History of White People Chapter 4

This is a part of an ongoing conversation sponsored by the Beyond Black and White discussion group. For more information about the book and discussion group see this page…  The Facebook discussion for this chapter is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1082280655149444/

Broaching chapter 4 surfaces mixed emotions, some confusing and others resistance.  I can admit my naivety about the history of white people, which is why I am reading this book and participating in this discussion.  But, this is my disconnect – Chapter 3 identified an active movement called white slavery where Europeans were banishing white undesirables into other spaces.  “Between the beginning of the trade and the ending during the American Resolution, some 50,000 convicts were forcibly transported to British North American.  Shortly after American independence, Britain, in need of another outlet, began shipping  its convicts⎯some 160,000 before 1868, with the practice ceased⎯the Australia, continuing the process for another ninety years” (p. 42).

For me, I am challenged to wrap my head about how this history went from undesirable white people that were shipped into slavery to the concept of White Slavey as Beauty Ideal!  So here we go delving into Chapter 4, which starts out describing Africans and Tartars as ugly and those values for sex and gendered as female – the Circassians, Georgians, and Caucasians of the Black Sea region-came to figure as epitomes of human beauty.  Nell used the word “odalisques” or  white slave women often appearing young, naked, beautiful, and sexually available throughout European and American art.

Yes, I personally could not connect with this image nor did I resonate with the idea of this image as beautiful or sexy, but we are talking about me.  So, let’s move on to discussing Francois Bernier (1625-88) the French traveler and personal physician of the last important Mughal (Persian) emperor of India, establishes an idiosyncratic taxonomy, one keying on four geographical divisions, which in Western literature gives pride to Bernier’s identifying four races.

Something excluded was the history of race in India and that it was the first space that Europeans violated with racist systems that remain deeply rooted through the caste system today in India.  Bernier is noted for identifying black woman as far more beautiful creatures; however, this footnotes disappeared into the fabric of the white story.

The inception of Jean-Baptiste Chardin (1643-1713) highlights behaviors of the Circassians “it is impossible to glimpse an opportunity for thievery without taking advantage of it.  They eat with their hands, go to the bathroom right next to where they eat, and then continue eating without washing.”  What a visual to record as characteristics of Circassians natural nature…powerful…

This characterization that Jean-Baptiste expanded to include Causacisn people, which he described as vile their neighbors are huge drunkards, worst than the Germans, not only do Migrelians consider assassination without compunction, they steal each other’s wives and the women were not much better wearing too much makeup.  The surprise was how Nell intertwined Christianity and the lack of human compassion or sensitivity for another that appeared in numerous unconscious acts of human trafficking…

Chapter 4 unravels with descriptions of white women beauty.

So my question surrounds how the idea of white slave women – Circassians, Georgians, and Caucasians begin a growing commodity to create supply and demand?

We intellectually understand the concept of commercial, advertisement, products and services – what influenced white wealthy men to buy into this new idea of white slave beauty, really?

Posted in BBW Book Club and tagged , , , .

Simona Brickers

One Comment

  1. As I read the post, I pondered several answers that could serve as possible responses. So, I returned to the book, opening the page to where my bookmarker rested in Chapter 5. I read a page of two and decided to seek a holistic response as I’ve read numerous other books since embarking upon the journey to read “The History of White People.” When attempting to examine a perspective from the position of a wealthy white man, an economic status I have yet to enjoy and a very improbably lived experience of me ever being white and male, I can only render assumptions about power, accessibility, and preference. However, to digest the concept of supply and demand is easier to accept. Economic freedoms often carry the falsehood of infinite power, unnecessary want, and the sense to either stand out from a crowd or to belong. When observing the current status of white men wearing the disposition of entitlement as though a garment permanently custom fitted just for them, it is easy to grasp the idea of white slave beauty would become alluring. History shared as a broad foundation that men possess dominance naturally. Perhaps, an inherited quality exists within the Y chromosome that perpetuates characteristics to exploit another. Keep in mind that history often depicts women as fragile and property of men, without rights. So, it would make sense to categorize white slave women as a fetishization of beauty. The idea of purity, innocence, and fragility to be owned possessed and protected as the property they were then and am today. I see it as the opportunity of assertion, the self-proclaimed authority of abundance and insecurity. The theory of belonging remains firmed fixed in the back of my mind as the underpinning to the influence. Great question, thank you.

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