Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

August 2, 2011

Xanthognosticism and internalized racism

Filed under: race,xanthognosticism — Razib Khan @ 9:38 am

Zach used the term “internalized racism” below. I only know what that means implicitly from context. Somehow I missed having to take any classes grounded in hardcore diversitalk, so I don’t use “privilege” or “other” in a way that’s clear, precise, and derived from book learnin’. I went to About.com to figure out what internalized racism is:

Just what is internalized racism? One might describe it as a fancy term for a problem that’s pretty easy to grasp. In a society where racial prejudice thrives in politics, communities, institutions and popular culture, it’s difficult for racial minorities to avoid absorbing the racist messages that constantly bombard them. Thus, even people of color sometimes adopt a white supremacist mindset that results in self-hatred and hatred of their respective racial group. Minorities suffering from internalized racism, for example, may loathe the physical characteristics that make them racially distinct such as skin color, hair texture or eye shape. Others may stereotype those from their racial group and refuse to associate with them. And some may outright identify as white. Overall, minorities suffering from internalized racism buy into the notion that whites are superior to people of color. Think of it as Stockholm Syndrome in the racial sphere.

This makes some sense in a specific context of de facto white supremacy. But many of those who bandy about the term “internalized racism” are not humble in their usage. Rather, they posit white supremacy and racism as sui generis, an evil to end all evils. Generally I call these people retards, but I’ll use a more polite term from now on: xanthognostics. Xantho from fair, and gnostic because of the cosmology of the ancient gnostics which posited an evil creator of the corporeal world and a good lord of the spiritual world. In the xanthognostic viewpoint the white race are the demiurges of our age, the creators. In this they agree on the empirics with certain white supremacist ideologies, such as Creativity. What they disagree with is the valence of the power of the white race. Whereas as white supremacists see the power as a force for good, xanthognostics see that power as the great evil of our age. Post-colonialism is probably the most prominent sect of xanthognosticism around today. All the evils of the age, from patriarchy to homophobia, somehow trace back to the malevolent influence of the white lords who came and imposed their norms upon the noble existence of colored folk who had previously lived under their own decentralized sexually libertarian and gender egalitarian cultures prior to the imposition of the white man’s ways (A white man, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is an implicit Promethean figure in the xanthognostic firmament).

Now in some cases there seems clear grounding for the charge of “internalized racism,” though the structure of the causal argument I may still take issue with. Prior to 1900 Japanese women with brown hair would dye it black, and Chinese women who did not have the epicanthic fold were considered less beautiful. The age of white supremacy has changed these norms a great deal obviously. These are straightforward cases where emulation of white ideals did occur over the past few centuries. But the racism of Chinese and Japanese toward dark-skinned peoples dates back to antiquity, and was not learned from white people (indeed, the Chinese consider themselves a white people). Of particular interest, the Chinese and Japanese were quite racist toward people who had a European, and specifically Nordic, physical appearance (Chinese witches had red hair and green eyes).

One brown angle which Zach alludes to is the racial hierarchy among Islamic peoples.  The racism of the Iranians and Turanians toward the races of India, whether Hindu or converted to their religion, was pretty clear for centuries prior to the arrival of the British. So what if they intermarried? So did the British, ergo the Eurasians. The distinction between white and black Muslims, the descendants of foreigners and the descendants of converts, was clear in the material of the time (Tipu Sultan faced racism from the ashraf elites. Foreign ancestry was claimed for Sultan, but his physical appearance marked him as predominantly South Asian). Race consciousness was not an invention of the British. When it comes to non-Muslims the issue is more clouded, and the the literary attestations are often quite antique. I don’t feel confident in asserting anything definitively, but I think one can say that there is a case to be made for racialist sentiments even in Indian antiquity, especially from what would become caste Hindus toward what are today the adivasis. A literal interpretation of references to Brahmins being visibly lighter-skinned than non-Brahmins gains some support in my opinions from the findings of the Harappa Ancestry Project, which point to a clear genetic separation between the two classes across much of South Asia even today.

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