Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law

Posted in Books, Europe, Forthcoming Media, History, Law, Monographs, United States on 2017-02-13 02:35Z by Steven

Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law

Princeton University Press
March 2017
224 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
7 halftones
Hardcover ISBN: 9780691172422
eBook ISBN: 9781400884636

James Q. Whitman, Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law
Yale Law School

Nazism triumphed in Germany during the high era of Jim Crow laws in the United States. Did the American regime of racial oppression in any way inspire the Nazis? The unsettling answer is yes. In Hitler’s American Model, James Whitman presents a detailed investigation of the American impact on the notorious Nuremberg Laws, the centerpiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi regime. Contrary to those who have insisted that there was no meaningful connection between American and German racial repression, Whitman demonstrates that the Nazis took a real, sustained, significant, and revealing interest in American race policies.

As Whitman shows, the Nuremberg Laws were crafted in an atmosphere of considerable attention to the precedents American race laws had to offer. German praise for American practices, already found in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, was continuous throughout the early 1930s, and the most radical Nazi lawyers were eager advocates of the use of American models. But while Jim Crow segregation was one aspect of American law that appealed to Nazi radicals, it was not the most consequential one. Rather, both American citizenship and antimiscegenation laws proved directly relevant to the two principal Nuremberg Laws—the Citizenship Law and the Blood Law. Whitman looks at the ultimate, ugly irony that when Nazis rejected American practices, it was sometimes not because they found them too enlightened, but too harsh.

Indelibly linking American race laws to the shaping of Nazi policies in Germany, Hitler’s American Model upends understandings of America’s influence on racist practices in the wider world.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Why the Nazis studied American race laws for inspiration

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2016-12-14 21:38Z by Steven

Why the Nazis studied American race laws for inspiration

Aeon
2016-12-13

James Q. Whitman, Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law
Yale Law School

Edited by Marina Benjamin


‘At the bus station in Durham, North Carolina.’ May 1940. Photo by Jack Delano/FSA/Library of Congress.

James Q Whitman is the Ford Foundation professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale Law School. His subjects are comparative law, criminal law, and legal history. His latest book is Hitler’s American Model (2017).

On 5 June 1934, about a year and half after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich, the leading lawyers of Nazi Germany gathered at a meeting to plan what would become the Nuremberg Laws, the centrepiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi race regime. The meeting was an important one, and a stenographer was present to take down a verbatim transcript, to be preserved by the ever-diligent Nazi bureaucracy as a record of a crucial moment in the creation of the new race regime.

That transcript reveals a startling fact: the meeting involved lengthy discussions of the law of the United States of America. At its very opening, the Minister of Justice presented a memorandum on US race law and, as the meeting progressed, the participants turned to the US example repeatedly. They debated whether they should bring Jim Crow segregation to the Third Reich. They engaged in detailed discussion of the statutes from the 30 US states that criminalised racially mixed marriages. They reviewed how the various US states determined who counted as a ‘Negro’ or a ‘Mongol’, and weighed whether they should adopt US techniques in their own approach to determining who counted as a Jew. Throughout the meeting the most ardent supporters of the US model were the most radical Nazis in the room…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

I argue that this phenomenon of the conflation of Obama and Hitler channels racial anxieties, and even outright panic…

Posted in Barack Obama, Excerpts/Quotes on 2012-07-08 00:29Z by Steven

I argue that this phenomenon of the conflation of Obama and Hitler channels racial anxieties, and even outright panic, about a ‘non-white’ president taking office. I situate this panic within ‘whiteness,’ and argue that it encompasses not just the fear of a ‘black’ president, but also the fear of unsettling the purportedly settled categories of race itself. This panic may be muted by the discourse of colorblindness and post-racialism, but finds voice in these ‘hybrid’ significations of Obama.

Cynthia D. Bond, “Fear of a ‘Black’ President: Obama, Racial Panic and the Presidential Sign,” Darkmatter, Volume 9, Issue 1, (July 2, 2012). http://www.darkmatter101.org/site/2012/07/02/fear-of-a-black-president-obama-racial-panic-and-the-presidential-sign/

Tags: , , ,

Fear of a ‘Black’ President: Obama, Racial Panic and the Presidential Sign

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-07-07 20:50Z by Steven

Fear of a ‘Black’ President: Obama, Racial Panic and the Presidential Sign

darkmatter: in the ruins of imperial culture
ISSN 2041-3254
Post-Racial Imaginaries [9.1] (2012-07-02)

Cynthia D. Bond, Clinical Professor of Lawyering Skill
The John Marshall Law School, Chicago

I’ve been wonderin’ why
People livin’ in fear
Of my shade
(Or my hi top fade)
I’m not the one that’s runnin’
But they got me on the run
Treat me like I have a gun
All I got is genes and chromosomes.

Fear of a Black Planet, Public Enemy

I. Introduction

Of all the imaginable racialized backlash, real or representational, to Barack Obama’s candidacy for and inauguration as President of the United States, probably no one would have predicted the relatively widespread depiction of him as Adolf Hitler. Even a cursory knowledge of Hitler’s ‘policies’ as leader of the Third Reich and his eugenicist crimes against humanity would seem to make analogies between he and Obama intellectually incoherent, at a minimum, and otherwise patently outrageous. Nevertheless, this narrative cropped up during the 2008 campaign, where Hitler-Obama comparisons were found on the Internet, even on pro-Hillary Clinton websites (though apparently not sponsored or supported by Clinton herself). After the inauguration, Hitler-Obama comparisons were rife in town hall meetings on the health insurance bill. And they were common in the discourse of Rush Limbaugh, on numerous apparently homegrown websites, and even on relatively benign, apolitical blogs and chat boards like Yahoo! Answers. In 2010, a large billboard posted by the North Iowa Tea Party equating Obama with Hitler (and conflating socialism with both) drew national attention and ire. And in 2011, even the talking heads on Fox & Friends, the Fox News morning show, recoiled when Hank Williams, Jr., compared Obama playing golf with Representative John Boehner to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu playing with Hitler.

