Jack London — Was He a Racist?

Who doesn’t love the story The Call of the Wild? I used to teach it and also Jack London’s doomsday story called To Build a Fire when I taught 7th grade in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

White Fang is another Jack London story that my 8th grade remedial boys liked to check out from my personal classroom library.

So when I heard that Jack London had predicted the pandemic in a story just a couple of years before the Spanish flu killed millions of people, I knew I had to read it. I signed up for it on my library website and then forgot about it.

I picked up my copy on Tuesday. As usual, it was a shorter than average book, only 128 double-spaced pages. I read it in an hour or so.

The Scarlet Plague takes over the earth because it became too crowded with people. The red death is fast and horrible, similar to our Corona Virus. But people are covered with red sores and then die instantly, unlike Covid -19.

Still, the book was interesting because it is set in Northern California where I live. London mentions Santa Rosa, San Jose, Vallejo, San Francisco and my county of Contra Costa.  The few humans who are left to keep the race going have to travel far and wide to find each other. The women are scarce and are needed to have babies.

It isn’t until ten pages from the end when London has his character say these words:

“In time, pressure of population will compel us to spread out, and a hundred generations from now we may expect our descendants to start across the Sierras, oozing slowly along, generation by generation, over the great continent to the colonization of the East – a new Aryan drift around the world.”

One could say that everyone was racist in 1910 or before. London did not know that Hitler would turn the word Aryan into a death sentence for anyone who wasn’t blond, blue-eyed and Northern European.

The definition of Aryan has changed through time, but be assured that London was referring to white people.

A century later, he looks like a racist. One can argue that for his time, he was no different from anyone else in that regard. Okay, maybe we can excuse him, especially if we are also giving Dr. Seuss a break for being one, too.

!00 years later, we still love The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and To Build a Fire. London was a talented author. But we can no longer excuse the notion that Aryan people are superior to anyone else. We can no longer accept the John Waynes of the world who have gone on record as saying whites are superior. See below.

“With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

The dominant culture, the one that promotes privilege for a certain segment of the population, might think so. But the culture is changing in the U.S. Whites will no longer be the majority by 2050.  The white supremacist way of thinking will have to die along with that demographic shift.

We are seeing it now, in the streets. The mostly-white federal government is out of touch with much of America. The white legislators are in for a big shake-up. I write this just a few weeks before the biggest election in U.S. history. Dozens of senators and house representatives are up for reelection. The president is up for reelection. The people are voting in the biggest voter turn-out in decades.

Aryan is getting voted out. Its time is coming to an end.  It will be painful for the next dozen or so years.

I am an old white lady, and I see the future.

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