Episode 33: Made in America (Seeing White, Part 3)

March 16, 2017

Chattel slavery in the United States, with its distinctive – and strikingly cruel – laws and structures, took shape over many decades in colonial America. The innovations that built American slavery are inseparable from the construction of Whiteness as we know it today. By John Biewen, with guest Chenjerai Kumanyika.

Image: Meeting of the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1619. Library of Congress.

Key sources for this episode:

The Racial Equity Institute

Ibram Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning

Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People

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One comment on “Episode 33: Made in America (Seeing White, Part 3)

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  1. Tse-Sung Wu Mar 31, 2017

    I’m going to have to listen to these again, but this is just fascinating work. One thing that alarms me is the idea that racism in colonial America coincided with, or resulted from from a multi-class coalition. One that pits not socio-economic classes against one another, à la Marx, but that pits these constructed races against one another.

    When people ask, why do Americans vote against their economic self-interest, we usually answer it with another description- people vote their values. Well, according to this argument, race seems to be the reason. Indeed, Paul Krugman a year or so wrote about several studies that show a remarkable correlation between former slave States and those that chose not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare; that our nation’s racist legacy is the primary reason we have not evolved to be the social democracies that other English-speaking democracies are. Why this is alarming is that social mobility seems like the great gift of American civilization. Most Americans of humble beginnings who become rich and powerful (or become middle class) are respected as such, and have, for all intents and purposes, truly escaped their origins. It’s the reason we find British historical dramas so entertaining. At least, so our this deeply engrained part of our mythology suggests. It does, however, not apply to African-Americans. My point is, do we need race and racism to maintain that multi-class coalition, the aspirational sense of self that seems uniquely American?

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