Most thinking people would be inclined to simply dismiss these images and comparisons between Hitler and Obama as absurd fringe lunacy or Photoshop ephemera. And indeed, many of these images are graphically contradictory, evoking inconsistencies even within their own world of signification. Some may find these images offensive to the memory of those who suffered under Hitler, but nonsensical in their relationship to Obama himself. And at first glance, the motives behind these messages may seem to be no more profound than simplistic, politically partisan attempts to malign Obama. Or perhaps they simply represent the playing out of the seemingly inexhaustible Hitler meme.

However, the sheer ubiquity of these types of images and references, indeed the viral nature of them on the Internet and elsewhere, makes them more than a representational blip on the pop cultural radar. In addition, these references extend beyond a few marginal Internet sites to high-profile voices of the Right such as Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and others, making them even more disturbing. Finally, these images merit examination because, as Elizabeth Abel suggests, the historic nature of Obama’s election may divert attention from ‘the ways that racial panic and taboo are mediated by the verbal and visual technologies that have always intersected in the construction of race.’

I argue that this phenomenon of the conflation of Obama and Hitler channels racial anxieties, and even outright panic, about a ‘non-white’ president taking office. I situate this panic within ‘whiteness,’ and argue that it encompasses not just the fear of a ‘black’ president, but also the fear of unsettling the purportedly settled categories of race itself. This panic may be muted by the discourse of colorblindness and post-racialism, but finds voice in these ‘hybrid’ significations of Obama.

On a formal level, the internal contradiction and cognitive dissonance of these images is not merely coincidental to the images themselves, but rather reflects the paradoxes and contradictions of an Obama presidency viewed from the position of white racial panic. These contradictions may be read as representational pathologies generated by the perceived plurality or hybridity of racial referents Obama embodies as a bi-racial person. W.J.T. Mitchell suggests that, in the context of Obama as a signifier of bi-racialism, ‘the key to Obama’s iconicity resides not in determinacy but ambiguity, not in identity but differential hybridity.’ And as I will discuss more fully later on, Obama’s position as an apparently ‘black’ man in a historically ‘White House’ also evokes notions of hybridity. Ultimately, these significations attempt to ‘re-other’ Obama now that he has entered the office that most visibly represents the United States as a nation.

In addition, these contradictions in signification may in part result from the difficulties the Right encounters in maintaining its preferred discourse of colorblindness, while simultaneously seeking to stir white racial anxieties to fuel anti-Obama sentiment. Thus, in the Right’s signification of Obama, ‘both the stabilizing project of racial classification and the destabilizing strategies that call that project into question’ are essential to activating, and indeed constituting, white racial panic…

…The suppression of racial signification in the images correlates with the suppression of the central role that virulent racism and xenophobia played in Hitler’s agenda and in the actions of the Third Reich. Thus, there is a kind of ideological ‘whiteface’ in this image; an elision of the way that Hitler’s policies would not even allow for the existence of Obama, much less for a shared political approach.

Yet to say that racial signification is suppressed here is not to say that it is non-existent. In addition to the overdetermined sign of President, Obama’s presidency brings with it the overdetermined meanings of blackness and black maleness. Significantly, Obama’s bi-racialism, in the residual ideology of the ‘one drop’ rule, is read as ‘black’ by most ‘whites.’ As Shawn Michelle Smith suggests, this positionality may have particular resonance in our current historical moment:

Obama is a key transitional figure between the racially divided generation of the Baby Boomers and the future generations that will see the decline of a white majority in the United States through immigration. Perhaps this is why his whiteness seems to matter so much. If, as the son of an immigrant Kenyan man, Obama represents a new kind of blackness, perhaps he also represents a new kind of whiteness—a mixed whiteness to be sure, but for now a whiteness that is tentatively maintaining its hold on an anxious American imagination (or at least its ‘white half’).

Interestingly, Smith’s own analysis here wavers between the narratives of the white/black binary (Obama’s ‘white half’ and ‘black half’), and more fluid notions of hybridity, in which ‘whiteness’ (and ‘blackness’) are remade.

As noted above, Obama’s racial hybridity potentially embodies age-old anxieties about racial ‘mixing’–essentially anxieties about the actual indeterminacy of race as a biological matter. Such anxieties fuel the signification of the imagined boundary that is ‘white/non-white,” which, paradoxically, the Hitler images embody. (Note also the clear binary composition of the image, with its diptych presentation). Under this formula, a white viewer would see the image of Obama, regardless of the colors used in it, as the image of a ‘black’ man, with whiteface techniques only serving to reinforce some viewers’ perceptions of his ‘blackness.’…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

The man of Germanic race on the continent of America having kept himself pure and unmixed, has risen to be its master…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2011-12-11 01:44Z by Steven

There are numberless examples in history, showing with terrible clarity how each time Aryan blood has become mixed with that of inferior peoples the result has been an end to the culture-sustaining race. North America, the population of which consists for the most part of Germanic elements, which mixed very little with inferior coloured nations, displays humanity and culture very different from that of Central and South America, in which the settlers, mainly Latin in origin, mingled their blood very freely with that of the aborigines. Taking the above as an example, we clearly recognize the effects of racial intermixture. The man of Germanic race on the continent of America having kept himself pure and unmixed, has risen to be its master; and he will remain master as long as he does not fall into the shame of mixing the blood.

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, E.T.S. Dugdale, ed. & trans. (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1933), 121.

Tags: , , , ,