Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tocqueville Again

It's amazing how often FLG is reminded of two Tocqueville passages. Today, it's Ta-Nehisi Coates:
America has shades of that same ethnic bias, and we're seeing some of it this summer, but the animus toward's blacks is really at this country's roots. It was that animus which was enshrined in the constitution, and central to the earliest conceptions of American democracy. Watching my own son interact with the world, in a way that I did not, I've often felt that there really could be--at some distant point--a postracial moment, minus the requisite irony.

Reminded him of this passage, which if you are a longtime reader is probably old hat:
It is important to make an accurate distinction between slavery itself and its consequences. The immediate evils produced by slavery were very nearly the same in antiquity as they are among the moderns, but the consequences of these evils were different. The slave among the ancients belonged to the same race as his master, and was often the superior of the two in education and intelligence. Freedom was the only distinction between them; and when freedom was conferred, they were easily confounded together. The ancients, then, had a very simple means of ridding themselves of slavery and its consequences: that of enfranchisement; and they succeeded as soon as they adopted this measure generally. Not but that in ancient states the vestiges of servitude subsisted for some time after servitude itself was abolished. There is a natural prejudice that prompts men to despise whoever has been their inferior long after he has become their equal; and the real inequality that is produced by fortune or by law is always succeeded by an imaginary inequality that is implanted in the manners of the people. But among the ancients this secondary consequence of slavery had a natural limit; for the freedman bore so entire a resemblance to those born free that it soon became impossible to distinguish him from them.

For those of you who are wondering, this is FLG's favorite Tocqueville passage.

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