The Special Relationship: Uncle Sam and Britannia, weapons in hand and accompanied by their heraldic national beasts, stand atop the world. The image neatly captures the racial assumptions of global power, but it errs in its inclusion of the feminine. It is the 5 percent of the human population that is White and Male who wield 100 percent of the power-that-matters on Planet Earth.
HOW DOES A TINY MINORITY control an overwhelming majority? As a young history student, it was a question that continued to intrigue me.
How, for example, did Great Britain, a nation of less than 15 million in 1850, manage to control the more than 190 million Indians? More specifically, how was a ridiculously small occupying force of British businessmen, bureaucrats and soldiers able to subordinate the interests of the entire Indian subcontinent to those of their British homeland?
The answer, it emerged, was that, at its heart, the whole imperial enterprise was nothing more than a gigantic bluff. The British ruled India for more than a century because they could. Or, more precisely, because the Indian people believed they could. The moment Mohandas Gandhi and the Indian National Congress persuaded them to stop believing in the imperial might of the British Raj, its days were numbered.
With imperialism (at least of the pith helmet variety) safely interred in history’s graveyard, it was tempting to believe that the whole notion of a tiny minority controlling all the peoples of the planet had been buried with it. New Zealanders still look back with pride at the role their country played in the abolition of minority rule in Apartheid South Africa.
These were, as Paul Simon told us in his 1986 album Graceland, “the days of miracles and wonders”, and, to many, the fall of Soviet Communism and the triumphant progress of democracy across so much of the Earth, seemed the most wondrous miracle of them all.
So far, so smug: so safely and conventionally liberal.
And then, just the other day, my attention was drawn to the existence of a tiny minority whose power exceeds that of all the nineteenth century imperialists combined. In spite of the fact that they comprise just five percent of the world’s population, White Males control the planet.
I was stunned. In fact, I was in denial. Could White Males – the minority among whom I must include myself – truly represent such a tiny fraction of global humanity? I would have to check.
Not such an easy thing to do.
Since the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945, the entire concept of “race” – of “whiteness” and “blackness”, “Übermensch” (Supermen) and “Untermensch” (Subhuman) – has been declared dangerously unscientific and politically disreputable. As a consequence, the agencies of the United Nations neither collect, nor publish, data on the “racial” composition of the human family.
In order to pursue this question further, therefore, it was necessary to descend into the underworld of what is today referred to, euphemistically, as the “Alt-Right”. For the advocates of “White Supremacy”, the ratio of “Caucasians” (Whites) to the rest of humanity is a very important statistic indeed.
The world of the White Supremacist is not a nice place to visit. It is enveloped in a thick and choking atmosphere of unabashed racism. The fetishization of ethnicity that constituted not only the essence of Nazism, but also of the ideology of “Scientific Racism” (which, alongside the imperialist era it did so much to justify, reached its apogee at the turn of the nineteenth century) certainly did not die with Hitler. On the Internet it is alive and kicking.
From the Georgia-based National Policy Institute (the least sulphurous of the American websites visited) I learned that the “White Race”, which constituted 35 percent of humankind in 1900, had, by 1950, shrunk to just under 28 percent, and was projected to collapse to just 10 percent of the global population by 2060. The present-day figure, calculated at 6-8 percent by the only slightly more respectable CIA World Fact Book, makes the NPI’s projection look wildly optimistic.
In hard numbers, the total of “White” human-beings is generally agreed, by White Supremacists, to be 750 million. With the current human population estimated at 7.5 billion, the “White Race” thus tops-out at 10 percent of the total. Divide that figure by two, and “White Males” are, indeed, representative of exactly one twentieth of the human species.
Such a tiny number, and yet, in every sphere: be it the global financial system; the global media; or, the ability to project decisive military force anywhere on the planet; the power lies preponderantly, and indisputably, in the hands of White Males.
So, how does Donald Trump’s and Harvey Weinstein’s tiny sliver of humanity get away with it? Because we can. Because the rest of humanity lets us.
“You will not replace us!”, chanted the White Supremacists marching through Charlottesville on 11 August 2017.
Yes, my brothers, they will – just as soon as they find their Gandhi.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 17 October 2017.