"White Supremacy" is a classic essay on race relations in South Africa and the U.S., from colonial times to the mid-20th century. In theory, the book is a "comparative history" (whatever that means). In reality, it reads more like two parallel histories, with much jumping back and forth, and some of the comparisons of South African and American experiences are strained (such as the treatment of industrialization). Nevertheless, just about every page is packed with ideas that illuminate fundamental issues in U.S. and South African history. It's great.
I took off one star for two reasons: First, the analysis is drawn from secondary sources and presented at a high level of abstraction, like sociology rather than history. History fans looking for human color or telling details will be disappointed. Second, the author devotes as much attention to South Africa's relatively small mixed-race "Coloured" community as he does to the much larger black African population. He may have done so because of the difficulty in making meaningful comparisons between the experiences of traditional rural Africans and those of American blacks who were closely linked to whites from the first days of slavery. In contrast, 20th century Coloureds in Western Cape had much in common with American blacks struggling against Jim Crow and disenfranchisement. But while comparisons between blacks and Coloureds are meaningful, they leave out a big chunk of South African history.
on February 9, 2014
White supremacy has evolved quite a bit over the past few centuries, but the end result is always the same (whites benefit, non-whites suffer). This book is a very detailed and informative look into the gradual development of white supremacy through it's various stages (religious, scientific, biological) and the links American's insipid past with South Africa and even makes the connection between what the British did to the Irish (before racism) and how it was kind of a precursor to what Europeans did to the American Indians. From how white dealt with indigenes of countries they colonized to race mixing to segregation and labor, this book hits I didn't have much knowledge about South African history (prior to Nelson Mandela), so this book really opened my eyes to all the similar methods whites have used worldwide to maintain dominance over non-whites. I didn't even know slavery existed in South Africa and that they shipped in slaves from East Asia. The book explores how whites used interracial sex and half breeds in South Africa to control the other slaves and how whites allowed them to assimilate into their white culture (a warning to all you who promote interracial sex today). I really seek works that help me understand better how whites people think and reading something like this and picking up on all the patterns of behavior by whites and their constant rationalization of their evils (til this day), this book is invaluable as a reminder that I am a victim of white supremacy and their global white empire is an umbrella hanging over my head everyday of my life. It's not comforting, but it's true and knowing that is the first step in improving my health as a victim.