History of the US Race system

“But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming ‘the people’ has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair is old. But belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the belief that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes , which are indelible–this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, to believe that they are white.”

TaNehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Table of Contents

The Myth of Race

Racialization of the Colonial Slave Trade

Racialization of American Slavery

The Racial Bribe

Establishing White Supremacy Foundations in US

Flexibility of Racial Purity

Justifying White Supremacy

The Myth of Race

Vox: The myth of race, debunked in 3 minutes

You may know what race you are, but how would you prove it if someone disagreed with you? The fact is, race is a social and political construct that has evolved in fascinating and often confusing ways over the centuries.

Race is a social construct

5 racial categories Five racial categories determined by Johan Friedrich Blumenbach

With the 1776 edition of his book, On the Natural Variety of Mankind, German scientist Johan Friedrich Blumenbach is credited with creating one of the first race-based classifications. He decided on five categories: “Caucasian, the white race; Mongolian, the yellow race; Malayan, the brown race, Ethiopian, the black race, and American, the red race.” Each race was ranked, and he put “Caucasian” at the top. This seemingly arbitrary ranking was the impetus for centuries of discrimination and inequality.

The US Census proves race is subjective

2000 U.S. Census Racial categories in the 2000 US Census

The evolution of race in the US Census illustrates just how hard it is to categorize people in a way that is inclusive and accurate. For example, in 1929, people who were of Mexican birth or ancestry in the United States were considered white. In 1930, they were considered non-white. In 1942, they were switched back to white. These dates are interesting because they align directly with the shifting political and economic agendas of the time.

Racial categories are not backed by science

Map of regions with high rates of sickle-cell anemia

Dorothy Roberts, the author of Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century explains that when the medical community links race to health outcomes, it’s really just using race as a proxy for other factors such as where your ancestors came from, access to healthcare, and socioeconomic status. Sickle-cell anemia is a prime example of this. Commonly linked to race, this adaption is actually a product of environments where Malaria is prevalent, including some parts of Europe and Asia, in addition to Africa.

Although race isn’t real, racism certainly is

March on Washington

The racial categories to which we’re assigned, based on how we look to others or how we identify ourselves, can determine real-life experiences, inspire hate, drive political outcomes, and make the difference between life and death. But these important consequences are a result of a relatively new idea that was based on shaky reasoning and shady motivations.

Dismantling Racism Project Western States Center: A History: The Construction of Race and Racism

Defining Ethnicity & Nationality

(These terms are often confused with race)

Ethnicity refers to particular groups of people that share some common ancestry, traditions, language, or dialect. Before the world was made up of distinct nation-
states or countries, certain pieces of land were associated with ethnic groups. Some examples are:
•Anglos and Saxons – England
•Maori – New Zealand
•Mayan – Southern Mexico/Central America
•Greeks – Greece
•Masai – the Great Rift Valley of East Africa
•Pueblo– New Mexico
As some countries were made up mostly one ethnic group, people began to conclude that
nationality (the country which a person is a citizen of) was the same as ethnicity, i.e. a person from Denmark is a Dane or Danish. But more often the name of the country doesn’t refer to the ethnic origins of its citizens. A person from Spain would be thought of as “Spanish”, although their ethnicity could be Basque, Catalan, Gallego or Gitano. Many countries like Spain are actually made up of diverse ethnic groups. The United States is a perfect example of this reality.
Many people like to make ethnic distinctions as well as national distinctions to hold on to their ethnic culture and identity.
•Italian-American – (Ethnicity is Italian and nationality is US American)
•Chinese-American – (Ethnicity is Chinese and nationality is US American)
Of course, ethnicity becomes more confusing in the process of immigrati on and assimilation. As an example, we know in the case of China there are many many ethnicities and that diversity gets lost often in how people identify their ethnic identity to non-Chinese people here in the U.S. So although a Chinese-American’s specific ethnicity may be Han, Manchu, Yi or another of the over 50 ethnicities in China, here in the United States those differences get subsumed as being “Chinese.”

What is this thing called Race?

Race is a false classification of people that is not based on any real or accurate biological or scientific truth. In other words, the distinction we make between races, has nothing to do with scientific truth.

Race is a political construction. A political construction is something created by people; that is not a natural development; is constructed or created for a political purpose.

The concept of race was created as a classification of human beings with the purpose of giving power to white people and to legitimize the dominance of white people over non-white people.

Click here to  learn the different ways race was constructed in History

This Thing Called WHITE
The term white emerged as a classification of people during the 1700s in the British colonies of North America. Europeans were immigrating to “the New World” for many reasons, some seeking prosperity while many people were escaping persecution, particularly religious and ethnic conflict. As Europeans arrived in America, groups such as Germans, Dutch, English, French etc. were brought into close proximity, most of them for the first time. In the colonies, the European settlers in power were under considerable stress, attempting to maintain control of their African Slaves and their white indentured servants, while trying to protect themselves from the perceived
threat from Native Americans. At this time, poor white indentured servants were building alliances and relationships with African slaves due to their similar state of oppression.
The term white was defined as anyone without a drop on African or Indian blood. The category white was created as a political construct that was used as an organizing tool to unite Europeans in order to consolidate strength, increasing their ability to maintain
control and dominance over the Native Americans and African slaves, which in many places outnumbered Europeans. “Whiteness is a constantly shifting boundary separating those who are entitled to have certain privileges from those whose exploitation and vulnerability to violence is justified by their not being white.”
White is an artificial construct because the definition of white changes due to time and geography.
  • Not everybody has been considered white at the same time. Irish, Jews, Italians for example went through a process of becoming white. This was a process of assimilation that required certain cultural losses in order to gain white privilege and power.
  • Some people who may have been considered white where they once lived (South America for example) when they moved to the U.S. were then considered latino by white society.
  • But just because race and whiteness are constructed, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t fundamentally affect our world in real ways
The Term People of Color
People of color’ is not a term that refers to a real biological or scientific distinction between people. People of color in the U.S. share the common experience of being targeted and oppressed by racism. Unfortunately, one of the ways racism operates is to keep people of color divided. Many people only think about their specific ethnic or racial group when discussing oppression or the need to build political power. By using the term people of color, we begin to push people to think more broadly. We need to build relationships with other groups of color. The term people of color has movement-building potential.”

The Story of Race: A History

Podcast: PRX: The Invention of Race

Podcast: Description
This history special traces the development of racial, and racist, ideas, from the ancient world — when “there was no notion of race,” as historian Nell Irvin Painter puts it — up to the founding of the United States as, fundementally, a nation of and for white people (despite the “all men are created equal” language of the Declaration of Independence). Relying on the work of Painter, National Book Award-winning historian Ibram Kendi, and a recorded workshop presentation by the Racial Equity Institute, host and reporter John Biewen tells a story that names names: The Portuguese writer who, commissioned by the slave-trading leaders of his country, literally invented blackness, and therefore whiteness, in the 1450s, according to Kendi. The enlightenment scientist who first divided humanity into five “races” and coined “caucasian.” The black runaway indentured servant in 17th century Virginia whose capture, and sentencing to lifelong servitude, marked the first official sanctioning of chattel slavery, and the first time a black person was treated differently from a white person in the law, in colonial America. And Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose “Anglo-Saxonist” thinking gets a fresh look.

The Invention of Race is adapted from several episodes of the more in-depth 14-part series, Seeing White, on the Scene on Radio podcast: http://podcast.cdsporch.org/seeing-white/

Scene on Radio: Seeing White

Seeing White | John Biewen | TEDxCharlottesville

PBS: The Origin of Race in the USA

PBS: What is Race

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“In order to explain how a socially constructed category produces real race effects, I need to introduce a second key term: the notion of racial structure. When race emerged in human history, it formed a social structure (a racialized social system) that awarded systemic privileges to Europeans (the peoples who became “white”) over non-Europeans (the peoples who became “nonwhite”) 56 Racialized social systems, or white supremacy57 for short, became global and affected all societies where Europeans extended their reach. I therefore conceive a society’s racial structure as the totality of the social relations and practices that reinforce white privilege. Accordingly, the task of analysts interested in studying racial structures is to uncover the particular social, economic, political, social control, and ideological mechanisms responsible for the reproduction of racial privilege in a society.” Eduardo Bonilla-Silva: Racism without Racists

PBS Race Timeline

Click the link for a more interactive timeline

400 BCE
Ancient views of difference
The ancient Greeks differentiate people by culture and language, but not physical differences. In fact, the word “barbarian” comes from the Greek “barbar,” which means a person who stutters, is unintelligible, or does not speak Greek. Foreigners, including Africans, can be accepted as Greek citizens if they adopt the language, customs and dress. Conversely, Greece, like Rome, is an “equal opportunity” society that enslaves people regardless of appearance

Origin of the word slave
It is thought that the word “slave” derives from “Slav”: prisoners from Slavonic tribes of Europe captured by Germans and sold to Arabs during the Middle Ages. Throughout much of human history, societies enslave others due to conquest, war or debt, but not because of physical characteristics or natural inferiority. In America, a unique set of historical circumstances leads to the enslavement of peoples who share similar physical traits and common African ancestry. Justification in terms of “race” comes later.

Pocahontas marries John Rolfe
When the English first arrive in America, neither the colonists nor Indians think of themselves or each other in racial terms. On the contrary, Protestant England’s hated rival is Catholic Spain, while Native Americans see themselves as many nations divided by language, custom and power. When the Powhatan princess Pocahontas marries colonist John Rolfe, the union causes a scandal in the British court, not because Rolfe has married an Indian, but because Pocahontas, a princess, has married a commoner. In 17th-century England, social station is more important than physical differences.

Social identities fluid
In early colonial America, social identities are fluid and class distinctions trump physical ones. On Virginia plantations, European indentured servants and African slaves mix freely – they work, play, and make love together. In 1676, Bacon’s Rebellion unites poor Africans and Europeans against Indians and wealthy planters. Although the rebellion is short lived, the alliance alarms the colonial elite, who realize the labor system based on indentured servitude is unstable. Coincidentally, captured Africans, perceived as stronger workers by Europeans, become more available at this time. Planters turn increasingly to African slavery for labor, while granting increased freedoms to Europeans.

White appears in colonial laws
Early colonial laws refer to Christians or Englishmen, rather than whites. Around the time of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, new laws begin to appear, separating Black slaves from European indentured servants. Slavery becomes permanent and heritable for Negroes, and Black people are punished more harshly for crimes. Poor whites are given new rights and opportunities, including as overseers to police slaves. As the importance of slavery grows, white is used almost exclusively, not only in law but other social arenas, and slavery becomes associated exclusively with Blackness.


Virginia slave codes passed
As wealthy planters turn from indentured servitude towards slavery, they begin to write laws making slavery permanent for Africans, and dividing Blacks from whites and slaves from free men. African Americans are punished more harshly for crimes and their rights are increasingly curtailed. Poor whites are given new entitlements and opportunities, including as overseers who police the slave population. Over time, poor whites identify more with wealthy whites and the degradation of slavery is identified with Blackness.

Slaves lobby for freedom in American Revolution
Free and enslaved Africans are aware of the moral contradiction between slavery and natural rights. Like their fellow patriots, they are inspired to press for their own equality. In Charleston, South Carolina, they march through the streets carrying signs reading “Liberty, Liberty.” One Massachusetts slave petition reads: “Every principle from which America has acted in the course of her unhappy difficulties with Great Britain pleads stronger than a thousand arguments in favor of your petitioners.” Although their emancipation is not gained for another century, their cries are not unnoticed. In a letter to her husband, future president John Adams, Abigail Adams writes: “How is it we are denying people that which we are fighting for ourselves?”

Birth of “Caucasian”
Johann Blumenbach, one of many 18th-century naturalists, lays out the scientific template for race in On the Natural Varieties of Mankind. Although he opposes slavery, he maps a hierarchical pyramid of five human types, placing “Caucasians” at the top because he believes a skull found in the Caucasus Mountains is the “most beautiful form…from which…the others diverge.” This model is widely embraced, and Blumenbach inadvertently paves the way for scientific claims about white superiority.

