and “Black” were defined as cultural terms with “Black” representing all the repressed desires of the “White” population.
Black slaves developed their own music and dance. After Liberation some worked and others headed to cities to make money playing music. This was not an easy option, for at the time the most heinous social crime in the USA was for Black and White to mingle either socially or sexually. Nevertheless many managed it and influenced white people who became black faced minstrels, a form of entertainment that lasted well into the 20th Century and even invaded British Television as The Black and White Minstrel Show which lasted till the 1960s. Black slaves developed or inspired Jazz, Bebop, the Blues and other forms of music regularly despised by the dominant White culture.
The Irish arrived in droves and were forced into the poorest areas to live with the Black population. Initially relationships between the two groups were good, and interracial sex was common, but as the Irish tried to assimilate into mainstream American culture Blacks were seen as a hindrance and relations deteriorated.
Ever since the Middle ages the Irish had been seen as a barbarous uncivilised people. In the Mid 1800s the Reverend Charles Kingsley saw them as White Human Chimpanzees and in 1862 Ethnologist John Beddoe produced an Index of Negrescence which showed the Irish to be closest to the Negro. In some parts of America the Irish were regarded as even lower than African Americans.
Apart from being considered Black the Irish committed the crime of ignoring the sexual rules such as monogamy that bound the white culture, mixed with Blacks, and were good dancers and musicians, had a sense of rhythm and a way with language. These all made them anathema to “good” citizens for whom abandoned sensual dancing and music were sins that took second place only to sex.
Eventually the Irish lost their Blackness and became accepted as white. There were plenty more groups on whom the whites could project their repressed desires.
“Everybody hates the Jews sang subversive crooner Tom Lehrer. In the US they were hated for different reasons than those prevalent in the Old World. They were seen as Black. In 1910 a Book called The Jew is a Negro was published which claimed the Jew was essentially Negroid in habit and physical peculiarities, having a disregard for social conventions, including those restricting sexual indulgence, being driven by an excessive lust, and excelling in music. This pseudoscientific claim was countered by Jewish leaders with measurements of Jewish and African Skulls and efforts to present African Americans as shiftless compared with hard working Jews. And the Jews learned that to be American meant being white.
So slowly they became White. Giving up their dominance in Boxing and other sports and in music,
Which meant another group carried the can of blackness.
In the 1830s the Italians were compared unfavourably with the Irish, who were regarded as pretty bad. Their dark skin led to suspicion they carried Negro genes and like Blacks they were widely regarded as naturally inclined to criminality and seen by the whites as “taking away our women”
and disregarding sexual conventions. And they were treated like Negros. They did not have or want the Protestant Work Ethic and they happily lived together with black people. And they liked music and dancing.
Groups of White skinned immigrants were seen to lack the Work Ethic and the sexual and other restrictions the dominant culture produced. Although the accusations levelled against them were not totally untrue, they were also projections of the repressed desires and jealousy of the WASP culture. And in each case a large proportion of these groups were assimilated into the mainstream culture of repression, rather than achieving a balance between fun and work.
In the commentaries pundits made on the 2011 London riots one said that the problem was that the Whites had turned Black and seemed to be blaming Black Immigrant culture for the riots. Nothing changes.