Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Nazis learned much of what they knew about racial persecution from the United States



By the time that Hitler rose to power, the United States “was not just a country with racism,” Whitman, the Yale legal scholar, wrote. “It was the leading racist jurisdiction—so much so that even Nazi Germany looked to America for inspiration.” The Nazis recognized the parallels even if many Americans did not.

Wilkerson, Isabel. Caste (Oprah's Book Club) (p. 81). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

As a student I learned about the horrors of the Nazi genocide, but nobody told me before Isabel Wilkerson in her book Caste, in chapter eight, “The Nazies and the Acceleration of Caste”, that the system in the United States was the archytypcal model for the Nazis policies and practices.

The Nazis learned from Americans about how to differentiate racial categories with Blood Laws and Association Clauses. The Nazis learned about miscegenation laws, and how to restrict movement. The Nazis learned how to strike terror in the population to coerce compliance with their racial purity policies. 

The idea that the United States caste system with its policies and practices was the basis for the largest genocide in human history is appalling. And yet when one steps back and takes a look with perspective, its is easy to understand how the United States system of enslavement with the dehumanizing of groups of people allowing their exploitation, abuse, and subjugation,would lead to he Nazi genocide. The Nazi program became a logical development of such an ideology of dehumanization allowing for a set of cruel  and deadly practices.

  1. To what extent do you agree with Wilkeron’s analysis that  the policies that lead to the Nazi Holocaust were based on American policies and practices?
  2. Have you ever been taught or made aware of this connection before?
  3. We, Americans, embrace our exceptionalism when it comes to democratic values, but our economic system has been built on the most undemocratic practices of enslavement and separation of groups of people into a caste system which is rarely recognized and acknowledged. What do you think about reparations and nationally taking responsibility for atoning for our national sin of not only operating this system but exporting it to Europe?


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