This past summer I took Race and Political theory with James Chamberlain. I was introduced to a wide variety of literature and texts during the intensive course but one book that stuck out was “Racial Contract” by Charles Mills.
Mills begins his book with a quote, “When white people say ‘Justice,’ they mean just us.” In today’s society there are formal contracts and informal contracts. For example, a contract signed to lease out a property could be formal while an agreement and the understanding to maintain low noise levels inside your dorm is informal. Mills opens up a third dimension, the unspoken and often overlooked set of contracts: the racial contract, the social contract and the sexual contract, which are unjust and prejudiced. The racial contract is an explanation of how today’s society across the globe is shaped to benefit only the whites.
Scientifically, skin color is determined by the amount of melanin people have. The more melanin, the darker the skin. This scientific phenomenon has been the reason for centuries of unjust practices against the darker skin. Mills defines white supremacy as a particular power structure of formal or informal rule, socioeconomic privilege and norms for the differential distribution of material wealth and opportunities, benefits and burdens, rights and duties. Historically, many societies have seen supremacist behaviors. For instance, the shudras in India who faced years of dominance from the upper castes or the Burakamin tribe in Japan, who were treated as outcasts and forced out of villages.
Mills says in his book, “White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today. You will not find this term in introductory or even advance texts. A standard undergraduate philosophy course will start off with Plato and Aristotle and end with Rawls and Nozick. It will introduce you to notions of aristocracy, democracy and liberalism. Though it covers more than two thousand years of western political thought, there will be no mention of the basic political system that has shaped the world for the past several hundred years. This omission is not accidental, rather, it reflects the fact that standard textbooks have for the most part been written by whites.”
Isn’t it troubling, what we read and learn in college is mostly white men center staging their views? And this extends to varied disciplines. What we know and consider as a fact is just one point of view, or as a journalist would call it, one side of the story. The other side has been conveniently kept under wraps, adhering to the unspoken, unnamed white supremacy Mills discusses.
The beneficiaries of the racial contract deny the existence of any contracts, and it only stems from being on the advantageous side of the agreement. The system in place works for whites and that is the universal truth proved by series of events in history and in modern times.
According to a research study conducted by Pew, the wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households, which in absolute numbers are roughly $111,146 for whites and $7,113 for blacks. This is a huge economic divide between the two races and usually takes generations to fill up. It does not take a rocket science to predict who will continue to win the race to the delusional American dream. A black woman living in Greenwood, Mississippi, will never have the same opportunities and resources as a white man born in the same town with 13 times more wealth. There is a divide, injustice and inequality. This divide is a result of years of oppression and injustice. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can drive ourselves toward the goal of justice for all races.
We have become victims of this contract through the cunning literature, films and representation in various forms of media, be it television, radio or print. Ask an expert in Hollywood and they will tell you the writer’s room for producing television or film is all white. This brings forth the question, why is there only one black TV show producer in the industry? Why are black stereotypes like the “Mammy” played by an old black woman who takes care of her master’s children, or the ‘gangsta,’ the buffoon shoved down our throats every time we switch on the television? Think about it, folks.
Joseph Goebbels, a minister under Hilter’s Nazi Germany often said, “Tell a lie a hundred times and it becomes the truth.” I’m afraid that is what the racial contract has done to society. It has created a lie that whites are supreme and all other skin colors are inferior. This has been told a million times, through actions, policies and various political systems. Now we live in a disabled society where only few speak up against racial injustice and inequality. The sooner we accept the existence of the contract and refuse to be signatories of it, the further we progress toward a society where race will be reduced to the most irrelevant characteristic a person possesses.