Re: what whites think about their own behavior....
Posted By: seshatasefekht In Response To: what whites think about their own behavior..... *LINK* (seshatasefekht)
Date: Sunday, 4 June 2006, at 3:48 p.m.
In Response To: what whites think about their own behavior..... *LINK* (seshatasefekht)
White Racism: A Pyschohistory
by Joel Kovel
During the 1960s, historians began implementing psychological theories to address complex and controversial issues in historical inquiry. Joel Kovel's, White Racism: A Psychohistory, stands out as the most definitive thesis in the area of white racism. Though not a historian, Kovel holds a M.D from Columbia University, and specializes in anthropology and psychoanalysis. In his monograph, Kovel focuses on two themes throughout his thesis: the origins of white racism, and its transformation throughout the course of American history.
Kovel's thesis is heavily based upon Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Freud argued, the origins of personality lie in the balance between the id, superego, and ego. Freud described the id as the unconscious mind of an individual that harbors a human's primary instincts. He further argued, every individual possesses the primitive instincts of sexual and violent aggression. These primitive urges are repressed by what he called the superego. Kovel argues, it is in the superego where racist ideology forever lingers in the preconscious. The superego, Freud argues, vulnerably develops during the early stages of human life. Kovel argues, this is when one begins to formulate the associations, symbols, and fantasies, that stimulate the psychological characteristics of white racism.
Kovel argues, there are generally two kinds of racist bigots throughout the course of history: dominative and aversive. The difference between the two lies not in the magnitude of their beliefs, but in the performance of their superego. Kovel argues, the dominative racist has the weaker superego. They behave in the most racially assertive ways to satisfy both the id and superego. Members of this class would include: Adolph Hitler, Nathan Bedford Forest, Roy Bryant, George Wallace, etc. Kovel classifies the second group as Aversive racists. The aversive racist maintains the same unconscious/preconscious racist beliefs as does the dominative racist. They differ only in the performance of their superegos. The aversive racist maintains a more powerful and controlling superego, to repress the primitive needs of the id. They generally act passively towards other races, but still maintain a personal/private racist ideology.
Kovel dedicates much of his research on the origins and formulations of racist ideology. Kovel argues, racist ideology is based on inner fantasies, symbols, and associations. Fantasies, Kovel argues, develop during the most crucial stage of personality development-the childhood years. Racist ideology does not necessarily need to be nurtured during these years. An individual can develop racist ideology through natural-biological associations. These biological associations are developed through the formation of fantasies.
Racist fantasies, Kovel argues, develop during the anal stage of early childhood development. Kovel is convinced the anal phase is so important in the discussion of racism, because this when the child begins to detach himself from his mother and establish himself as a separate person. During this stage of early childhood development, children begin the crucial stage of potty training and begin to formulate universal fantasies and associations of dirt. The characteristics of human excrement, particularly feces, is that of dark, bad, and deplorable odor. The fantasies of dirt-like-feces, then becomes the recipient of one's anger, unconsciously existing in an individuals id. The separateness that is created through the act of potty training further compliments these associations. Both these fantasies create the underlying causation of black racism: segregation and the symbolic associations of dirt-African Americans.
In addition to the fantasies that arise from potty training, Kovel argues, children begin to fantasize about the meaning of blackness. Fantasies that are associated with the term blackness, commonly produce negative connotations. Whether it be through a child's fear of darkness, or other negative associations of blackness such as: dirty, smelly, devilish, etc., children unconsciously store these fantasies in their superego. Human's harbor these particular fantasies throughout life. Kovel argues, the principal association of African-Africans is blackness.
The fantasies, symbols, and associations described above, infinitely exist in the superego. The possible consequences of these inner thoughts is determined by the condition of the superego. As compared to the dominate racism that initially began with the institutionalization of colonial slavery, Kovel argues, racist ideology towards African-Americans has progressively weakened through the democratization of American society. The social advancement of African-American's gradually improves universal social norms and values. Kovel argues, the primitive needs of the id are forever absolute, but, the condition of the superego transforms to current sociological norms and values. In contemporary American society, Kovel would argue, the dominative racist has generally perished, while the adversive racist is still prevalent.
Joel Kovel offers a unique yet controversial theis to the historiography of white racism. His thesis is convincing, but seems exagerated at times. If you do not subsribe to classical Freudian theory I do not recommened this monograph. However, if you do not accept general pyschoanlysis, this book is an informative and interesting read.
Brian R. DeDentro
(Rhode Island College)
January 27, 2006
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