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According to A People's History of the United States racism isn't natural but is caused...

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sleon1000 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 13, 2012 at 7:53 AM via web

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According to A People's History of the United States racism isn't natural but is caused by "certain conditions."  What could those conditions be?

"if racism cant be shown to be natural, then it is the result of certain conditions"what possible conditions could zinn be refering to???

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 13, 2012 at 8:37 AM (Answer #1)

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In Chapter 2, Zinn discusses a number of conditions that made for racism.  As Zinn is a Marxist thinker, the most important of these, to him, is the economic needs of the elites of the society.

Zinn argues that the planters in the Colonial American South needed slave labor.  To keep slavery viable, they had to make sure that black slaves and lower class whites did not see themselves as having anything in common.  For example, Zinn says that

Only one fear was greater than the fear of black rebellion in the new American colonies. That was the fear that discontented whites would join black slaves to overthrow the existing order.

In order to prevent this sort of thing from happening, the planter elites needed to convince poor whites that they should feel more allegiance to rich whites than to oppressed blacks.  This was one reason for the promotion of racism by the elites.

 

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