Freedom creates contradiction
Wealthy planter and slaveholder Thomas Jefferson pens the Declaration of Independence establishing a radical new principle: equality and the natural rights of man. Although this document lays the foundation for American democracy, it also creates a moral contradiction: How can a nation built on freedom hold slaves? Previously, slavery has been unquestioned. Rather than abolish slavery, some founding fathers seek justification in the “nature” of slaves. Contempt for slaves begins to harden into an ideology of racial difference and white supremacy.

Jefferson suggests Black inferiority
With Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson becomes the first prominent American to suggest that Africans are innately inferior: “I advance it therefore, as a suspicion only, that blacks…are inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind.” His writings help rationalize slavery in a nation otherwise dedicated to equality, and he calls on science to find proof.

Race categories on first census
The U.S. Constitution mandates that “an actual enumeration” be conducted every 10 years. From the beginning, race categories are included, but in 1790, who is Black or white is less important than who is free or enslaved. The question of how to count slaves sparks an intense debate in Congress, leading to the infamous 3/5ths compromise to determine taxation and representation. At this time, Enlightenment thinkers have a view of common humanity. Although many regard Africans as different from and inferior to the English, the difference is seen as environmental – temporary rather than natural or inevitable.

Naturalization reserved for whites
The 1790 Naturalization Act reserves adopted citizenship for whites only. African Americans are not guaranteed citizenship until 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified during Reconstruction. Native Americans become citizens through individual treaties or intermarriage and finally, through the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act. Asian immigrants are ineligible for citizenship until the 1954 McCarran-Walter Act removes all racial barriers to naturalization. Without citizenship, nonwhites can’t vote, own property, bring suit, or testify in court – all the basic protections and privileges that whites take for granted.

Indians take on racial idea
Lumped together as the enemy by encroaching settlers, some Native Americans begin to see themselves as sharing a unified identity – or at least a common fate. Delaware, Miami, Sauk, Mesquakie, Potawatmi, and Kickapoo join the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa (the Prophet) to forge a pan-Indian movement and drive white Americans off their lands. But many tribes divide or refuse to join them, and in October 1811, the alliance is attacked and defeated in the Battle of Tippecanoe. Tecumseh is later killed during the War of 1812. “Where today are the Pequot, Narraganset, Mohican, Pokanet and many other such powerful tribes? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man….The only way to stop this evil is for all the red men to unite and claim an equal and common right to the land.” –Tecumseh

“Blood” degree measures who is Indian
An early treaty with the Osage tribe introduces land allotment and federal Indian policy based on “blood” degree. These ideas are broadly applied during the 19th century, most notably by the Dawes Commission in its 1887 redistribution of Indian lands. Historically, tribal membership was based on acceptance of tribal language, customs, and authority. Escaped slaves, whites and other Indians could join and be accepted as full members. Although land allotment policies end in the 1930s, the government continues to base program eligibility on blood, leading most tribes to adopt similar requirements for membership by the late 20th century.

Indians dispossessed of lands
Throughout the 19th century, American Indian lands are taken away and given to white settlers. In 1830, thousands of Native Americans are forcibly relocated from east of the Mississippi River to Oklahoma. Many die en route. The 1862 Homestead Act encourages a flood of squatters to invade Indian lands in the midwest. Already suffering from decimation of the buffalo, nomadic Plains Indian tribes are forced to relocate to government reservations. The 1887 Dawes Act breaks up collectively owned Indian lands and redistributes it to individuals, allowing “surplus” land to be sold to whites. Lewis Cass, Secretary of War under President Jackson, sums up 19th-century Indian policy this way: “The Indians are entitled to the enjoyment of all the rights which do not interfere with the obvious designs of Providence.”

Abolition strengthens race idea
The American Anti-Slavery Society forms in Philadelphia. By 1835, hundreds of branches exist throughout the free states, and anti-slavery sentiment is on the rise. But as attacks on slavery grow, so do arguments defending it. Slavery advocates turn to scientific and biblical arguments to “prove” that Negroes are distinct and inferior to whites. Slavery is no longer described as a necessary evil but as a positive good. The rationale is so strong that when slavery is finally abolished in 1865, the racial idea lives on.

Skulls measured to prove racial hierarchy
Samuel Morton, the first famous American scientist, possesses the largest skull collection in the world. He claims to measure brain capacity through skull size, but makes systematic errors in favor of his biases, concluding: “[Their larger skulls gives Caucasians] decided and unquestioned superiority over all the nations of the earth.” Morton’s findings are later seized upon and popularized by pro-slavery scientists like Josiah Nott and Louis Agassiz. In just 60-70 years, Jefferson’s suggestion of racial difference becomes scientific fact: “Nations and races, like individuals, have each an especial destiny: some are born to rule, and others to be ruled….No two distinctly-marked races can dwell together on equal terms.” -Josiah Nott (1854)

Manifest Destiny/war with Mexico
In a news editorial about the annexation of Texas, John O’Sullivan writes of America’s “manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” This now-famous phrase is used throughout the late 1800s to justify the U.S.-Mexico War and American territorial expansion. White superiority and innate racial difference have become common sense and are invoked not only against Native Americans, Mexicans, and African Americans, but also to rationalize the taking of overseas territories.

Nonwhites barred from testifying
In The People v. Hall, the California Supreme Court reverses the conviction of a white man in a murder trial, ruling that the testimony of key Chinese witnesses is inadmissible because “no Black or mulatto person, or Indian, shall be allowed to give evidence in favor of, or against a white man.” Chief Justice Charles J. Murray remarks that “the Chinese are a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior….The same rule which would admit them to testify, would admit them to all the equal rights of citizenship, and we might soon see them at the polls, in the jury box, upon the bench, and in our legislative halls. This is not a speculation…but an actual and present danger.”

Frederick Douglass challenges race scientists
As race science is embraced, ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass takes to the podium to challenge the “objectivity” of America’s most prominent race scientists: “It is the province of prejudice to blind; and scientific writers, not less than others, write to please, as well as instruct, and even unconsciously to themselves sacrifice what is true to what is popular.” A brilliant intellectual, Douglass garners admiration from even elite whites. In his 1895 obituary, however, the New York Times credits the “white blood” in him for his success and ponders “whether the fact that he had any black blood at all may not have cost the world a genius.”

African Americans denied citizenship
In the Dred Scott decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declares that “Negroes,” whether free or enslaved, are not citizens. As Chief Justice Taney puts it, they have “no rights which any white man is bound to respect.” Free Black people are taxed like whites, but they do not enjoy the same protection and entitlements. African Americans are not granted citizenship until 1868. Meanwhile, centuries of slavery generate wealth for whites only. When slaves in Washington, D.C., are freed in 1862, reparation is paid not to slaves but to slaveowners for their loss of property.

Evolution shapes debate
When Darwin uncovers the mechanism for evolution, it dramatically alters public debate. Evolution provides a new paradigm for comparing group “progress” but it also introduces the concept of competition and possible extinction. Herbert Spencer captures the public’s excitement and anxiety when he coins the phrase “survival of the fittest” in applying Darwin’s ideas to the social realm. Proponents of “social darwinism” view the hierarchy of races as a product of “nature,” not specific institutions and policies. Consequently, social reform is pointless.

14th Amendment guarantees equal rights
Passage of the Fourteenth Amendment is a landmark event, not only for African Americans but for all Americans. Conceived during Reconstruction, the amendment extends citizenship to African Americans and attempts to heal Civil War wounds by emphasizing national unity. The amendment defines citizenship for the first time, guarantees all citizens equal protection and due process under the law, and most importantly, grants citizens privileges and immunities that cannot be abridged. Although the amendment’s strength is tested by discriminatory laws and policies throughout the 20th century, the equal protection clause forms the cornerstone of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and is the legal basis for all civil rights and anti-discrimination efforts to this day.

Birth of eugenics
Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s cousin, coins the term eugenics, meaning “good genes,” to emphasize heredity as the cause of all human behavioral and cultural differences. Eugenicists advocate selective breeding to engineer the “ideal” society. Their writings profoundly influence many aspects of American life – including immigration policy, antimiscegenation laws, involuntary sterilization, and schooling – and find their fruition in Nazi Germany.

Jim Crow segregation begins
Beginning in the late 19th century, southern states codify a system of laws and practices to subordinate African Americans to whites. The “new” social order, reinforced through violence and intimidation, affects schools, public transportation, jobs, housing, private life and voting rights. Cutting across class boundaries, Jim Crow unites poor and wealthy whites, while denying African Americans equality in the courts, freedom of assembly and movement, and full participation as citizens. The federal government adopts segregation under President Wilson in 1913, and is not integrated until the 1960s.

Birthright citizenship established
Most people take for granted that anyone born in the U.S. is a citizen. However, that hasn’t always been the case, especially for groups barred from naturalizing. The 1898 Supreme Court case of Wong Kim Ark v. United States first establishes the precedent of birthright citizenship when the court rules that, under the 14th Amendment guarantee, a Chinese man born in America to immigrant parents is a citizen even though his parents are ineligible for citizenship. Throughout the 19th and 20th century, Asians, like other minority groups, fight consistently for inclusion. The Chinese bring 170 cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, most under the 14th Amendment.

White Man’s Burden
In February 1899, McClure’s Magazine publishes a poem by Rudyard Kipling, advocating American imperialism in Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. Picking up where Manifest Destiny leaves off, the White Man’s Burden not only justifies expansion, it presents colonization as noble. Racial superiority has become more than common sense. Whites now have a moral imperative to govern inferior peoples, a mission preordained in the hierarchy of races. Against the backdrop of Jim Crow segregation and mass immigration from Europe and Asia, the concept figures prominently in debates over citizenship and social fitness at home and in the new territories.

Europeans not quite white
After 1889, immigration to the U.S. from southern and eastern Europe swells dramatically. Many new arrivals are “ethnics” employed in undesirable low-wage jobs and living in the urban ghetto. They are deemed inferior, seen as not fully white. Reflecting this view, anthropologist William V. Ripley publishes The Races of Europe, dividing whites into a hierarchy of subraces and sub-subraces. Yet even the degraded Hebrew, Celt and Italian are still legally “white” – they are not denied citizenship or prevented from participating in American society. After WWII, they melt into whiteness as they move into government-subsidized white suburbs and up the economic ladder.

Japanese and Mexican farm workers strike
In 1903, Japanese and Mexican farm workers organize the first multi-ethnic agricultural union, to demand fair wages and labor rights in the sugar-beet industry in Ventura, CA. The union leads 1,200 workers – 90 percent of the labor force – on strike and scores the first victory against big agribusiness in the west. Their success attracts attention from the American labor movement concentrated in the industrial east. However, when the Mexican secretary of the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association applies for a charter from the American Federation of Labor, it is granted only on condition that the Japanese are excluded. The JMLA refuses to bend, but without the support of other organized labor, the union folds within a few years.

Race on parade
St. Louis, MO stages a world’s fair to celebrate American achievements and the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. Nearly 20 million visitors attend. Across from the technology exhibits are the world’s indigenous peoples displayed in “natural” habitats – a “living illustration” of man’s hierarchical development on the earth. The fair is a culmination of 19th-century ideas in science, politics, and culture. Race is invoked to explain everything from individual behavior to the fate of human societies.

African Americans demand equal rights
Founded under the leadership of W.E.B. DuBois, the Niagara Movement marks an important turning point in the African American struggle for equality. The group sets an aggressive agenda demanding equal rights and an end to racial discrimination: “We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American, political, civil and social; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America. The battle we wage is not for ourselves alone but for all true Americans.” The Niagara group gives rise to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909, whose legal efforts culminate in the watershed Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education, marking the beginning of the end of Jim Crow and legal segregation.

Universal Race Congress held
A thousand people from 50 nations convene at the University of London to counter the budding eugenics movement. Among the prominent scientists and scholars who attend are W.E.B. DuBois and anthropologist Franz Boas. The group issues a statement, declaring: “An impartial investigator would be inclined to look upon the various important peoples of the world as, to all intents and purposes, essentially equal in intellect, enterprise, morality and physique.” However, their work falls on deaf ears and has little impact.

