LUMPENPROLETARIATSecond Thought has produced another excellent video. However, it seems necessary to define terms. What does it mean to be a “radical”? The word radical, like the word radish, has to do with a root. In the case of a radish, that’s an edible root. In the case of a radical person or activist, a radical is one who goes to the roots, or the grassroots. This is what made Dr. King a radical, unlike the NAACP or other contemporaries, or most successors, of Dr. King. Whereas other civil rights groups sought surface reforms, Dr. King sought to get at the root causes of social ills by addressing the unmet needs of the people at the grassroots, at the bottom, rather than starting from the top of society, or a top-down approach. It seems the bourgeois civil rights groups, such as the NAACP, had internalized the individualistic psychology of capitalist social relations. We made it; why can’t you? It seemed to be a cold and indifferent approach to the lumpenproletariat, to the unwashed masses, at least that’s part of the takeaway from James Baldwin in the film, I Am Not Your Negro.

Dr. King didn’t suffer from the egocentric predicaments, which afflicted so many other civil rights leaders. Dr. King was able to go the grassroots and be a grassroots organizer, be a radical organizer. To look at labor issues, which is the primary issue affecting working class people, people of color, and other low-income people, we can choose to take the perspective of the capitalist employer, the proletarian worker, or both. Most people can only consider the capitalist perspective, even many workers. Others are capable of considering the worker’s perspective. A few can consider all perspectives. We contend Dr. King was capable of considering all sides of an issue. But he always defended the side of an issue, which benefited humanity over the three evils of society, as he referred to them: racism, militarism, and materialism (i.e., capitalism).

American history whitewashes any historical figures or events, which tarnish the purity of whiteness. It may be harder for young people to make sense of the contemporary critique and defense of the white identity. We should point out a few things for the reader, who didn’t grow up as a person of color, facing the evils of white supremacy and white nationalism. As Dr. Ashley Montagu pointed out long ago, race is a social construct. Indeed, Dr. Montagu called it Man’s Most Dangerous Myth. So, we know whiteness is a construct, which did not exist before European colonialism. Colonialism and slavery went hand in hand. Europeans realized that ethnic differences could be exploited to sow division between neighboring African tribes or nations, such as the Belgians did to colonize parts of Africa. For example, racist Belgian colonialists seized on differences of facial features to drive a wedge between the two groups, to accentuate differences, and to create separation where once their may have been unity. The evil narcissistic abuse of whiteness conflated technological superiority with ‘racial’ (i.e., ethnic) superiority. We recall, as Dr. Ashley Montagu emphasized “race” is a non-scientific term for “ethnicity”. So, the identity of whiteness served to create the myth of white supremacy. This myth was also sold as Rudyard Kipling’s White Man’s Burden. Linnaean classification was another important element in the creation of the white identity. The need for a scientific justification for the cruelty and inhumanity of colonialism and slavery led some people to adapt linnaean classification to their white supremacist or white Christian nationalist identity. However, Linnaeas was also a pioneer, or imventor, of the myth of “race” and, therefore, of “racism.” As a brown kid, my personal curiosity, my self-education of the freedom fighters of the past, of the Black Panthers and the Brown Berets, had led me to The White Man’s Burden and to racist aspects of Linnaean classification. Without free speech radio as a supplement to my education as a teenager in California, I might never have been able to emancipate myself from mental slavery, as Bob Marley implored in song. The narcissistic abuse of white supremacy is so powerful that it makes codependent slaves of everyone. The force of violence is, ultimately, used against the most resilient to complete the destruction of the self-esteem needed for self-defense in the face of subjugation. When their ideas fail, they resort to violence to sustain the myth of white supremacy and white identity. As discussed by many scholars, for example, one paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Geneva, 13-15 September 2006.

Linnaeus was also a pioneer in defining the concept of race as applied to humans. In Homo Sapiens he proposed four taxa or categories: AmericanusAsiaticusAfricanus, and Europeanus., based on place of origin at first, and later skin color. Each "race" was ascribed with characteristics that were endemic to individuals belonging to it: Native Americans as reddish, stubborn, and easily angered; Africans, as black, relaxed and negligent; Asians, as sallow, avaricious, and easily distracted; while Europeans were depicted as white, gentle, and inventive. Over time, this classification was used by many European countries to validate their conquering or subjugation of members of the "lower" races. In particular the invented concept of race was used to enforce slavery, particularly in the new world European colonies, and also as a basis for ethnic cleansing in 1930s Europe. Before Linnaeus, "race" had been used to distinguish between different nationalities; afterwards Europeans felt able to identify themselves as "white". The silence about Linnaeus' legacy on "race", we want to argue, is paralleled by Sweden's silence regarding the racialisation of Swedish society, historically and today.

We emphasize the fact that whitewashing is not just an act of obfuscation, or hiding things. It’s also the imposition of the dominant narrative, which is imposed by the domimant culture, which is a white supremacist culture. This culture is capitalistic, as capitalism originated in the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the triangular trade of slaves, raw commodities, and manufactured goods. We contend that all whitewashing seeks to clean away any tarnishing of white supremacy and/or capitalist social relations (i.e., capitalist exploitation). All whitewashing seeks to validate capitalism and invalidate alternative perspectives, including socialist perspectives, hence the whitewashing of the historical figures featured in this new video by Second Thought.



Why American History Whitewashes Radical Figures” by Second Thought, 18 DEC 2020.

N.B.: It seems as of 2021, YouTube has begun censoring educational videos more extremely. This educational video has no profanity and, we contend, is age-appropriate for all students of all ages. We contend that the only reason YouTube is restricting accessibility to this video is due to political persecution and political censorship. The critique of whitewashing in U.S. history and social sciences is a very real and very controversial phenomenon, which your author can speak to from personal experience as a former social sciences teacher in California. There is no controversy about the facts. But school administrators don’t care about facts. They only fear the one super right-wing kid from a super-right wing family. Admins know this is less than one percent of the students, yet they allow one right-wing family to intimidate an educator away from academic freedom and away from professional autonomy and toward group think. And this is purely fear-based and unprincipled reaction on the part of school admins that say: Look, we don’t want to change the world. We just want to go with the flow. Please be careful. Do not appear to be a liberal because right-wing parents will complain. Even if you’re not a liberal or a conservative, you must conform or be marginalized. And, then, we wonder how our nation became so divided, even as we continue whitewashing education.


[17 FEB 2021]

[Last modified on 17 FEB 2021 at 04:14 PST]

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