MARSE: How Racism is Alive in (Many of) Our White Bodies - TODAY!

MARSE:  A Psychological Portrait Of The Southern Slavemaster And His Legacy Of White Supremacy - By: H.D. Kirkpatrick (Prometheus Books, 2022)

This is an amazing book!    It brings in a whole new layer (or way of explaining it) into understanding racism - especially for white people - and even more so for white men.   It is scary reading!    It is a “good” kind of scary!   It helps me open up my heart - more and more to ponder the intersections of the power of elites.  It shows how they play off the “little people” - against each other.  It shows how, by our essential relative silence, we (,who think we are “better” than those “other “ white people,) acquiesce to their power.

The book until its concluding chapter focuses historically on the Racist and horrifically pathological, criminal nature of slavery.   It shows how relatively few major slaveowners deeply impacted the U.S. and the other major world powers.    It paints a picture of “normalcy” that is highly disturbing.   I think of the German People under Hitler and other pathological situations where self-destructive support by “the masses” - perpetuates and perpetuated deep oppression.

Though the book doesn’t focus deeply on women who were slaveowners, it shows how some could be even more visibly cruel, than men in more than token cases.

The incredibly important message - such as how - mainstream Christianity - was weaponized - by slaveowners and their wealthy supporters, is incredibly relevant today.  We - who are white (particularly, though far from exclusively male) - face Huge Systemic Issues today - with many, many clear parallels to the worlds of the wealthy slaveowners of 1830-1861.    It doesn’t take that much - to at least superficially see how the formal ending of slavery in 1863 and 1865, didn’t end the oppression of Black People.

For most of us white people, we don’t live in a world where - reparations - Today - which really, deeply impact us for the coming years of our lives - seem critically important.      We, the “normal” people, are similar to many police departments - where huge monetary settlements - Never result in individuals in the police departments, and the departments themselves- losing money from their income/budgets.   We aren’t Accountable - and this failure - goes very far beyond simple basic monetary issues.

Imagine - for example -  that Black and Latino - women and trans folks - being the directors of perhaps 20-40% of the mainstream movies put out in 2023.   Imagine public schools -  (particularly those) which are majority, or largest plurality white, where in multiple disciplines - the foci - will substantially relate to Black, Latino and other immigrant related - themes, authors, outside producers of video materials, and much more.   Multiply these examples - in many - similar areas, and we could have a far, far different world today.  

We are open to tinkering with “the system”.   We are resistant - where its impact seemingly may “hurt” us or may require us to give up substantial power and control now.

HD Kirkpatrick - at the end of this wonderful book, opens up the door - for us to start the important conversations.  He invites us to “walk the walk” - not just superficially appoint - an outside expert, and then minimally change things at the margins.

From the book:

For example, in October 2017 an African American attendee asked Alabama GOP senatorial candidate Roy Moore at a campaign rally in Florence, Alabama, when was the “last time” America was great.  “I think” Moore responded, “it was at the time when families were united.  Even though we had slavery, they cared for one another….Our families were strong.  Our country had direction.”(10)  The throughline is clear:  “The collapse of the Confederacy and the end of slavery did not obliterate or even seriously challenge white Southerners’ views or the moral superiority or justice of their cause.  Indeed the war strengthened these convictions.”(11).

Many Americans - especially whites - are now seeing one of slavery’s effects in real time.  We have been witnesses to frighteningly frequent brutal slayings of Black men and women by white law enforcement.   The throughline of violence from slavery is that Black bodies have been - and are still today - frequent objects of physical violence at the hands of whites.

This psychological autopsy of the white male American southern elite slave master clearly confirms two facts: One, Marse is not dead.  He is alive, but not well.  Two, features and behaviors of this historical class of slaveholders exist today in many Americans and are the overt evidence of the hidden wounds and trauma left by American slavery, an awareness of which is creating a seismic shift in our national consciousness.  (p.231)

Many white Americans, myself included, have deluded ourselves into thinking our psychological makeup bears little resemblance to the morally corrupt psychological framework of the southern racist slaveholder described in this book.   Most, if not all, white folks have been complicit in pretending Marse is dead.  We whites continue to enjoy the benefits derived simply from having white skin and Black people continue to fear and feel the vestiges of many of the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors deeply ingrained in our white ancestors, whether they were slaveholders or not. (p.233)

This book, along with various other important books, helps provide a pathway - for we white people, especially men, to start talking with each other.   Will we do both the personal work amongst ourselves, and the incredibly challenging political work - to make serious systemic change possible?

The Jury is out!   Meanwhile, I recommend the book.  It’s most easily findable - through the internet, not one’s local bookstore, unless one lives in Charlotte, NC - where the author lives.

Sheila Kennedy - Review  -



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