Land laws discriminate against Asians
California passes the first alien land law, prohibiting “aliens ineligible to citizenship” from owning or leasing land. Although the law isn’t explicitly racial, it applies only to Asian immigrants and gives white farmers an unfair advantage by keeping Japanese and other competitors out. Legal loopholes allow Japanese to continue farming until a 1920 ballot initiative bars them altogether. Arizona passes a similar law in 1917, followed by Washington and Louisiana in 1921, and nine other states by 1950. California’s alien land laws are rescinded in 1956. Wyoming and Kansas finally repeal their statutes in 2001 and 2002, while two states, Florida and New Mexico, still have the laws written into their state constitution.

Courts decide who is white
The 1790 Naturalization Act restricts adopted American citizenship to whites. In the early 20th century, many immigrants petition the courts to be legally designated white to gain citizenship. Armenians, known as “Asiatic Turks,” succeed with the help of anthropologist Franz Boas, who testifies as an expert scientific witness. Others are not so fortunate. In 1922, the Supreme Court concludes that Japanese are not legally white because science classifies them as Mongoloid rather than Caucasian. Less than a year later, the court contradicts itself by concluding that Asian Indians are not legally white, even though science classifies them as Caucasian, declaring that whiteness should be based on “the common understanding of the white man.” Racial restrictions on naturalization are not removed until 1954.

Changing definitions of who is Black
In 1705, Virginia defines any child, grandchild, or great grandchild of a Negro as a mulatto. In 1866, the state decrees that every person having one-fourth or more Negro blood shall be deemed a colored person. In 1910, the percentage is changed to 1/16th. Finally in 1924, the Virginia Racial Purity Act defines Black persons as having any trace of African ancestry – the infamous “one-drop” rule. Practically speaking, most people cannot prove their ancestry and the rule is applied inconsistently. Other states also define Blackness differently. As historian James Horton notes, one could cross a state line and literally, legally change race.

Immigration quotas favor “Nordics”
The 1924 Johnson-Reed Act overhauls U.S. immigration and creates the first quota system based upon national origin. The act favors immigrants from northern and western Europe over “the inferior races” of Asia and southern and eastern Europe. Following the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the 1917 Asiatic Barred Zone Act, the 1921 National Quota Act, and other exclusionary measures, the act captures several decades of racialized, anti-immigration sentiment and policy. This explicit preference system continues to shape American demographics and immigration policy until the 1960s.

Mexicans added to census
Mexicans, like other minority groups, are defined differently at various times. In the 19th century, they are classified as white and allowed to naturalize, based upon an 1848 treaty. In 1930, nativists lobby to classify them separately on the census, to limit their immigration and reinforce their distinctness from whites. During World War II, as demand for Mexican labor grows, Mexicans are again classified as whites. In the 1970s, they are reclassified as “Hispanics.” As census historian Hyman Alterman notes, the definition depends on political climate: “It was not an accident that in the census of 1930, persons of Mexican birth or ancestry were classified as ‘nonwhite’. This was a policy decision, not a mistake.”

Indians base membership on blood degree
The 1934 Indian Reorganization (Wheeler-Howard) Act ends land allotment and encourages tribal self-government, but it also helps entrench race in tribal membership. Despite their sovereignty and historic openness to others, tribes wanting federal recognition are forced to adopt constitutions following government guidelines, including membership based upon “blood” degree. A 1991 Bureau of Indian Affairs inventory of 155 federally recognized tribes in 48 states shows that 4 out of 5 condition membership on proof of blood, ranging in amount from 1/2 to 1/64th. In recent years, more tribes are basing membership on lineal descent (ancestry without regard to percentage) rather than blood degree, but some have lost federal recognition as a result.

U.S. housing programs benefit whites only
In the 1930s and 1940s, the federal government creates programs that subsidize low-cost loans, opening up home ownership to millions of Americans for the first time. Government underwriters also introduce a national appraisal system that effectively locks nonwhites out of homebuying just as many white Americans are getting in. In post-WWII restricted suburbs, European “ethnics” blend together as whites, while minorities are “marked” by urban poverty. Two legacies of this discrimination are still with us today: segregated communities and a substantial wealth gap between whites and nonwhites.

Minorities denied Social Security/excluded from unions
In 1935, Congress passes two laws that protect American workers and exclude nonwhites. The Social Security Act exempts agricultural workers and domestic servants (predominantly African American, Mexican, and Asian) from receiving old-age insurance, while the Wagner Act, guaranteeing workers’ rights, does not prohibit unions from racial discrimination. Nonwhites are locked out of higher-paying jobs and union benefits such as medical care, job security, and pensions. As low-income workers, minorities have the greatest need for these provisions, yet they are systematically denied what most Americans take for granted.

UNESCO publishes Statement on Race
Only when Nazism takes the idea of racial inferiority to a horrifying extreme is race science finally discredited. After the Holocaust, the United Nations issues an official statement declaring that race has no scientific basis and calling for an end to racial thinking in scientific and political thought. Its principal author is Ashley Montagu, a student of Franz Boas. Although important, this shift in scientific thinking has little impact on social policy and ingrained public attitudes about race.

Legal segregation ends
In the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, civil rights advocates led by Martin Luther King, Jr. organize a yearlong boycott of city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the state’s resistance to school integration. What begins as a struggle over schools spreads to public transportation, voting, and all areas of social life. Despite the violent opposition of some white groups, especially in the Deep South, integration and the freedom struggle continue through the work of whites and nonwhites alike. Students, church groups, workers, and volunteers participate in massive nonviolent protest, civil disobedience, and public education campaigns. Their efforts culminate in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Sickle cell proven not “racial”
In the 1960s, several key scientific discoveries pave the way for a new understanding of human variation. For example, Frank Livingstone and A.C. Allison unlock the origins of sickle cell, often considered a “racial” disease afflicting Africans. Their research shows that the sickling gene is linked to protection from malaria, not skin color, and the trait is found in areas where malaria was once common, such as the Mediterranean, Arabia, India, and central and western (but not southern) Africa. Livingstone and others also show that most traits vary independently from one another and don’t come packaged together into what we think of as races.

Laws against mixed marriage invalidated
In the 19th century, 38 states have antimiscegenation laws prohibiting interracial marriage. By 1924, 29 states, including Virginia, still ban mixed marriages. The statutes are not outlawed until 1967, when a Virginia couple is tried and convicted, and files a suit challenging the law. Although the state Supreme Court of Appeals upholds their conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously against it, declaring that a person’s individual right to marry cannot be restricted by race. The Loving decision finally reverses the racist policies of Virginia’s 1924 Racial Purity Act and invalidates the laws remaining in 16 other states.

Human diversity is mapped
In the early 1970s, geneticist Richard Lewontin decides to find out just how much genetic variation falls within, versus between, the groups we call races. He discovers that 85% of all human variation can be found within any local population; about 94% within any continent. This means local groups are much more diverse than they appear, and our species as a whole is much more similar than we appear. Lewontin’s work, confirmed over and over again by others, remains an important milestone in our understanding of race and biology.

Lau v. Nichols guarantees bilingual education
A class-action suit by 1,800 Chinese families whose children speak limited English leads to a unanimous Supreme Court decision with far-reaching consequences. The court mandates that school districts must provide students with special instruction to ensure “equal access” to the curriculum. Significantly, the court distinguishes between treating students “the same” and supplying them with tools to put them on a par with other students. Although the case deals with language ability and public education, it opens up a new era in federal enforcement of equal opportunity laws.

Government defines race/ethnic categories
In response to civil rights legislation, the federal Office of Management and Budget issues Directive 15, creating standard government race and ethnic categories for the first time. The categories are meant to aid agencies, but they are arbitrary, inconsistent, and based on varying assumptions. For example, “Black” is defined as a “racial group” but “white” is not. “Hispanic” reflects Spanish colonization and excludes non-Spanish parts of Central and South America; while “American Indian or Alaskan Native” requires “cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition” – a condition of no other category. The categories are amended in 1996, and “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander” is added.

Minorities lead nationwide union campaign
The struggling Service Employees International Union begins a campaign to attract and organize low-wage workers, predominantly Black and immigrant janitors. Their efforts culminate in the nationwide Justice for Janitors Campaign 2000, headed by minority leaders on the local level. 100,000 janitors in 16 cities pledge to fight for a living wage, full-time work, and ongoing health coverage. First to strike are hundreds of Latino/Latina janitors in Los Angeles, who win widespread public support and a dramatic victory after three weeks. Similar protests and strikes follow in New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, Seattle, and other major cities – raising awareness of the “invisible” labor forces dominated by minorities and reinvigorating and diversifying organized labor.

Black-white wealth gap
Centuries of inequality are not remedied overnight. Today, the average white family has eight times the wealth of the average nonwhite family. Even at the same income level, whites have, on average, two to three times as much wealth. Whites are more likely to be segregated that any other group, and 86% of suburban whites still live in places with a Black population of less than 1%. Today, 71% of whites own their own home, compared to 44% of African Americans. Black and Latino mortgage applicants are 60% more likely than whites to be turned down for loans, even after controlling for employment, financial, and neighborhood characteristics.

Census allows more than one race
To reflect the growing diversity of the U.S. populace, the 2000 Census allows respondents to check more than one race. The decision is controversial. “Multi-racial” advocates want to be distinct from traditional constituencies, while civil rights groups fear a loss of support for anti-discrimination programs tied to census numbers. The public’s increased interest reflects the census’ changing role since the civil rights movement – from one of exclusion to inclusion. Although the debate is far from over, it shows how the construction of race is still important to politics and social policy.

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The creation of Whiteness: How race was used to hide class

History of Whiteness: Through the Looking Glass | Gabriela Seguinot | TEDxTheMastersSchool




Medium: Countering Whiteness

For five years, I have been leading district-wide racial justice work in my school district. Much of this work has focused on ethnic studies curriculum, which centers the histories and experiences of people and communities of color, although that’s not what makes it anti-racist. Ethnic studies is anti-racist because in telling these stories and experiences, it deconstructs the systems of power that lead to racism. The thing is, when I go out into my district and talk to teachers and administrators, I often hear, “How does ethnic studies help white students?”

First, white people have ethnicities too. White people also have cultures that are diverse in both ethnic identities and cultural practices. I struggled to understand why white people denied having a race, ethnicity, or culture until I shifted my reading from race and racism to whiteness and the creation of whiteness. Through laws, policy, and practices, white people have been taught to exchange their ethnic and cultural identities for the benefit of “whiteness.” Our history tells us racism is the result of whiteness, not of race. john a. powell of the University of California, Berkeley explains that being white was originally defined as not being black. In response to Bacon’s Rebellion, an uprising of European indentured servants and black enslaved Africans in colonial America, elite Europeans created the white race to drive a wedge between the two groups and prevent further uprisings. This is when “Europeans” became white, giving up their ethnic and cultural identities, and whiteness became a sought-after power structure. White indentured servants were still economically oppressed, but their new status brought with it a sense of power and superiority; thus, whiteness created racial oppression. This pattern has continued throughout our history in the United States. For example, the creation of the Federal Housing Administration restricted housing opportunities to “whites only,” so people who were previously considered “ethnic” groups, like Jewish Americans, chose to forgo identification as an ethnic group and instead selected whiteness. Ta-Nehisi Coates refers to this phenomenon as “the people who believe they are white.” Participation in this system requires the belief that being white is somehow outside of ethnicity, culture, and sometimes even race, creating an environment in which white people study racism as if it’s something outside of their personal experiences. Using whiteness instead of racism puts the onus for action back on white people.

In response to all the pushback I’ve received in this work, I no longer talk about “racism” but about “whiteness.” I define whiteness as “the cultural values, norms, behaviors, and attitudes that uphold White Supremacy.” White people can’t turn their backs on whiteness, but they try: when I bring it up they want to revert to ethnic identities. I get asked things like, “Can you please stop calling me white? I’m European-American.” I say, “No.” As Ijeoma Oluo says, this work isn’t about the comfort of white people.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about why the language we use when discussing oppression, particularly racial oppression, is important and how we can change our language to hold people accountable for the deep reflection required to be anti-racists.

