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Noam Chomsky: Slavery and White Fear of Revenge 'Deeply Rooted in American Culture'

March 19, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

Chomsky looks at the roots of American racism and genocide.

American culture is imbued with fears that African Americans will someday repay the violence and oppression that has marred their history in this country, according to linguist and cultural critic Noam Chomsky. Speaking with philosopher George Yancy about the roots of American racism, from Native American genocide to anti-black discrimination, Chomsky emphasized the ongoing impact of black enslavement and subjugation in the U.S., saying “fears that the victims might rise up and take revenge are deeply rooted in American culture, with reverberations to the present.”

Chomsky was speaking with Yancy as part of an ongoing New York Times series of discussions around race. Early in the conversation, Yancy noted that contemporary American conversations about terrorism often omit “the fact that many black people in the United States have had a long history of being terrorized by white racism.” Chomsky cited the fact that slaves had arrived in the colonies 400 years ago, and were largely responsible for America’s early economic strength.

“We…cannot allow ourselves to forget that the hideous slave labor camps of the new “empire of liberty” were a primary source for the wealth and privilege of American society, as well as England and the continent. The industrial revolution was based on cotton, produced primarily in the slave labor camps of the United States.”

Slaves were highly efficient producers, Chomsky states, and “[p]roductivity increased even faster than in industry, thanks to the technology of the bullwhip and pistol, and the efficient practice of brutal torture.”

With the end of slavery came an immediate need to criminalize African Americans to ensure a bustling—and free—labor force. Chomsky notes “that blacks were arrested without real cause and prisoners were put to work for these business interests. The system provided a major contribution to the rapid industrial development from the late 19th century.”

More recently, Reagan helped drive this process of profiteering off the criminalizing of black bodies through the war on drugs. Chomsky says the policy “initiated a new Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s apt term for the revived criminalization of black life, evident …read more


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