This is the first of a series of posts exploring the thesis advanced by Theodore Allen that the “white race” was invented by a capitalist plantation elite in colonial Virginia in the early 18th century. Allen’s insight has profound implications for reviving class solidarity at a time when the politics of identity increasingly obscures the roots of inequality. Does the concept of the “white race” as an invention advance an understanding of racism, particularly in South Africa? A useful guide to Allen’s work can be found at the Jeffrey B. Perry website.
Some 50 years ago, Indian students from the smallest ethnic minority in South Africa became the vanguard of a ‘black consciousness’ boycott of racially segregated universities. A new wave of public protest emerged breaking a decade of silence that followed the banning of black political organizations after the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre. Continue reading