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Prof. Joe Feagin: 83 Percent of US History Is Slavery and Jim Crow Segregation.

TEHRAN (FNA)- Discrimination against the African-Americans has been rampant and ubiquitous throughout the contemporary US history, a renowned sociologist tells Fars News Agency.

Prof. Joe Feagin believes that the United States is the only Western nation "founded on 246 years of African-American slavery" followed by 90 years of racial segregation laws known as the Jim Crow laws. This means, that about 83 percent of the US history is predicated on racism and discrimination against the blacks, Prof. Feagin says.

The recent racist attacks on the unarmed black men by the police officers in different US cities and their subsequent acquittal has stirred a heated debate across the world regarding the costs imposed on the US government's reputation through the racist practices of the law enforcement officials and the indifference of the judicial body to the plight of the African-American community.

Prof. Joe Feagin says that racism has been institutionalized in the American society and the police officers simply practice what they have been taught.

The noted American sociologist believes that the wide economic gap between the black and white families in the United States and the striking difference in their household wealth is due to the concerted efforts carried out in the recent decades to keep the African-Americans impoverished and make the white privileged.

"The racial inequality is substantially inherited from [the] past unjust enrichment of whites and unjust impoverishment of African Americans and other Americans of color. That is foundational and systemic, and backed up by the commitment of most whites to the old white racial frame -- with its assumption of white superiority and the inferiority of Americans of color," he said.

Joe R. Feagin is a sociologist, social theorist and Ella C. McFadden and Distinguished Professor at Texas A&M University. He has carried out extensive research work on racial and gender issues and recorded the long history of discrimination against the ethnic minorities in the United States in more than 60 books he has published.. One of his recent books is "Latinos Facing Racism: Discrimination, Resistance, and Endurance" co-written with Jose A. Cobas in 2014. He has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize one time for his 1973 book "Ghetto Revolts: Politics of Violence in American Cities." Feagin is the recipient of several academic awards, including the Harvard Alumni Association achievement award in 2006.

FNA spoke to Prof. Joe Feagin, the former President of the American Sociological Association regarding the roots of racism in the United States and the role race plays in the social interactions of the American people. The following is the text of the interview.

Q: Prof. Feagin; you've imparted this view in your writings that the United States is a deeply racist and sexist nation with an inherent pulse to discriminate against the blacks, Hispanics and women. Do you mean that there are concerted efforts underway to spoil the social and legal rights of the ethnic minorities and suppress them? What can be the reasons for such an attitude? Do you consider the US government to be involved in these efforts?

A: My Racist America book, third edition, provides much documentation from 100s of research studies for my answers to your questions. Here is what you need to understand about the United States.

We are the only Western nation founded on 246 years of African-American slavery, followed by 90 years of Jim Crow segregation -- near-slavery. About 83 percent of US history is slavery and Jim Crow segregation. Whites, especially white elites, greatly exploited black American labor over nearly four centuries now to create much white wealth for majority of white families over those long centuries.

There is still today widespread blatant and subtle discrimination against African Americans and other Americans of color in jobs, housing, politics, education, and the criminal justice system. There is also much unjust enrichment of white families versus black families, in that most white families have ancestors who were unjustly enriched under the 340 years of slavery and Jim Crow segregation -- and have passed that wealth down to current generations of whites. Blacks were enslaved or segregated for those centuries, and have little wealth to pass to current generations. That is the main reason for racial inequality in the United States today; 20 generations of whites' unjust enrichment from slavery, segregation, and contemporary discrimination.

Many US state governments and the US [federal] government backed and helped to create the slavery and Jim Crow segregation systems, which only ended with the third US civil rights law which went into effect in 1969. We were not even officially a 'free' country until 1969, and that is a short time ago in our history. Whites were advantaged for 20 generations, blacks have had official equality only for 1.5 generations. Today, powerful whites, such as the five far-right-wing Supreme Court justices, are gradually eliminating even modest remedial programs set up in the 1960s-1970s to partially undo 20 generations of white racial oppression -- we call some of them 'affirmative action' programs, but most have now been eliminated by conservative white legislators and judges, as of 2015.

Q: You write in your different articles and books that racist practices were institutionalized in the American society and that racism has become systematic in the United States. Figures show that in the recent years, the wealth gap between the African-Americans and the whites has increased dramatically and nearly tripled in some 25 years. According to the Pew Research Center, the median household wealth for a white family in 2011 is $91,405 while it's barely $6,446 for a black family. Do you think that this large gap has been created intentionally, or has been caused by other factors?

A: See my answer above. Most of the current inequality is due to the social reproduction of that unjust enrichment and unjust impoverishment that began in slavery, continued in Jim Crow segregation, and now is impossible to undo with white conservatives eradicating even our modest remedial programs like affirmative action today. Yes, the gap is largely intentional -- and blocking remedial programs now is mostly intentional.

Q: The Jim Crow laws that were in place for about one century were abolished in 1965, but it seems that the legacy of those long years still lives with the black community of the United States. Surveys show that the majority of white Americans have unfavorable views of the blacks, consider them less hard-working, more violent and prone to commit capital crimes and unhelpful members of the society. Why is it so? Why has the United States turned into a society in which "racism is structured into the rhythms of everyday life," as you put it?

