White Supremacy: A Capitalistic Diversion
The Jubilee by Margaret Walker gives a groundbreaking perspective on the latent capitalist class struggle, and the birth White oppression. Through Vyry’s life, Walker gave a social context to the preexisting abstract information on the historical conception of White supremacy. By a social analysis of the relationship between actual characters, workers, and masters, and the slaves, and the poor Whites, the writer was able to engage the emotions of the readers. Her subjectivity gave a personal meaning to the objective concept proposed by Georg Lukács in Theory of the Novel. Working in tandem, the subjectivity helped create a social reality people can identify with whereas objectivity solidified the concept’s place along the historical continuum. Through the analysis of Vyry and the relationships between the characters in Jubilee, one is able to extrapolate that the poor Whites were more or less equally yoked by capitalistic oppression despite their illusion of liberty.
During the Bacon Rebellion 1676, Virginian bond workers regardless of race united to overthrow the propertied elite. The workers ranged from West Africans in Barbados to Irish and the Scottish. The real issue was the capitalistic oppression mainly by Anglo-Europeans. The abrupt overhaul of an entire class following the said revolution caused the propertied to reevaluate their strategy going forward to secure their survival. To this end, they created a social buffer zone by giving the White poor privileges. They were made to perceive the inclusion into the White race as a privilege contingent on ensuring the propagation of Black subjugation. The poor Whites were given social mobility only a stratum higher than the African American bond servants. Prior to the above political strategy racial tension was non-existent.
By giving them the illusion of superiority, their focus shifted from the owners of means of production to the Black slaves. All the while, the capitalistic exploitation of the slaves by the plantation owners persisted. The diversion would only work if the Blacks were denied the privileges. These were the right to bear arms, to own property, to marry and get an education among others. It follows that despite Vyry being a mulatta with blonde hair and blue eyes almost identical to her White sister, she was condemned to servitude for the entirety of her life. The generational bondage was to secure social stability as well as ensure that labor for the plantations remained abundant. Even free African Americans were denied the above privileges to seal any loophole that may help the current bondservants permeate into liberty.
The White poor were condemned to spectators forced to be content with the illusion of liberty. As the plantation owners had already taken up most of the arable land, the White poor farmed only for subsistence. De-linked from the capitalistic economy, they became unnecessary beyond their buffer role. The Black bonds men produced the raw materials in the South towards mass production in England and North. As such, the racial tension was an effective way to vent the Whites pent up frustrations. They hated both the plantation owners and the slaves. The slaves perceived them as White trash too lazy to work for a living. The meager wages that the White poor received hardly elevated them higher in the food chain hierarchy.
By limiting the progress of White poor, the Black were coaxed into the believing that slavery was better than the unkown. The emotional and psychological turmoil caused upon the Blacks emanated from the lack of stability in their lives. From her formative age, Vyry came to understand that family especially made of female companions was fleeting. She was born the personification of John Marsey’s, her father, infidelity thus the natural object of hatred by Missy, the scorned wife. Her mother died in the course of her duty as childbearing machine; a glimpse of Vyry’s gloomy future. All her female companions had been either uprooted from her life through death or auctioned to the highest bidder. Her final support system Aunty Sally epitomized the frustration experienced by Black folk in the world. She waited upon the lord to bring forth a deliverer. Finally, she found a way out through marriage to Randall Ware, a learned and relatively financially stable Negro who was smitten by her from first sight. Devoid of the privilege of official marriage, they subsequently “jumped the broom” and proceeded with life.
The deprivation of essential privileges such as education and the stability of a family were essential in keeping the Blacks enslaved. Ware had promised to buy Vyry’s freedom come the next auction but she was in a dilemma. As much as she wanted freedom in light of newly found class-consciousness, she was scared of the unknown. Her love affair with the familiar persists throughout the novel. Having resigned to a life of servitude, fully integrated into the chattel slave system from birth, contemplating freedom was out of question. Her ambivalence led her to sabotage her own future though inadvertently. She sent a mentally challenged to deliver a critical message that may have jeopardized both their lives. Her lack of education made her rationalize sending the slow child. Conversely, she had no support system to relay such confidential information as she did not interact with males and her female friends were gone. Afterwards, she attempted to escape twice but failed both times. The second time was because of her illiteracy, as she let her prevalent maternal instincts to carry their children overwhelm her compromising her exit from enslavement. She lacked the foresight present in Randall that they would return for the babies after they had gained the social class advantage.
Considering what was at stake, the plantation owners used institutionalized terror to keep the bondservants in check with the White poor being the enforcers. Grime, the main enforcer was a manifestation of the lie as he was given a position of authority over the Blacks but the said authority did not translate to any material possession. After the near-death punishment meted to Vyry, her desire for freedom was extinguished. Subsequently, she opted for a more complacent life as a slave. Even after the Declaration of Emancipation, she opted for a safer companion in Inn rather than her own true love Randall. Her colonized worldview made her the biggest impediment to her liberation. She could relate more to Inn, a former bondsman, than, a wealthy, literate Black born free, Randall. It follows that she even rationalized Inn beating her first born with Randall, Jim. She saw that violence was the only approach of punishment Inn ever knew. The above magnifies the repercussions of a broken will and subjugated mentality as she rejected Randall who knew better.