Colorblindness is a cancer. You think you have cured it, but later find out it’s moved to another part of our language. Words like culture, diversity, inclusion, equity, and even justice have all been co-opted to avoid talking about race and racism. Using the term “whiteness” in place of racism directly counters this phenomenon and places the accountability on white people by forcing them to look in the mirror and see how they are not only “part of the problem” but central to systems of power and oppression. I have found when white people are consistently confronted with their whiteness, they are more likely to move from “ally” to accomplice in fighting whiteness.

This pressure for accountability on white people is especially important in education. In the United States, white teachers make up 85 percent of the teaching force. In my state, Washington, it’s 90 percent. Students of color are quickly becoming the majority in the country, and yet they go to school oftentimes never seeing a person like them at the front of the class. Students of color continue to be pushed out and disciplined at higher rates. Seattle Public Schools has the fifth-largest disparity gap in discipline between black students and white students in the country. In Seattle Public Schools, 46 percent of the student population is white while 75 percent of the teachers are white. This is a problem that the vastly white teaching force needs to address.

Using whiteness instead of racism reminds white people they have an ethnicity too, and they’ve lost a piece of their humanity by perpetuating whiteness. In response to the teachers who ask how ethnic studies help white students, I and others say, “White people need ethnic studies more than anyone.” I appreciate the way Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade talks about this. He uses the phrase “la cultura cura”: culture cures, or culture is medicine. He says when we lose our culture we become sick and start to hurt other people. Paolo Freire writes about how the act of oppressing others necessarily requires a person to give up their own humanity. White people need to find their medicine and restore their own humanity so they can stop hurting others.

People of color cannot be racist but they can engage in whiteness. I do not believe people of color can be racist. Never in history has any non-white group had the systemic power to oppress whites or any other group of people. There are certainly examples of discriminatory practices between people and groups of color, but racism occurs on a systemic level. This does not mean that people of color do not engage in whiteness. We certainly do. Every person who grew up in the United States, regardless of ethnic identity, has been exposed to messages of anti-blackness and messages that convey “white is right.” From housing practices, to media representation, to racist and white-washed curricula in school, the message is clear: It’s better to be white in America. Beverly Daniel Tatum calls this immersion in racist messaging a fog that we all live in and breathe in.

I am Xicanx, and I have seen firsthand how many Xicanx and Latinx people have bought into whiteness and engaged in whiteness. White supremacy is such a powerful concept that non-white people will betray our own people in attempts to benefit from it. Recent polling data shows that 25–30 percent of Latinx people support Donald Trump despite his racist, anti-Latinx migrant rhetoric. Those 25–30 percent of Latinx people are engaging in whiteness. They are trying to tap into the power that whiteness provides certain people.

Using the phrase “engaging in whiteness” holds all people accountable for upholding and maintaining whiteness. It requires all of us to do reflective work and understand how our practices and beliefs are oppressing people. Being a person of color does not give you a free pass from anti-racist work. Whiteness can show itself in people of color who maintain the status quo to benefit from status, promotions, and to avoid criticism. This may include “acting white” or changing one’s behavior and/or language to gain respectability and legitimacy from white peers and colleagues, like referring to oneself as “Hispanic.” I hate the term “Hispanic” because it’s a white-washed identifier, referring to any person whose native language is Spanish, including white Europeans. People of color engage in whiteness by promoting white-normed practices, like individualism over collectivism, passive aggressiveness, and decontextualizing racialized experiences.

Our young people are inundated with messages of whiteness — from the president, to cartoons, to textbooks. All kids receive the message that it’s better to be white. Whether intentional or not, erasure of people of color in these contexts erases our humanity. We have so little value that children’s’ literature portrays more anthropomorphic characters than characters of color. According to children’s’ literature, it’s better to be a dog than a person of color. We need to be the people countering those messages, not reinforcing them. Words matter. How we use words and phrases determines how we act, and words have the power to change people from objects to agents. Whiteness turns us all into agents of anti-racism: it applies to all of us and centers the responsibility on white people to take on the majority of the work to change our racist systems.

Further Reading


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Racialization of the Colonial Slave Trade

  • Ancient World
    • Aristotelian belief that different skin colors was a result of climatic difference
    • “Ethnic and religious and color prejudice existed in the ancient world. Construction of races, White Europe, Black Africa, for instance, did not.” Ibram Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning
  • Portugal starts the transatlantic slave trade – 1453
    • Spreads racist beliefs around Europe to justify transatlantic slave trade
      • All black people represented one group of people
      • Black people were beasts, savages, inferior
      • Black people were a separate race (replaced the climate theory)

Before the 1400s the slave trade was mainly focused on East European Slavs (this is the origin of the word slaves). By the 1400s the Slavs had built better fortifications and Africa became the main area of operation for slave traders. In the early 1440s, Portugal began the first African only slave trade that would later become the transatlantic slave trade.

Prince Henry comissioned writer Gomes Eanes de Zurara to document the first voyage to sub saharan Africa to siege slaves directly, rather than buying from Northern African slave traders. Prince Henry wanted Gomez to glorify Portugal bringing Christianity to Africa, while dehumanizing Africans to justify enslaving them. Gomes writes the Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, in 1453, which depicts black people as inferior beasts and slavery was an improvement over freedom in Africa. He wrote, “They live like beasts. They had no understanding of good but only knew how to live in beastial sloth.” Gomes combined all the different ethnic groups that Prince Henry captured and combined them into one group “black people” and described this group as inferior.

These ideas of “all black people representing one race”, “black inferiority”, “black people were beasts” spread throughout Europe as more European countries entered the slave trade. These racist beliefs became common beliefs across European , expanded by other intellectuals, and carried across Atlantic by European immigrants to help justify slavery in the new world.

The Self Interest of Racist Ideas

The actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural. Self-interest drives racist policies that benefit that self-interest. When the policies are challenged because they produce inequalities, racist ideas spring up to justify those policies. Hate flows freely from there.

  • The self-interest: The Portuguese had to justify their pioneering slave trade of African people before the pope.
  • The racist idea: Africans are barbarians. If we remove them from Africa and enslave them, they could be civilized.

We can understand this very simply with slavery. I’m enslaving people because I want to make money. Abolitionists are resisting me, so I’m going to convince Americans that these people should be enslaved because they’re black, and then people will start believing those ideas: that these people are so barbaric, that they need to be enslaved, or that they are so childlike that they need to be enslaved.” Ibram Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

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“The obedient Gomes de Zurara created to racial difference convince the world that Prince Henry (and thus Portugal) did not slave-trade for money, only to save souls. The liberators had come to Africa. Zurara personally sent a copy of The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea to King Afonso V with an introductory letter in 1453. He hoped the book would “keep” Prince Henry’s name “before” the “eyes” of the world, “to the great praise of his memory.” Gomes de Zurara secured Prince Henry’s memory as surely as Prince Henry secured the wealth of the royal court. King Afonso was accumulating more capital from selling enslaved Africans to foreigners “than from all the taxes levied on the entire kingdom,” observed a traveler in 1466. Race had served its purpose.

Prince Henry’s racist policy of slave trading came first – a cunning invention for the practical purpose of bypassing Muslim traders. After nearly two decades of slave trading, Kim asked Gomes de Zurara to defend the lucrative commerce in human lives, which he did through the construction of a black race, an invented group upon which he hung racist ideas. This cause and effect – a racist power creates racist policies out of raw self interest; the racist policies necessitate racist ideas to justify them – lingers over the life of racism.” Ibram Kendi, How to be an Antiracist

  • Catholic doctrines – 1450s
    • Allowed slavery only for non-Christians or “heathens”
  • Doctrine of Discovery 1493
    • Allowed non-Christian land/people to be “discovered”
      • Legally conquered and exploited by Christian rulers
    • Became basis of all European claims in Americas and the US western expansion
      • Upheld by SCOTUS 1823 case Johnson v. McIntosh, denying Natives right to their land

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Racialization of American Slavery

The Atlantic: The Case For Reparations

“When enslaved Africans, plundered of their bodies, plundered of their families, and plundered of their labor, were brought to the colony of Virginia in 1619, they did not initially endure the naked racism that would engulf their progeny. Some of them were freed. Some of them intermarried. Still others escaped with the white indentured servants who had suffered as they had. Some even rebelled together, allying under Nathaniel Bacon to torch Jamestown in 1676.

One hundred years later, the idea of slaves and poor whites joining forces would shock the senses, but in the early days of the English colonies, the two groups had much in common. English visitors to Virginia found that its masters “abuse their servantes with intollerable oppression and hard usage.” White servants were flogged, tricked into serving beyond their contracts, and traded in much the same manner as slaves.

This “hard usage” originated in a simple fact of the New World—land was boundless but cheap labor was limited. As life spans increased in the colony, the Virginia planters found in the enslaved Africans an even more efficient source of cheap labor. Whereas indentured servants were still legal subjects of the English crown and thus entitled to certain protections, African slaves entered the colonies as aliens. Exempted from the protections of the crown, they became early America’s indispensable working class—fit for maximum exploitation, capable of only minimal resistance.

For the next 250 years, American law worked to reduce black people to a class of untouchables and raise all white men to the level of citizens. In 1650, Virginia mandated that “all persons except Negroes” were to carry arms. In 1664, Maryland mandated that any Englishwoman who married a slave must live as a slave of her husband’s master. In 1705, the Virginia assembly passed a law allowing for the dismemberment of unruly slaves—but forbidding masters from whipping “a Christian white servant naked, without an order from a justice of the peace.” In that same law, the colony mandated that “all horses, cattle, and hogs, now belonging, or that hereafter shall belong to any slave” be seized and sold off by the local church, the profits used to support “the poor of the said parish.” At that time, there would have still been people alive who could remember blacks and whites joining to burn down Jamestown only 29 years before. But at the beginning of the 18th century, two primary classes were enshrined in America.

“The two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black,” John C. Calhoun, South Carolina’s senior senator, declared on the Senate floor in 1848. “And all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.””

  • Jamestown, Virginia – 1619
    • First Africans arrived in the colonies as a mixture of slaves and indentured servants
  • John Punch – 1640
    • An African indentured servant who ran away with 2 other white indentured servants and got caught
      • White indentured servants got 4 years added to their sentence
      • John Punch got a lifetime of slavery
    • First explicit approval by law for African slavery
    • Start of the divide and conquer strategy around poor working class

Africans were first brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. However, their status as slaves or indentured servants remained unclear. John Punch was an indentured servant who in the Colony of Virginia. In 1640 he ran away with 2 white indenture servants. They got caught. The white indentured servants got additional 4 years of service. John Punch got a lifetime service or “slavery”.

Some Africans were already enslaved by 1640s but this was the first explicit approval by law for African slavery. This was also the beginning of an ongoing practice to give poor European immigrants and servants advantages over people of color, to switch their allegiance from the people of the same class/circumstance to forming a multiple class coalition of people united around “whiteness”. This was an elite divide and conquer strategy, to keep the poor workers from uniting, while incidentally creating a “white person” class.

  • Elizabeth Key – 1660s
    • –Born in 1630 to an enslaved mother and free white man
      • She wed a white indentured servant and later became a Christian
    • She won her freedom by suing on the basis of English law
      • Banned enslaving Christians and child status (enslaved or free) based on father
    • Virginia House of Burgesses changed the law in 1662
      • Status of child now based on mother status and allowed for Christian slaves

Elizabeth Key was born in 1630 in the Colony of Virginia. Her mother was enslaved and father was a free white man and member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the first legislative body of colonial America. She wed a white indentured servant and later became a Christian. They eventually sued for her freedom on the basis of English law which banned enslaving Christians and also considered the status (enslaved or free) of a child based on the status of the father. Colonial courts ruled in her favor and she was freed.

By 1660s Virginia changed their laws and the status of a child was based on the status of the mother and allowed for Christian slaves. This drastically increased who was considered slaves including Christian black people and the children of black women who were raped by white men. Also passed laws that white women couldn’t have relations with black or native American men.

