In addition, the bourgeois revolution, standing against the privileges of the nobility, proclaimed the principle of the equality of all citizens as a new philosophical foundation for society, and as a political strategy to obtain the support of the popular sectors. It was necessary, however, to exclude from citizenship those whose inclusion was not convenient for bourgeois interests. Such inconvenient persons included slaves of African descent in the Americas, the indigenous peoples beyond the territories of the English and French settlements in North America, the peoples of the Spanish and Portuguese American colonies, and the soon to be conquered peoples of Africa and Asia. Their exclusion on religious grounds was no longer ideological functional, in light of the new principal of separation of religion and state. However, the ideological basis for the exclusion of these peoples was found. Taking advantage of the fact that the peoples of Northern and Western Europe had light skin coloring, as consequence of less exposure to sunlight, scientists invented racial classifications within the human species, portraying the “white race” as superior with respect to important human qualities, such as intelligence. So racism emerged as a justification for the unfolding European global conquest, which itself was a reflection of the ancient human impulse toward conquest for economic gain.
The anti-colonial movements forged by peoples of color were able to discredit racism during the course of the twentieth century. But racism remained ideologically necessary, in order to justify European domination in the neocolonial stage. Racism thus took a more subtle form, in which the basic political and civil rights of all persons and the sovereign equality of all nations are recognized, but it takes as given that the underdevelopment and poverty of the peoples of color is the normal state of affairs. It recognizes that some persons of the world of color have high capacities, but it assumes that most people of color, in general, for cultural and/or genetic reasons, are less intelligent and hardworking, which explains their condition of underdevelopment and poverty.
From this perspective of subtle racism, it could not be imagined that exceptional leaders and intellectuals of the world of color would have insight from which all of humanity could learn. Subtle racism therefore is blind to the emergence of exceptional Third World leaders, whose capacities were formed by their vantage point from below and their moral commitment of justice for their peoples, and were demonstrated by their abilities to mobilize their peoples in social movements. Thus, subtle racist assumptions prevent the peoples of the North from discerning a duty to study the speeches and writings of exceptional leaders of the Third World, in which are explained the colonial structural foundation of the present-day neocolonial world-system. Unable to understand the true historical and social the sources of the underdevelopment and poverty of vast regions of the world, the peoples of North are content to assume that it is the natural order of things.
Thus, both racism and colonialism are alive today in a new form. Neocolonialism is an objective economic and political reality, in which the colonial peripheral economic role is preserved in the neocolony, ensuring its deepening underdevelopment and impoverishment; and in which the global powers adopt various policies and strategies to effectively deny the true sovereignty of supposedly independent nations. Subtle racism is the subjective expression of this neocolonial reality. It is subtle from of racism, in that everyone denies begin racist, that is, being someone who would argue that people should be denied rights on the basis of their color. But everyone has racist assumptions, which permit them to tolerate underdevelopment and poverty in vast regions of the world; and to accept ideological, economic, and military attacks on those governments and movements of the world of color that seek to challenge and transform the neocolonial world order.
In seeking to transform the neocolonial republic of Cuba, Fidel Castro’s strategy was to call to revolution all of the humble people, and all who did not pertain to the national bourgeoisie, whether they be black, white, or mulatto. He called the people to an anti-neocolonial revolution, seeking to transform structures established on a foundation of white conquest of peoples of color. Fidel forged a revolution that was profoundly anti-racist, because it sought to dismantle the structural sources of racism in both its blatant and subtle forms; yet it minimized mention of race, discerning the need to avoid arousing racist passions (see “The teachings of Fidel on race” 10/22/2018). Here we have an example of the exceptional political intelligence of Fidel.
Perhaps those of us from societies in which racism is on the rise have something to learn from such political wisdom that has emerged in the revolutions from below, from the Third World. I will discuss this theme further in the following post.