A: Jim Crow only ended in 1969, when our third civil rights law went into effect. Those negative views of blacks are part of what I can the white racial frame-the broad worldview whites created in the early slavery days to rationalize why they could and did enslave Africans. Whites made up these fictional racist images of African Americans and other people of color to rationalize and legitimate slavery -- later Jim Crow and now contemporary discrimination -- in their own minds. The white racial frame has a pro-white central sub-frame that sees whites as superior and virtuous, and numerous anti-others sub-frames, such as an anti-Black sub-frame, an anti-Latino sub-frame, and anti-Asian sub-frame, an anti-Middle Eastern sub-frame -- that sees all these groups as inferior racially and in cultural terms. The answer to most 'why' we have racism today questions is this: Whites have intentionally made it so, and kept is unequal -- especially white elite men who mostly run this country. Whites created slavery for 2.5 centuries, Jim Crow for nearly a century, and now often discriminate or prevent remedial programs to eliminate the unjust enrichment of white legacy from past racial oppression

Q: The results of a study by the World Values Survey indicate that the Americans are among the world's most racially tolerant people who get along with the racial minorities easily. This is while there are frequent reports of the growth of anti-Muslim, anti-black, anti-Hispanic and anti-Arab sentiments among the US citizens. How are the study results compatible with the reality on the ground?

A: I have not looked at that survey, but surveys are problematical because the exact wording and translation of questions always affect the answers people give. You need to judge people by their practices not just by what they say in superficial surveys. The majority of white Americans, who make up about 70 percent of the US population, are only superficially tolerant. As noted above, they still mostly look at the world from that white racial frame -- with its hundreds of racist prejudices, images, narratives, emotions, etc.

Q: Why are the law enforcement and judicial bodies in the United States so biased against the ethnic minorities and the blacks in particular? There have been several reports of the killing of unarmed black men by the police officers in different US cities in the recent months, prompting widespread protests across the nation. Are the police cops instructed to treat the blacks discriminatorily, or is it the individual mistreatment by a certain number of officers who break the rules and insult and beat the white men following profiling them racially?

A: Most white police officers operate out of the same white racial frame, with its anti-black sub-frame, that other whites operate out of. Most have had little or no anti-racism training. They have had little in the way of education in our racist history, in systemic racism today, in the problems of the white racial frame. We in United States provide very little anti-stereotyping or anti-racism education for any people in the US population

White police officers are usually working class and lower middle class men who have been taught negative images of African Americans and other dark-skinned Americans by kin, peers, and the media all their lives.

And it is true that most of the police brutality in the United States is done by a minority of the police officers, not the majority. But the majority supports that minority of offenders, because of the strength of the buddy system among US police officers, not willing to inform on fellow officers, etc.

Q: Do you think that it's possible to separate racism from the American lifestyle and worldview, while you say that racism has been ingrained into the daily lives of the majority of white Americans who believe they have a natural and inalienable right to be superior to the blacks and other ethnic minorities?

A: The racial inequality is substantially inherited from [the] past unjust enrichment of whites and unjust impoverishment of African Americans and other Americans of color. That is foundational and systemic, and backed up by the commitment of most whites to the old white racial frame -- with its assumption of white superiority and the inferiority of Americans of color. And most whites want no reparations and major remedies for their unjust enrichment today. And there is little anti-racism education going on. There is little deframing and reframing of whites away from the white racial frame. That is the fundamental problem. The past is crashing into the present.

Q: Has the American society achieved some degree of color-blindness? After more than two centuries, the Americans elected a black president in 2008, apparently indicating that African-Americans can make significant social or political progresses. However, it seems like President Obama hasn't been able to address the problems facing the African-American community. Is it that he didn't give priority to the concerns of the blacks or didn't have the sufficient authority to take care of them?

A: We are not remotely colorblind or post-racial, as you see above. We are still systemically and foundationally racist. 80 percent of our Congress is white, 80 percent is male. And most in Congress are from the top 10 percent of well-off Americans. 90 percent of our top corporate executives are elite white men, even though we white men make up about 29 percent of the adult US population

As for Barack Obama, he lost the white vote badly in 2008 and 2012. See my book, Yes We Can? [published by] Routledge for details. Thus, he was only elected because voters of color overwhelmingly voted for him. White conservatives, mostly Republicans, have the wealth and the power still today for reasons noted above, and they have gerrymandered state congressional representation to gain control of the US Congress. He cannot address most of the problems faced by moderate income Americans, including people of color, without control of both houses of Congress. He has done some very good things on his own, such as increased prosecuting of our civil rights laws and health care reforms, and immigration reform.

White conservatives, mostly elite white men, still control our two major congressional bodies, most state legislatures, most major corporations, and many other major US institutions. That is why we still are a systemically racist country where whites as a group are unjustly enriched and many people of color are unjustly impoverished. Whites, especially elites, have made that so.

Interview by Kourosh Ziabari

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Date:Jan 29, 2015
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