Healing from Whiteness: On The Conjuring of People of Colour

It’s a staggering thought when it first occurs to you: There were no people of colour before white people. They didn’t exist.
Nigerians existed. Chinese people existed. Indigenous people existed. Mexicans existed. But the diversity of those, and hundreds more specific people was never considered as one monolithic group until ‘white people’ came into existence.
‘People of colour’ were conjured by the use of words (long understood by traditional, deeply cultured people to have conjuring power).
It’s the same way that nomads were created by farmers. Said another way, there was never one group of people out there wandering around with a shared language, set of traditions and way of seeing the world. There were just groups of humans doing their thing, being human beings. But once certain humans settled and began growing food, there were now two groups: those who settled (the farmers) and those who did not (the Nomads).
Similarly, before Christians there were no Pagans. As author James J. O’Donnell points out in his book Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity that the use of this term ‘pagan’ by Christians had immense consequences,

“Not only have you made pagans seem like a real group, you have, in distinguishing yourself, become un-pagan, with special qualities. Until that label [pagan] was created, though, pagans didn’t exist. There were people who lived here and there, people who spoke this or that language, people who were rich or poor, people who attended this or that festival because they enjoyed it, and people who were so tired and poor and ill that they just go through the day as best they could. It was the Christian who came along and called all those people by one name. Christian common identity was strengthened by the shared conviction that the us/them relationship was real. ‘They’ didn’t much care… People became pagans when it was convenient to Christians for them to do so… In the end, the term pagan succeeded in making Christianity seem a unique, un-pagan, modern entity.”

In his book, On Trails: An Exploration, Robert Moor writes,

“It may sound strange (even sacriligious) to some, but in a very real way, wilderness is a human creation. We create it in the same sense that we create trails; we do not create the soil or the plants, the geology or topology (although we can, and do, shift these things). Instead, we delineate the palce, by defining its boundaries, its meaning and its use… ‘Civilization,’ wrote the historian Roderick Nash, ‘invented wilderness.’ According to his account, the wilderness was born a the dawn of agro-pastoralism, when we began cleaving the world into binary categories of wild and tame, natural and cultivated. Words for wilderness are notably absent among the languages of hunter-gatherer peoples. (‘Only to the white man,’ wrote Luther Standing Bear, ‘was nature a wilderness.’) From the vantage point of a farmer, the wilderness was a strange, barren land, full of poisonous plants and deadly animals, anti-thetical to the warmth and security of home. To these land-tamers, wilderness became synonymous with confusion, wickedness, and suffering. William Bradford, the governor or the Plymouth Colony, was representative of the mindset when he deemed the uncolonized countryside, ‘A hideous and desolate wildness full of wild beast and wild men.’”

It was the same when the Romans colonized the British who colonized the Scottish who colonized the indigenous people of what is now called North America (another diversity banishing conjuring) all calling the one being colonized ‘savages’ and all calling themselves ‘civilized’.
Colonization: the gift that keeps on giving.  And so when the white race was constructed (banishing all of the diversity of European culture) it created the binary to it of those who were not white at first divided into various subgroups of negro, mongoloid, caucausoid etc.) and then eventually ‘people of colour’.
This is not a term that those who weren’t white came up with by themselves. There was no congress in which people with more melanin than the majority of the upper class British got together to say, “Are you tired of being your own people? Isn’t it a drag to be from somewhere and have your own language? Aren’t sick of being proud of your ancestors? Can I see a show of hands? Me too. I say let’s stop that backwards nonsense and be from nowhere and just refer to ourselves by the darkness of our skin. Can I get someone to make a motion? Great. Thank you. And will anyone second that?… Done! Great. Next motion up: “Dark skin is a sign of inferiority. Anyone willing to make the case for internalizing this message? It makes sense to me.”
White people created whiteness.
The term ‘people of colour’, as a group, came from this. ‘People of colour’ were conjured by white people. But the nature of the spell wasn’t to make anything appear. It was to make uniqueness disappear. That was the dark magic of it. This is part of what we are contending with when we attempt to have conversations about racism.

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The Racial Bribe

  • Racial bribe
    • Practice to giving poor European immigrants and servants advantages over people of color
      • To switch their allegiance from people of the same class/circumstance to forming multiple class coalition united around “whiteness”
      • An elite divide and conquer strategy, to keep the poor workers from uniting, while incidentally creating a “white person” class.
    • “Deliberately and strategically, the planter class extended special privileges to poor whites in an effort to drive a wedge between them and black slaves. White settlers were allowed greater access to Native American lands, white servants were allowed to police slaves through slave patrols and militias, and barriers were created so that free labor would not be placed in competition with slave labor. These measures effectively eliminated the risk of future alliances between black slaves and poor whites” Michelle Alexander – The New Jim Crow
    • “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” LBJ
  • Bacon’s Rebellion – 1676
    • Alliance of indenture servants and slaves
    • Gov responded with measures, like the Slave Codes, to divide poor working class blacks and whites

The Invention of Whiteness with john a. powell

Wikipedia: Bacon’s Rebellion

“Bacon’s Rebellion was an armed rebellion in 1676 by Virginia settlers led by Nathaniel Bacon against the rule of Governor William Berkeley. The colony’s dismissive policy as it related to the political challenges of its western frontier, along with other challenges including leaving Bacon out of his inner circle, refusing to allow Bacon to be a part of his fur trade with the Indians, and Doeg American Indian attacks, helped to motivate a popular uprising against Berkeley, who had failed to address the demands of the colonists regarding their safety.

A thousand Virginians of all classes and races rose up in arms against Berkeley, attacking Indians, chasing Berkeley from Jamestown, Virginia, and ultimately torching the capital. The rebellion was first suppressed by a few armed merchant ships from London whose captains sided with Berkeley and the loyalists. Government forces from England arrived soon after and spent several years defeating pockets of resistance and reforming the colonial government to be once more under direct royal control.

It was the first rebellion in the American colonies in which discontented frontiersmen took part. A somewhat similar uprising in Maryland involving John Coode and Josias Fendall took place shortly afterwards. The alliance between indentured servants and Africans (most enslaved until death or freed), united by their bond-servitude, disturbed the ruling class, who responded by hardening the racial caste of slavery in an attempt to divide the two races from subsequent united uprisings with the passage of the Virginia Slave Codes of 1705. While the farmers did not succeed in their initial goal of driving the Indians from Virginia, the rebellion did result in Berkeley being recalled to England.”

  • Slave Codes – (1691-1724)
    • Series of codes solidifying racial slavery in the colonies by:
      • Each colony passed their own slave codes
    • Virginia Slave Codes of 1705 became the first comprehensive slave code
      • Classifying black people as property
        • Enslaving all future black generations
      • Legalizing segregation
      • Removing rights of free black people
      • Outlawed black people from employing white people
      • Allowed whites to apprehend anyone suspected as a run away slave
      • Allowed slavery owners to torture, rape and kill their slaves without any consequences
  • Virginia House of Burgess laws
  • 1682 – Limits citizenship to Europeans
  • 1691 – First documented legal usage of the word “white” in a law
    • As opposed to English, Christian, European
    • Stated any “white” person who marries a person of color will be banished

In 1680 the Virginia House of Burgess, the first legislative body of colonial America, was debating what is a “white man”. They were deciding who will be the citizen of the new world/who gets to have land and rights. In 1682 they passed a law limiting citizenship to Europeans and made all non Europeans essentially slaves. Virginia was giving land away in 50 acre allotments only to European men.

In 1691 Virignia House of Burgess passed another law that included the first documented usage of the word “white” as opposed to English, Christan, European, to describe who was considered full citizens and the law stated any “white” person who marries a person of color will be banished from this land.

Everyday Feminist: 4 Ways the American Dream Is Actually Just Affirmative Action for White People

“As highlighted by scholars like Dr. Jacqueline Battalora and Dr. Nell Irvin Painter, Whiteness didn’t always exist.

In fact, prior to the 1690s, “White” people were unheard of.

Wealthy, land-owning Europeans created the category of Whiteness as a tool to divide poor, light-skinned Europeans from enslaved African people and Indigenous people in North America.

Since that time, it has taken on a life of its own and been embedded in every single structure of the US.

This club, known as Whiteness, was designed to offer advantages, some small and some large, to light-skinned Europeans in exchange for their complicity in the theft of Indigenous land and the enslavement and exploitation of non-White people.

Notably, not all light-skinned Europeans were initially considered White (Italians and the Irish didn’t join the club until well into the 20th century, and European Jews have only recently been able to join).

Whiteness has evolved over time, but its singular aim has been to ensure that certain people (wealthy, White men mostly) hold power built upon the exploitation of people of Color and, to a lesser degree, poor White people.

It’s important, then, that we as White people understand this identity creation story because in this history lies an understanding of the privileges so many of us call the “American Dream” – something disproportionately available to people considered White.

Does this mean that people of Color haven’t realized this “Dream?” No. It just means that this “Dream” has been a nightmare for most people of Color built upon genocide, exclusion, and slavery.

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Establishing White Supremacy Foundations in US

  • Constitution of United States (1787)
    • Article I: slaves are 3/5s person (3/5 Compromise)
      • Gave South extra representation and Electoral College votes
      • Jefferson would have lost the election of 1800 if not for 3/5 Compromise
    • Prohibited outlawing Atlantic slave trade for 20 years
    • Fugitive Slave Clause required states to return runaway slaves
    • Of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention
      • About 25 owned slaves
    • Abolitionist William Garrison claimed Constitution proslavery
      • Called it “a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell”

Daily Kios: Was Slavery a Cause of the Revolutionary War? Yes.

“major decisions made by the Americans-such as the agreement to break from British rule, the wording of the Declaration of Independence, and the formulation of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution-were all done in a manner that protected the right of the South to maintain slavery.

For example: in early drafts of the Declaration of Independence, the language that said “All men are born equally free and independent” was changed by Thomas Jefferson to “All men were created equal” to prevent the implication that slaves should be free.”

For more info on racism in the Constitution and Revolutionary War

Racist Reasons for American Revolutionary War

  • Naturalization Act of 1798
    • Stated only whites can be naturalized as citizens
      • Citizens have right to vote, own land, due process, juries, etc.
    • First time “white” in legal doc that states US national identity
  • Early US Census Classifications:
    • 1790 to 1850: White, Free People of Color, and Black

Understanding Race: The Story of Race Transcript

“How did the idea of race begin in America?  The answer can be found in the long and complex history of western Europe and the United States. It is that history—influenced by science, government and culture—that has shaped our ideas about race.

When European colonists first arrived on North American shores beginning in the 1500s, the land was already inhabited by Native Americans. The Spanish, French and English encountered frequent conflicts with indigenous people in trying to establish settlements in Florida, the Northeast area bordering Canada, the Virginia colony, and the Southwest.
By the 1600s, English colonists had established a system of indentured servitude that included both Europeans and Africans.

But by the time of Bacon’s Rebellion in the mid-1670s—an insurrection involving white and black servants against wealthy Virginia planters—the status of Africans began to change. They were no longer servants who had an opportunity for freedom following servitude, but instead were relegated to a life of permanent slavery in the colonies.

In the 1770s, English colonists in the U.S. became involved in a rebellion of their own—this time the opposition was the British Crown.

But while the colonists battled the British for independence, they continued to deny Africans their freedom and withhold rights to Native Americans. Ironically, one of the first casualties of the Revolutionary War was Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave of African and Indian parentage.

Before the idea of race emerged in the U.S. European scientist Carolus Linneaus published a classification system in System Naturale in 1758 that was applied to humans. Thomas Jefferson, was among those who married the idea of race with a biological and social hierarchy.  Jefferson, a Virginia slave owner who helped draft the Declaration of Independence and later became President, was influential in promoting the idea of race that recognized whites as superior and Africans as inferior. Jefferson wrote in 1776 in Notes on the State of Virginia, “…blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” Scientists were among those who were influenced by these ideas, and began to develop their own theories about race.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, scientists, influenced by Enlightenment philosophers, developed a system of categorizing things in nature, including humans.

