People of Color in Predominantly White Institutions


Date of this Version

November 2004


This paper proceeds from a historical study in progress of caste in the United States. That study will argue that the distinctive feature of slavery in the United States was that --unlike in Brazil or the Caribbean -servitude in the Anglophone mainland developed a caste ideal, ideologized as "race ". As with dalits in India, people identified as "black" in what became the United States an excluded hereditary caste destined ascriptively to the meanest labor, and excluded systematically and ideologically from the dominant ("white”) group. Slavery ended in the 1830s in most of the North, but because caste and slavery are independent variables, the United States in its first half century was able to develop an integrated economy, a national culture, and a federal system based on "white" democracy -i.e., implicit acceptance of the caste ideal nationwide by the dominant white group.