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The Abolition of White Democracy

Joel Olson
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 230
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  • Book Info
    The Abolition of White Democracy
    Book Description:

    Joel Olson contends that, given the history of slavery and segregation in the United States, American citizenship is a form of racial privilege in which whites are equal to each other but superior to everyone else. To break this pattern, Olson suggests an “abolitionist-democratic” political theory that makes the fight against racial discrimination a prerequisite for expanding democratic participation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9557-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introducing the White Democracy
    (pp. xi-xxx)

    Racial discrimination has no place in a democratic society. There is little disagreement with that. It embodies inequality, intolerance, exclusion, and injustice. Democracy, on the other hand, stands for equality and freedom. Democratic citizenship is inclusive of all members of a polity while racial oppression actively prohibits certain people from exercising their rights as citizens. Yet in spite of these sharp contrasts, racial matters pervade nearly every aspect of life in the United States. Race influences where we live, the schools we attend, the friends we make, the votes we cast, the opportunities we enjoy, even the television shows we...

  5. CHAPTER 1 A Political Theory of Race
    (pp. 1-30)

    Two truisms dominate contemporary discussions about race in the United States. The first is that the nation has gone “beyond Black and white.” While it was never strictly biracial, increased immigration and rising intermarriage rates have made the country definitively multiracial. The second is that race is “socially constructed.” It is not a product of physiological characteristics, genetics, ancestry, or behavior, but of social relations and historical contexts that reflect existing distributions of power. The latter truism is embraced more by the academy than the general population, but its effects are spreading beyond the university, such as in the Office...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Problem of the White Citizen
    (pp. 31-64)

    Two public acts characterized the democratic will of antebellum America: the vote and the riot. The age that heralded the rise of the first mass democracy in the world was also one of the most violent, turbulent times in American history. Riots, lynch mobs, insurrections, and other disturbances swept the urban landscape like a panic. In 1835 alone, seventy-one people died in 147 riots across the country. Between 1830 and 1865 over seventy percent of all cities with a population of 20,000 or more experienced some kind of major civil disorder.¹ Jacksonian mobs rioted for many reasons but the greatest...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Peculiar Dilemma of Whiteness
    (pp. 65-94)

    In 1860, an Alabama fire-eater named William L. Yancey proclaimed to a Northern audience, “Your fathers and my fathers built this government on two ideas: the first is that the white race is the citizen, and the master race, and the white man is the equal of every other white man. The second idea is that the Negro is the inferior race.”¹ In 1962, Alabama governor George Wallace proclaimed at his inaugural address, “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” William Yancey presumably died with his politics intact. But thirty years after his famous speech, Wallace would say that segregation was...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Failure of Multiculturalism and Color Blindness
    (pp. 95-124)

    On 27-31 July 1997, police of officers in Chandler, Arizona, a rapidly growing suburb south of Phoenix, conducted a massive sweep of downtown, searching for illegal aliens. Working with local Immigration and Nationalization Services officials, they stopped people with brown skin at random and greeted them in Spanish. If the person replied in Spanish, they demanded to see papers proving legal residency. In the process of arresting and deporting 432 people, they stopped thousands of people who were playing soccer, hanging out at their apartment complexes, or walking down the street. Sometimes entire families were searched. No white people were...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Abolition-Democracy
    (pp. 125-146)

    One of the great stories about Malcolm X is how his views on white people changed after his pilgrimage to Mecca. While making his Hajj in 1964, he observed people of all colors living and worshipping Allah as equals, leading him to write in his journal that “the whites don’t seem white.”¹ He then realized it was indeed possible for there to be good “white” people.² As a result, he quickly abandoned the prejudice he held against whites when he was the spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Releasing his hatred, he began to judge people for what they did...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 147-190)
  11. Index
    (pp. 191-197)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 198-198)