Although Carolus Linnaeus was the first to develop a biological classification system, it was German scientist Johann Blumenbach who first introduced a race-based classification of humans, which established a framework for analyzing race and racial differences for the next hundred years.

By the 19th century the debate over race centered around two theories: one theory was that different races represented different species; the other was that humans were one species and that race represented variation in the human species—a view that was compatible with the teachings of the Bible.

Among those who espoused the multiple species theory, or polygeny, were Philadelphia physician Samuel Morton and European scholar Louis Agassiz. Their work was popular in the mid-19th century. The most prominent scientist who believed in monogeny, that all humans were one species, was Charles Darwin.

By the mid-19th century scientific debates over race had entered the mainstream culture and served to justify slavery and mistreatment. Some, like plantation doctor Samuel Cartwright tried to explain the tendency of slaves to runaway by coining the term, drapetomania, and prescribed whipping as method of treatment. Though there was resistance to slavery in both the U.S. and Europe, scientists, for the most part, continued to advance theories of racial inferiority.

The abolitionist movement of the 19th century sought to humanize the plight of African slaves in various ways, to influence political power and public opinion. The resistance to slavery and the image of Africans as sub-human can be found in protest hymns like Amazing Grace, which was written by John Newton in 1772 in response to the horrors he witnessed working on an English slave ship.

One of the ways that race played out in popular culture was in the publication in 1852 of the most widely read novel of its time, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which depicted a more realistic portrait of slavery and tried to humanize slaves.

The 19th century also marked a period of widespread racialization—not just of African Americans—but of Native Americans, Mexican Americans and Chinese Americans as well. Much of the racializing of non-Europeans, and even the Irish, served an economic and political purpose. African slavery, for instance, provided free labor and added political clout for slaveholding states in the South.

Taking Native American land and belittling Native American cultures was made easier by defining Native people as savages.

At the end of the 19th century, the U.S. experienced another wave of European immigration. This time the immigrants were southern and eastern Europeans and their presence challenged ideas about race, specifically who was white and who was not. Unlike earlier European immigrants who were mostly German, Scandinavian and Irish, these newer immigrants were Polish, Italian and Jewish, and brought with them customs and traditions that were different from their European predecessors.

They were often the victims of discrimination. Even U.S. immigration policy tried to limit the number of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe by imposing quotas.

At the beginning of the 20th century, African Americans migrated north for factory jobs that opened up during World War I and to escape the violence in the South.

Between 1889 and the early 1920s, roughly 50 – 100 lynchings a year took place in the U.S. While blacks were mostly the victims, Italian Americans, Asian Americans and Jews were also lynched. Even in the North, blacks encountered racism as they competed with whites for jobs. Several northern cities—St. Louis, Tulsa, Detroit and Chicago among others—were the sites of major race riots from 1915 to the early 1920s.

During the Depression, some race scientists sought to justify economic and social inequality by attributing certain characteristics such as criminal behavior, work ethic and intelligence to race, using a theory of genetic inheritance. In other words, you were poor or a criminal or less intelligent because it was in your genes.

This idea was the basis for eugenics. Charles Davenport, the director of the Eugenics Records Office, was among the scientists who promoted these ideas. The eugenicists’ expert testimony was influential in getting Congress to pass the Immigration Act of 1924 and provided the social framework embraced by Nazi Germany.

By World War II, the U.S. had expanded the racial categories in the census to include various ethnic groups, among them Mexicans, Japanese, Indians from Asia and Philippinos. These categories and the demographics associated with each group would be used to limit immigration as well as provide the statistical data to analyze racial discrimination in the U.S. that followed in the post-war era.

The 1950s and 60s were a time of enormous social change in the U.S. Discrimination and institutional racism were being challenged at every turn. To some extent, the racial and social hierarchies that had long been accepted were being contested. And perhaps more slowly, attitudes about race and racial difference were beginning to change.

The way we view race and ethnicity today is far more complex than the simple categories in the first U.S. Census. In fact in the 2000 census the “mark one or more” standard allowed for 63 possible racial combinations, reflecting the diversity of the country. By the year 2010, the U.S. population will barely resemble what it was 400, 100,even twenty years ago. That means we will probably have to reconsider the term race, and whether it is relevant to describing who and what we are.”

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Flexibility of Racial Purity

  • Not everybody considered white or non-white at the same time
    • Irish, Jews, Italians went through different processes of assimilation before becoming “white”
    • Latin Americans were often included and excluded from “white” depending on time and place
      • 1850-1920, Mexican Americans were considered white on the US Census
      • 1920-30s, due to Xenophobe during Great Depression (Mexican Repatriation) Mexican Americans were declared non-white
      • 1940, Mexican Americans could classify as white again, if they weren’t 100% indigenous or had any level of Black or Asian blood
  • Hypodescent
    • Automatic assignment of children of a mixed race to the race with the lower status
    • In Colonial America hypodescent was the predominant rule
  • Antebullion Period (Revolution to Civil War)
    • Free people of mixed race were considered legally white if individuals had less than 1/8 to 1/4 African ancestry
      • Depending on the state
  • One-drop rule
    • Any person with “one drop” of black and Native blood, were considered “colored”
    • Adopted in Tennessee in 1910 and Virginia under the Racial Integrity Act of 1924

“Physical appearance was an unreliable criterion for maintaining this boundary, because the light-skinned children of White slave masters and enslaved Black women sometimes resembled their fathers more than their mothers. Ancestry, rather than appearance, became the important criterion. In both legal and social practice, anyone with any known African ancestry (no matter how far back in the family lineage) was considered Black, while only those without any trace of known African ancestry were called Whites. Known as the “one-drop rule,” this practice solidified the boundary between Black and White. The use of the one-drop rule was institutionalized by the U.S. Census Bureau in the early twentieth century. Prior to 1920,”pure Negroes” were distinguished from “mulattoes” in the Census count, but in 1920 the mulatto category was dropped and Black was defined as any person with known Black ancestry. In 1960, the practice of self-definition began, with heads of household indicating the race of household members. However, the numbers of Black families…

….the one-drop rule applies only to Blacks in United States, and to no other racial group in any other nation in the world. In 1983 the one-drop rule was challenged in the Louisiana courts by Susie Guillory Phipps, a woman who had been denied a passport because she had given her race as White on the passport application although her birth certificate designated her race as “colored.” The designation had been made by the midwife, presumably based on her knowledge of the family’s status in the community; however, the information came as a shock to Phipps, who had always considered herself White. She asked the Louisiana courts to change the classification on her deceased parents’ birth certificates to White so that she and her siblings could be legally designated as White. They all appeared to be White, and some were blue-eyed blonds. At the time, Louisiana law indicated that anyone whose ancestry was more than one-thirty-second Black was categorized as Black. In this case, the lawyers for the state claimed to have proof that Phipps was three-thirty-seconds Black, which was more than enough African ancestry to justify her parents’ classfication as colored. Consequently, she and her siblings were legally Black. The case was decided in May 1983, and in June the state legislature gave parents the right to designate the race of newborns themselves rather than relying on the doctor or midwife’s assessment. In the case of previous misclassification, parents were given the right to change their children’s racial designation to White if they could prove the children’s Whiteness by a “preponderance of the evidence.” But the 1983 statute did not abolish the onedrop rule. In fact, when Phipps appealed her case, the state’s Fourth Circuit of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision, concluding that the preponderance of the evidence was that her parents were indeed” Beverly Daniel Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race

  • Blood Quantum
    • Defining Native American membership by the fraction of a person’s ancestors
    • Widely applied by the US gov after the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934
      • Gov required persons to have a certain blood quantum to be recognized as Native American
        • To be eligible for financial and other benefits under treaties or sales of land
    • Since then, Native nations have re-established their own govs/ sovereignty in setting their own rules for tribal membership
      • But for the purpose of federal benefits, the blood quantum is still used
        • Native Americans are the only racial group in the United States that has to have proof of ancestry to receive government benefits
    • Problems with Blood Quantum
      • Went against adoption culture, often excluded African/Native mix race, excluded natives with incorrect recorded history, etc.
    • Today
      • Today there are no enforceable laws in the U.S. in which the one-drop rule is applicable
      • Culturally and institutionally, when a mixed race is noticeable, hypodescent is often still the predominant rule

“Since the very first American census in 1790, Black people’s identity has been left in the hands of white people in power. After that, our identity on the US census changed from “Slaves” (1790) to “black” (1850) to “negro” (1900) to “Negro” (1930) to “Negro or Black” (1970) to “Black or Negro” (1980). The most current iteration is “black, African American or Negro” (1990). Other descriptors have also been used to describe those with Black blood in their body, like “mulatto” (mixed) “quadroon” (1/4th Black), and “octoroon” (1/8th Black). The concept of Blackness has been highly debated and grappled with for centuries as the diaspora spread Africans throughout the Americas and beyond. This Blackness connects all of us, despite our cultural differences based on how we were colonized — so identifying our identity as grand and potent is important.” George M. Johnson, Yes, ‘Black’ is capitalized when we’re talking about race

NY Times: How Italians Became ‘White’

Congress envisioned a white, Protestant and culturally homogeneous America when it declared in 1790 that only “free white persons, who have, or shall migrate into the United States” were eligible to become naturalized citizens. The calculus of racism underwent swift revision when waves of culturally diverse immigrants from the far corners of Europe changed the face of the country.

As the historian Matthew Frye Jacobson shows in his immigrant history “Whiteness of a Different Color,” the surge of newcomers engendered a national panic and led Americans to adopt a more restrictive, politicized view of how whiteness was to be allocated. Journalists, politicians, social scientists and immigration officials embraced the habit, separating ostensibly white Europeans into “races.” Some were designated “whiter” — and more worthy of citizenship — than others, while some were ranked as too close to blackness to be socially redeemable. The story of how Italian immigrants went from racialized pariah status in the 19th century to white Americans in good standing in the 20th offers a window onto the alchemy through which race is constructed in the United States, and how racial hierarchies can sometimes change.

Darker skinned southern Italians endured the penalties of blackness on both sides of the Atlantic. In Italy, Northerners had long held that Southerners — particularly Sicilians — were an “uncivilized” and racially inferior people, too obviously African to be part of Europe.

Racist dogma about Southern Italians found fertile soil in the United States. As the historian Jennifer Guglielmo writes, the newcomers encountered waves of books, magazines and newspapers that “bombarded Americans with images of Italians as racially suspect.” They were sometimes shut out of schools, movie houses and labor unions, or consigned to church pews set aside for black people. They were described in the press as “swarthy,” “kinky haired” members of a criminal race and derided in the streets with epithets like “dago,” “guinea” — a term of derision applied to enslaved Africans and their descendants — and more familiarly racist insults like “white nigger” and “nigger wop.” Italian-Americans were often used as cheap labor on

The penalties of blackness went well beyond name-calling in the apartheid South. Italians who had come to the country as “free white persons” were often marked as black because they accepted “black” jobs in the Louisiana sugar fields or because they chose to live among African-Americans. This left them vulnerable to marauding mobs like the ones that hanged, shot, dismembered or burned alive thousands of black men, women and children across the South.

The federal holiday honoring the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus — celebrated on Monday — was central to the process through which Italian-Americans were fully ratified as white during the 20th century. The rationale for the holiday was steeped in myth, and allowed Italian-Americans to write a laudatory portrait of themselves into the civic record.

Few who march in Columbus Day parades or recount the tale of Columbus’s voyage from Europe to the New World are aware of how the holiday came about or that President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed it as a one-time national celebration in 1892 — in the wake of a bloody New Orleans lynching that took the lives of 11 Italian immigrants. The proclamation was part of a broader attempt to quiet outrage among Italian-Americans, and a diplomatic blowup over the murders that brought Italy and the United States to the brink of war.

Historians have recently showed that America’s dishonorable response to this barbaric event was partly conditioned by racist stereotypes about Italians promulgated in Northern newspapers like The Times. A striking analysis by Charles Seguin, a sociologist at Pennsylvania State University, and Sabrina Nardin, a doctoral student at the University of Arizona, shows that the protests lodged by the Italian government inspired something that had failed to coalesce around the brave African-American newspaper editor and anti-lynching campaigner Ida B. Wells — a broad anti-lynching effort.

