Saturday, May 01, 2021

US Race Policy Was A Model For Hitler's Race Laws

An article on Facing South, looks at a German lawyer who spent a year studying business and American race laws at the University of Arkansas.  The article begins with a Berlin meeting, a beginning of the drafting of the Nuremberg Laws to suppress Jews and others and to protect the purity of German blood.

"At the meeting, several Nazi bureaucrats cited the work of a young lawyer named Heinrich Krieger, newly returned from his year studying abroad in the United States at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville. There, he researched how laws across the U.S. segregated and disenfranchised Native Americans, African Americans, and other non-white groups — a legal model the Nazis looked to as a way to control Jews and other minority groups in Germany. Inspiration for the Nuremberg Laws came directly from Krieger's research into American race laws, including prohibitions on interracial marriages.

'He was in Arkansas in the dead middle of the Jim Crow era,' Yale historian James Q. Whitman, author of "Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law," told Facing South. 'He seems to have taken an interest particularly in American Indian law.'

"Krieger's research cited at the Berlin meeting was a review of the history of American laws related to indigenous people, who had only recently been declared citizens under Calvin Coolidge’s Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. For centuries the law had treated them not only as non-citizens but as subhuman, subjecting them to the 19th century's violent Indian removal policies; the Trail of Tears (part of which ran through Fayetteville); the separation of indigenous children from their families, communities, language, and culture; and forced sterilization. Throughout the debates in Germany that led up to the adoption of the Nuremberg Laws by the Nazis in 1935, Nazi officials relied on Krieger's observations about the American laws that governed its brutal treatment of non-white people."

"In March 1935, after completing his studies in Fayetteville, Krieger published an article in the George Washington Law Review titled "Principles of the Indian Law and the Act of June 18, 1934." In it he observed, "[The] Indian, though being a national of the United States, was not her citizen." Nazi leaders were inspired by America's ability to treat marginalized populations as less than full citizens while still maintaining a positive global reputation, so they used Krieger's studies of American race laws as a template for their own."

There's more food for thought in the whole article. 

Republicans decry 'Critical Race Theory' as 'anti-American.' It's ironic.  On the one hand they are encouraging white nationalist fears of being 'replaced' by non-whites and non-Christians.

On the other hand, they get upset when people point out that US laws were racist, took Native American land, enslaved blacks and then after emancipation created law after law to recreate a form second-class citizenship.  

Some of these white nationalists use nazi materials as their models.  But, as the Facing South article demonstrates, they needn't.  Because the US was, in many ways, Hitler's model for how to take away citizenship from non-Aryans.  

Of course, all this is based on a human created fiction called race.  In the early 20th Century, race still referred, not only to the black and white races, but to Jewish race, Italian race, Irish race, and other non-Northern Europeans.  

Sure, there are physical differences between people with light skin and people with darker skin, just as there are differences between people with red hair and blond hair and brown hair.  Between people who are taller and those who are shorter, thinner and heavier, hairier and smoother, more athletic and more sedentary, more thoughtful and more prone to impulsive action.  

But there is nothing about light skinned people that makes them more or less human than people with darker shades of skin.  The power hungry have always exploited these physical differences to divide people who often have more in common with each other than with those dividing them.  

It's time to identify as part of humanity rather than some artificial construct like race.  

That isn't to say that we should abandon the the wide diversity of cultures and languages for one common one.  Each of those cultures and languages represents a group of people who learned to survive the physical and political conditions of the part of earth in which they lived.  Whether it's dealing with heat or cold, tropical or high elevation agriculture, ocean or desert.  Each culture has, embedded in its language and practices, survival techniques that at some point may be useful to the rest of humanity. Or may already be useful, but by designating some group as less worthy, we've overlooked what they know that could help us.  Destroying this huge repository of knowledge would be like burning libraries.  

Humans are in this together.  When we deprive one group, we make it harder for the people of that group to share their talents with the rest of the world.  When we spend our energy fighting each other, we aren't spending it making the world a better place.  Everyone is worse off.

Right now that contrast couldn't be clearer.  We've removed from office the president who has done the most to exploit those differences and set people against people.  Whose mission it was to destroy cooperative efforts among cultures around the world - like walking out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran Nuclear deal.  

And now we have a president who is attempting to get people to build the infrastructure that makes human life easier and safer.  Who is promoting health and education and meaningful work for all people.  Who sees all people as human beings, not as a hierarchy of more and less valuable beings.  

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