America’s New Caste System?
Some have correctly pointed out that the nationwide urban unrest largely stoked and pursued by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is much more about class warfare than racism. Beyond making this observation, it’s important to understand how this is the case. What we may be witnessing is an atavistic return to a pre-Enlightenment class dominated social structure, which resembles nothing so much as India’s historical caste system.
This comparison seems odd, but it’s strangely apt.
Black Americans are being elevated by the media, business and political elites to the country’s virtuous class, based upon a narrative of suffering due to historical and current abuses.
This process has been ongoing for a long time, but has picked up great momentum in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. The evidence of this is multifaceted. Many aspects of black culture have been wildly popular among Americans in general (and internationally) for generations. While this kind of obvious cultural blending has always been a natural consequence of America’s cosmopolitan society, it’s especially evident today in everything from fashion, popular entertainment, music, speech patterns, and much else.
More unusual in recent years is the desire of non-black Americans to be black. The infamous Rachel Dolezal is the most obvious example, but she is hardly alone. It’s generally fair to say that people don’t deliberately try to pass themselves off as a kind of person they regard as inferior. Dolezal not only evidently sought the institutionally favorable benefits that come with being black, but the social ones too -- that is status.
Then there are those institutional benefits, which are ingrained within the culture, but also so culturally sensitive that they often are simply not named. The disproportionately favorable consideration given to black people for higher education, state and federal employment (including the military), government contracting and loans, and private employment too, done under the rubric of “diversity” is a firmly entrenched class benefit.
The new phenomenon of white Americans kneeling or genuflecting to BLM members is as plain an example of perceived inferiority as there is. The bow, the curtsey, the kowtow are all historic physical manifestations of class inferiority.
George Floyd’s enormous and heavily lauded funeral is yet another example, generating wall-to-wall coverage on every network. It was the functional equivalent of a State funeral for a man of questionable character in life, but who as black person victimized by a white man has become a national hero to many.
Finally, the widespread societal acceptance of the BLM mantra, by politicians on both sides of the aisle, major corporations, mass and social media, is itself a statement of black class superiority. The unspoken predicate of “black lives matter” that people dare not run afoul of (most recently for example Ellen DeGeneres) is “more than other lives.” It is now considered socially reprehensible in large portions of American society, perhaps most of it, to utter the phrase “all lives matter equally.”
Let’s not address here whether real historical abuse of black people (slavery and Jim Crow) justify yet additional remedies to distant descendants, or whether less legitimate claims of ongoing institutional racism do the same. The fact is for the most part, the mass media, dominating social media, the educational establishment and the political classes believe that they do. And as these “influencers” go, so often does the populace, if not right away, then in a generation.
Since these ideas are being pushed by the nation’s existing elites, and will effectively establish black Americans as a “superior” virtuous class -- as against everybody including the existing elites themselves -- the question is why?
Obviously black elites benefit from this social restructuring, but why are white elites going along? Because it better ensures their own grip on wealth and power.
It’s important to recognize that social status is not entirely synonymous with wealth and power. Many genuflecting leftist white people are wealthier and have more important jobs than the black people to whom they are being obsequious. But like a well-to-do commoner in the presence of a hard-on-his-luck aristocrat, the curtsey demonstrates relative social position.
By taking a “secondary” social position to their acknowledged black “betters,” white elites reduce lower class pressure on their own wealth and status at little cost. They still get to dominate lower non-black classes, and economically and politically dominate black Americans, despite their own socially “inferior status.”
There is a very apt historical analogy for this, the ancient Indian caste system. In that system most of the power and wealth was not held by the highest class Brahmins but rather by the second-class Kshatriya. It was the Kshatriya that ruled the hundreds of rajas, created empires, accumulated military power and riches, at the expense of two lower classes. The Brahmins’ elevated status was spiritual, based upon perceived virtue, not necessarily wealth or power.
This setup proved incredibly durable, and best served the Kshatriya, as the Brahmin status somewhat insulated the Kshatriya from lower class resentment, while in fact costing the Kshatriya nothing but some occasional deference to their social betters. And in yet another interesting parallel, from the lowest caste developed the “untouchable” subcaste of outcasts, who might be described as a “deplorables,” “bitter clingers,” or “just not very good people.” In other words, a way to completely ostracize opponents.