A Black ‘Brute’ Lynched

The lynchings of Italians came at a time when newspapers in the South had established the gory convention of advertising the far more numerous public murders of African-Americans in advance — to attract large crowds — and justifying the killings by labeling the victims “brutes,” “fiends,” “ravishers,” “born criminals” or “troublesome Negroes.” Even high-minded news organizations that claimed to abhor the practice legitimized lynching by trafficking in racist stereotypes about its victims.

As Mr. Seguin recently showed, many Northern newspapers were “just as complicit” in justifying mob violence as their Southern counterparts. For its part, The Times made repeated use of the headline “A Brutal Negro Lynched,” presuming the victims’ guilt and branding them as congenital criminals. Lynchings of black men in the South were often based on fabricated accusations of sexual assault. As the Equal Justice Initiative explained in its 2015 report on lynching in America, a rape charge could occur in the absence of an actual victim and might arise from minor violations of the social code — like complimenting a white woman on her appearance or even bumping into her on the street.

The Times was not owned by the family that controls it today when it dismissed Ida B. Wells as a “slanderous and nasty-minded mulattress” for rightly describing rape allegations as “a thread bare lie” that Southerners used against black men who had consensual sexual relationships with white women. Nevertheless, as a Times editorialist of nearly 30 years standing — and a student of the institution’s history — I am outraged and appalled by the nakedly racist treatment my 19th-century predecessors displayed in writing about African-Americans and Italian immigrants.

When Wells took her anti-lynching campaign to England in the 1890s, Times editors rebuked her for representing “black brutes” abroad in an editorial that joked about what they described as “the practice of roasting Negro ravishers alive and boring out their eyes with red-hot pokers.” The editorial slandered African-Americans generally, referring to rape as “a crime to which Negroes are particularly prone.” The Times editors may have lodged objections to lynching — but they did so in a rhetoric firmly rooted in white supremacy.

‘Assassins by Nature’

Italian immigrants were welcomed into Louisiana after the Civil War, when the planter class was in desperate need of cheap labor to replace newly emancipated black people, who were leaving backbreaking jobs in the fields for more gainful employment.

These Italians seemed at first to be the answer to both the labor shortage and the increasingly pressing quest for settlers who would support white domination in the emerging Jim Crow state. Louisiana’s romance with Ialian labor began to sour when the new immigrants balked at low wages and dismal working conditions.

The newcomers also chose to live together in Italian neighborhoods, where they spoke their native tongue, preserved Italian customs and developed successful businesses that catered to African-Americans, with whom they fraternized and intermarried. In time, this proximity to blackness would lead white Southerners to view Sicilians, in particular, as not fully white and to see them as eligible for persecution — including lynching — that had customarily been imposed on African-Americans.

Nevertheless, as the historian Jessica Barbata Jackson showed recently in the journal Louisiana History, Italian newcomers were still well thought of in New Orleans in the 1870s when negative stereotypes were being established in the Northern press

The Times, for instance, described them as bandits and members of the criminal classes who were “wretchedly poor and unskilled,” “starving and wholly destitute.” The stereotype about inborn criminality is plainly evident in an 1874 story about Italian immigrants seeking vaccinations that refers to one immigrant as a “burly fellow, whose appearance was like that of the traditional brigand of the Abruzzi.”

A Times story in 1880 described immigrants, including Italians, as “links in a descending chain of evolution.” These characterizations reached a defamatory crescendo in an 1882 editorial that appeared under the headline “Our Future Citizens.” The editors wrote:

“There has never been since New York was founded so low and ignorant a class among the immigrants who poured in here as the Southern Italians who have been crowding our docks during the past year.”

The editors reserved their worst invective for Italian immigrant children, whom they described as “utterly unfit — ragged, filthy, and verminous as they were — to be placed in the public primary schools among the decent children of American mechanics.”

The racist myth that African-Americans and Sicilians were both innately criminal drove an 1887 Times story about a lynching victim in Mississippi whose name was given as “Dago Joe” — “dago” being a slur directed at Italian and Spanish-speaking immigrants. The victim was described as a “half breed” who “was the son of a Sicilian father and a mulatto mother, and had the worst characteristics of both races in his makeup. He was cunning, treacherous and cruel, and was regarded in the community where he lived as an assassin by nature.”

Sicilians as ‘Rattlesnakes’

The carnage in New Orleans was set in motion in the fall of 1890, when the city’s popular police chief, David Hennessy, was assassinated on his way home one evening. Hennessy had no shortage of enemies. The historian John V. Baiamonte Jr. writes that he had once been tried for murder in connection with the killing of a professional rival. He is also said to have been involved in a feud between two Italian businessmen. On the strength of a clearly suspect witness who claimed to hear Mr. Hennessy say that “dagoes” had shot him, the city charged 19 Italians with complicity in the chief’s murder.

That the evidence was distressingly weak was evident from the verdicts that were swiftly handed down: Of the first nine to be tried, six were acquitted; three others were granted mistrials. The leaders of the mob that then went after them advertised their plans in advance, knowing full well that the city’s elites — who coveted the businesses the Italians had built or hated the Italians for fraternizing with African-Americans — would never seek justice for the dead. After the lynching, a grand jury investigation pronounced the killings praiseworthy, turning that inquiry into what the historian Barbara Botein describes as “possibly one of the greatest whitewashes in American history.”

The blood of the New Orleans victims was scarcely dry when The Times published a cheerleading news story — “Chief Hennessy Avenged: Eleven of his Italian Assassins Lynched by a Mob” — that reveled in the bloody details. It reported that the mob had consisted “mostly of the best element” of New Orleans society. The following day, a scabrous Times editorial justified the lynching — and dehumanized the dead, with by-now-familiar racist stereotypes.

“These sneaking and cowardly Sicilians,” the editors wrote, “the descendants of bandits and assassins, who have transported to this country the lawless passions, the cutthroat practices … are to us a pest without mitigations. Our own rattlesnakes are as good citizens as they. Our own murderers are men of feeling and nobility compared to them.” The editors concluded of the lynching that it would be difficult to find “one individual who would confess that privately he deplores it very much.”

President Harrison would have ignored the New Orleans carnage had the victims been black. But the Italian government made that impossible. It broke off diplomatic relations and demanded an indemnity that the Harrison administration paid. Harrison even called on Congress in his 1891 State of the Union to protect foreign nationals — though not black Americans — from mob violence.

Harrison’s Columbus Day proclamation in 1892 opened the door for Italian-Americans to write themselves into the American origin story, in a fashion that piled myth upon myth. As the historian Danielle Battisti shows in “Whom We Shall Welcome,” they rewrote history by casting Columbus as “the first immigrant” — even though he never set foot in North America and never immigrated anywhere (except possibly to Spain), and even though the United States did not exist as a nation during his 15th-century voyage. The mythologizing, carried out over many decades, granted Italian-Americans “a formative role in the nation-building narrative.” It also tied Italian-Americans closely to the paternalistic assertion, still heard today, that Columbus “discovered” a continent that was already inhabited by Native Americans.

But in the late 19th century, the full-blown Columbus myth was yet to come. The New Orleans lynching solidified a defamatory view of Italians generally, and Sicilians in particular, as irredeemable criminals who represented a danger to the nation. The influential anti-immigrant racist Representative Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, soon to join the United States Senate, quickly appropriated the event. He argued that a lack of confidence in juries, not mob violence, had been the real problem in New Orleans. “Lawlessness and lynching are evil things,” he wrote, “but a popular belief that juries cannot be trusted is even worse.”

Facts aside, Lodge argued, beliefs about immigrants were in themselves sufficient to warrant higher barriers to immigration. Congress ratified that notion during the 1920s, curtailing Italian immigration on racial grounds, even though Italians were legally white, with all of the rights whiteness entailed.

The Italian-Americans who labored in the campaign that overturned racist immigration restrictions in 1965 used the romantic fictions built up around Columbus to political advantage. This shows yet again how racial categories that people mistakenly view as matters of biology grow out of highly politicized myth making.

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Justifying White Supremacy

Enlightenment Justifications of Racism – 1700s

  • Thomas Jefferson – 1776
    • Thomas Jefferson, was among those who married the idea of race with a biological and social hierarchy.  Jefferson, a Virginia slave owner who helped draft the Declaration of Independence and later became President, was influential in promoting the idea of race that recognized whites as superior and Africans as inferior. Jefferson wrote in 1776 in Notes on the State of Virginia,
    • Wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia, “…They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labor through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present. When present, they do not go through it with more coolness or steadiness than the whites. They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection… Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one [black] could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous… I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.
    • Notes on the State of Virginia was widely considered one of the most read non-fiction book in the US in the US well into the 19th century.

NCBI: From “brute” to “thug:” the demonization and criminalization of unarmed Black male victims in America

Race is the most significant sociodemographic distinction in the United States. The social construction of contemporary racial ideology finds its birth in the period known as the Enlightenment (). Enlightenment thinkers such as David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Jefferson contributed to the literature and theory behind biological racial differences. Jefferson, a founding father of the United States, third U.S. President, and slave owner, wrote about the differences between the races in his essays, Notes on the State of Virginia. In his writings he describes physical differences such as skin color and hair texture as the basis for scientific distinction, stating, “the difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and causer were better known to us” (, p. 97). Jefferson uses observable data – presumably his own slaves – to come to his conclusions, stating:

Besides those of colour, figure, and hair, there are other physical distinctions proving a difference of race. They have less hair on the face and body. They secrete less by the kidneys, and more by the glands of the skin…They seem to require less sleep…They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome…They are more ardent after their female; but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. (, p. 98)

These sentiments and ideologies were carried on to develop notions of race, and more specifically the racial dynamics of superiority and inferiority.

Social Darwinism – 1800s

  • Some human beings are biologically superior to others
    • The strongest or fittest should survive and flourish in society
    • The weak and unfit should be allowed to die

Saho: Pseudo-scientific racism and Social Darwinism

“Darwinism and Social Darwinism have very little in common, apart from the name and a few basic concepts, which Social Darwinists misapplied. The theory that there is a hierarchy of human species into ‘races’ has affected international politics, economics and social development across the globe.

Social Darwinism is a false application of Darwin’s ideas such as adaptation and natural selection, and does not really follow from Darwinian thinking in any way. Social Darwinism is a belief, which became popular in England, Europe and America, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher in the 19th century was one of the most important Social Darwinists.

Social Darwinism does not believe in the principle of equality of all human beings. It states that:

  • Some human beings are biologically superior to others
  • The strongest or fittest should survive and flourish in society
  • The weak and unfit should be allowed to die

There was a constant struggle between humans and the strongest always would win. The strongest nation was the fittest, therefore the best, and consequently had an inherent right to rule.

Social Darwinism applied the ‘survival of the fittest’ to human ‘races’ and said that ‘might makes right’. Not only was survival of the fittest seen as something natural, but it was also morally correct. It was therefore natural, normal, and proper for the strong to thrive at the expense of the weak. White Protestant Europeans had evolved much further and faster than other “races.”

So-called ‘white civilised’ industrial nations that had technologically advanced weapons had the moral right to conquer and ‘civilize’ the ‘savage blacks’ of the world. Social Darwinism was used to rationalise imperialism, colonialism, racism and poverty.

The beliefs associated with Social Darwinism were discredited during the 20th century, as the increasing knowledge of biological, social, and cultural phenomena does not support its basic tenets.”

  • Scientific Racism – 1800s
  • In 1866, Frederick Farrar lectured on the “Aptitude of Races” which he divided into 3 groups
    • Savage (All Africans, indigenous people, people of color with the exception of the Chinese)
    • Semi-Civilized (e.g. Chinese – who were once civilized but now their society was in arrested development)
    • Civilized (European, Aryan and Semitic peoples)

Dismantling Racism Project: A History: The Construction of Race and Racism

Scientific racism is the pseudoscientific belief that empirical evidence exists to support or justify racism (racial discrimination), racial inferiority, or racial superiority. Scientific racism employs anthropology  anthropometry, craniometry, and other disciplines or pseudo-disciplines, in proposing anthropological typologies supporting the classification of human populations into physically discrete human races, that might be asserted to be superior or inferior. Scientific racism was common during the period from 1600s to the end of World War I.

Dismantling Racism Project: A History: The Construction of Race and Racism

  • In 1838 JC Prichard, a famous anthropologist, lectured on the “Extinction of Human Races” He said it was obvious that “the savage races” could not be saved. It was the law of nature.
  • In 1864, W. Winwood Reade, an esteemed member of both London’s geographical and anthropological societies published his book called Savage Africa. He ended the book with a prediction on the future of the black race.
    • “England and France will rule Africa. Africans will dig the ditches and water the deserts. It will be hard work and the Africans will probably become extinct. “We must learn to look at the result with composure. It illustrates the beneficent law of nature, that the weak must be devoured by the strong.”
  • In 1866, Frederick Farrar lectured on the “Aptitude of Races” which he divided into 3 groups.
    • Savage (All Africans, indigenous people, people of color with the exception of the Chinese)
    • Semi-Civilized (e.g. Chinese – who were once civilized but now their society was in arrested development)
    • Civilized (European, Aryan and Semitic peoples)

MTV Decoded: The Surprisingly Racist History of “Caucasian” | Decoded

Medicine 1850s

  • Robert Knox in The Races of Man – 1850
  • Concluded that people of color were intellectually inferior, because of brain texture and lack of nerve endings
  • Origins of the 20th Century Eugenics movement

Dismantling Racism Project: A History: The Construction of Race and Racism

In 1850, Robert Knox in The Races of Man: A Fragment took popular prejudices and formed them into “scientific conviction” that race and intelligence are linked and hereditary. Robert Knox was a famous English anatomist. Knox concluded that people of color were intellectually inferior, not because of brain size but rather because of brain texture and lack of nerve endings. Later it was found that his conclusion was based on the autopsy of only one man of color. Knox’s studies and others were taken very seriously, which can be seen as the origins of the 20th Century Eugenics movement.

20th Century Eugenics Movement

  • Eugenics – 1920s and 1930s
    • Based on the 1850 theory from Robert Knox, an English anatomist, that black people were intellectually inferior, because of brain texture
    • Movement in the US focused on eliminating undesirable traits from the population by preventing “unfit” individuals from having children.
    • 32 U.S. states passed laws that resulted in the forced sterilization of more than 64,000 Americans including immigrants, people of color, unmarried mothers and the mentally ill.

Dismantling Racism Project: A History: The Construction of Race and Racism

Eugenics is an effort to breed better human beings by encouraging the reproduction of people with “good” genes and discouraging those with “bad” genes. Eugenicists effectively lobbied for social legislation to keep racial and ethnic groups separate, to restrict immigration from Asia, Africa and southern and eastern Europe, and to sterilize people considered “genetically unfit. Elements of the American eugenics movement were models for the Nazis, whose radical adaptation of eugenics culminated in the Holocaust. The United States took Eugenics and ran with it, making it part of mainstream society. By 1928, 376 separate college courses, which enrolled 20,000 students focused on Eugenics. And an analysis of high school text books from 1914 to 1948 indicates that the majority presented Eugenics as legitimate.

History.com: Social Darwinism

“As social Darwinist rationalizations of inequality gained popularity in the late 1800s, British scholar Sir Francis Galton (a half-cousin of Darwin) launched a new “science” aimed at improving the human race by ridding society of its “undesirables.” He called it eugenics.

Galton proposed to better humankind by propagating the British elite. He argued that social institutions such as welfare and mental asylums allowed inferior humans to survive and reproduce at higher levels than their superior counterparts in Britain’s wealthy class.

Galton’s ideas never really took hold in his country, but they became popular in America where the concepts of eugenics quickly gained strength.

Eugenics became a popular social movement in the United States that peaked in the 1920s and 1930s. Books and films promoted eugenics, while local fairs and exhibitions held “fitter family” and “better baby” competitions around the country.

The eugenics movement in the United States focused on eliminating undesirable traits from the population. Proponents of the eugenics movement reasoned the best way to do this was by preventing “unfit” individuals from having children.

During the first part of the twentieth century, 32 U.S. states passed laws that resulted in the forced sterilization of more than 64,000 Americans including immigrants, people of color, unmarried mothers and the mentally ill.”


Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924

  • provided for the sexual sterilization of inmates of State institutions in certain cases
  • required that a racial description of every person be recorded at birth and divided society into only two classifications: white and colored (essentially all other, which included numerous American Indians)
  • Codified race by the “one-drop rule”

Wikipedia:  Racial Integrity Act of 1924

On March 20, 1924, the Virginia General Assembly passed two laws that had arisen out of contemporary concerns about eugenics and race: SB 219, titled “The Racial Integrity Act” and SB 281, “An ACT to provide for the sexual sterilization of inmates of State institutions in certain cases”, henceforth referred to as “The Sterilization Act”. The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 was one of a series of laws designed to prevent interracial relationships.

The Racial Integrity Act required that a racial description of every person be recorded at birth and divided society into only two classifications: white and colored (essentially all other, which included numerous American Indians). It defined race by the “one-drop rule“, defining as “colored” persons with any African or Native American ancestry. It also expanded the scope of Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage (anti-miscegenation law) by criminalizing all marriages between white persons and non-white persons. In 1967 the law was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in its ruling on Loving v. Virginia.

The Sterilization Act provided for compulsory sterilization of persons deemed to be “feebleminded,” including the “insane, idiotic, imbecile, or epileptic.”

These two laws were Virginia’s implementation of Harry Laughlin‘s “Model Eugenical Sterilization Law”,[3] published two years earlier in 1922. The Sterilization Act was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927). This had appealed the order for compulsory sterilization of Carrie Buck, who was an inmate in the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, and her daughter and mother.

Together these laws implemented the practice of “scientific eugenics” in Virginia.

EJI: Pro-Slavery Doctor Claims Discovery of “Drapetomania”

On March 17, 1851, at the annual meeting of the Louisiana Medical Association, Dr. Samuel Cartwright presented a committee report entitled, “A Report on the Diseases and Physical Peculiarities of the Negro Race.” Filled with claims of “scientific racism,” the report also documented a new disease: Drapetomania.

More than a year before, in December 1849, the Louisiana State Medical Convention had selected Dr. Cartwright, a pro-slavery advocate, to chair a committee tasked with investigating and reporting on diseases unique to black people. In the resulting report, Dr. Cartwright claimed black people were very different physiologically from white people, possessing smaller brains, more sensitive skin, and overdeveloped nervous systems. These unique traits, he claimed, gave black people an especially high propensity for servitude. Citing “scientific” evidence and scripture, Dr. Cartwright argued that “the Negro is a slave by nature and can never be happy . . . in any other condition.”

Dr. Cartwright invented the term Drapetomania, derived from the Greek words for “runaway slave” and “crazy,” to describe a new curable mental disease. When infected with this affliction, he claimed, enslaved black people were struck with an urge to flee bondage and seek freedom. He further explained that the disease was triggered by masters who unwisely treated enslaved people as their equals and prescribed “treatment” such as severe whipping and amputation of the toes.

Couched in pseudo-science and presented as medical assertions, Dr. Cartwright’s report was an effort to justify and defend the institution of slavery as natural and optimal for both white slave owners and the black people they enslaved.

Religious Justifications of Racism

  • Southern churches edited bible to support, justify, bless slavery & white supremacy
    • Removed lessons on social justice, courage, love, compassion, and service to others
  • Emphasized passages like:
    • Mark of Cain – Cain’s curse was interpreted as black skin, millions of Christians used to justify slavery
    • “Curse of Ham” – Noah cursing his son Ham, declaring offspring would serve (slave) his brothers
    • Romans 13 – states god wants people to follow laws – justified Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Jim Crow

HuffPost: The Biblical Roots of Racism

“When the Northern and Southern Baptists split in 1845 over the issue of slavery, Southern Baptists were using an obscure reference in Genesis to justify owning slaves — the so-called “Mark of Cain.” In Genesis 4, we read of God placing a visible “mark” of some sort on Cain for murdering his brother and lying about it when God asked what had happened. As early as the fifth century, Cain’s curse was interpreted as black skin, and millions of Christians have used it to justify slavery.

A bit later in Genesis, we read of Noah cursing his son Ham, declaring that his offspring would henceforth serve those of his brothers. The “Curse of Ham” was another Biblical justification for slavery. One particularly disturbing appeal to the Bible argued that Noah and his family on the ark were all white, so any blacks on the ark must have been among the animals.”

Romans 13 was employed by anti-abolitionists to justify and legitimise the keeping of slaves; notably around the time of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which precipitated debate as to whether the law should be obeyed or resisted.

“would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”

The Root: A Brief History of People Using Romans 13 to Justify White Supremacy

“If you have ever wondered why slaves adopted the religious philosophy of their slave masters, Romans 13 is your answer. If you wanted to know why slaves, who often outnumbered slave masters, rebelled so rarely, the answer lies in Romans 13. To understand why the Bible was the only book many slaves were allowed to own, read that verse again.

Christianity was adopted by people, rulers and governments all around the globe because it tells its followers to comply. It boasts of a benevolent God who knows best; even when you are the subject of brutality, the Bible tells you that this is what God wants. At the root of Romans 13 is an edict to obey authority.

The 13th chapter of Romans is white supremacy, explained…

…One of the reasons the Confederate South thought it was entitled to its own country where slavery was legal was Romans 13. In the buildup to the Civil War, even non-slave-owning white Christians used the verse to justify their support of the Civil War and slavery. They believed that God ordained the institution and that Romans 13 was a warning from Jesus to the North not to violate the Constitution and the law by outlawing slave owning.

During the civil rights movement, Paul’s admonition echoed through white, Southern churches, especially those that split from their larger denominations to hold on to segregation.

In the famous 1950s Presbyterian article “How to Detect a Liberal in the Pulpit,” the eventual formation of the segregationist Presbyterian Church in America was foreshadowed when the writer explained that liberal ministers “will be frequently found leading racial demonstrations, supporting workers in a strike … supporting the right of the Communist Party to engage in its activity in this country, and in giving his approval to the decision of the Supreme Court removing the Bible and other Christian influences from the schools of the nation.”

In their opinion, sit-ins, protests and civil disobedience as a whole were explicitly against Paul’s instructions to Christians. Rosa Parks, the Freedom Riders and even participants in the Children’s March were all sinners in the eyes of an angry white God, according to Romans 13.”

Stephen Mattson: The False and Idolatrous Narrative of ‘American Christianity’

… During the brutal colonization of this land, most white people who claimed Christianity ruthlessly enforced their power using violence and dehumanization, politically and spiritually rationalizing everything as part of “manifest destiny.”

Later, slave owners would manipulate the Bible to mandate subservience, and white Christendom would continue to apply a mixture of scripture and theology — heavily reinforced with brutality — to maintain control of their financial, political, and social rule.

We don’t need more evidence that shows white conservative Christendom — especially the kind that is built on nationalistic and patriarchal structures — is oppressive. It attacks, silences, and diminishes opposing opinions while simultaneously promoting a nationalistic type of Christianity. White conservative Christianity selfishly prioritizes partisan platforms that favor an oppressive agenda over following Jesus. They forget that Christianity isn’t meant to be exclusively white, male, or American.

“Christian America” was established by those who were almost exclusively white, male, and Christian. It was simultaneously used as a tool to eliminate and subjugate people of color and those who were not white, male, American, or Christian.

Although there were a few exceptions, this kind of Christianity was used as a weapon to maintain dominance over anyone who attempted to upset the status quo. In this way, their Christianity maintained a white supremacist view of humanity where white people were set up to rule.

Hate and racism were so embedded within this religion that the KKK was marketed as a Christian institution, and segregation was endorsed by countless white pastors and their congregations. It’s still so prevalent within white Christianity today that many still refuse to acknowledge systemic racism as a problem. They happily support a president who continually spews racist and xenophobic vitriol, and support policies that continue to be racist and evil.

This false and idolatrous narrative of “American Christianity” is still prevalent today.”

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