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What Does it Mean to Be White?

By Jim Carey

The New York Times’s Charles Blow describes Trump’s recent rants as having made his allegiances very clear: “He’s on the side of white supremacists, white nationalists, ethno-racists, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites. He is simpatico with that cesspool.”

On Monday, we ask: What does it mean to be white? We will watch MTV’s White People, a groundbreaking documentary on race. The film follows Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Define American founder, Jose Antonio Vargas, as he travels across the country to get this complicated conversation started. White People explores complex and timely issues including whether colorblindness is a good thing, what privilege really means, and what it is like to become the “white minority” in your neighborhood.

Before we ask that question, let`s ask: “What does it mean to be black?” Let’s look at their history of terror in the US. There were 4,075 documented racial terror lynchings [P1] of African Americans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia between 1877 and 1950. Between 1877 and 1950, lynchings were violent public acts of torture that were tolerated by public officials and designed to intimidate black victims. The past six years have seen several violent lynching of blacks in Mississippi, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas.

Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 defined the parameters of “whiteness” and prohibited interracial marriage. The laws remained until the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision—cf. The Charlottesville Syllabus 2017.

In the Oregon Country[3] —Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and parts of Wyoming and Montana—

Lash Law legislation was passed in 1844 that said any black person, free or slave would be “whipped twice a year until he or she shall quit the territory. Later, black people were prohibited from coming to the territory at all. That racism lingered and festered into the early 2000s.

Much of this information is supported and documented by Bryan Stevenson`s Equal Justice Initiative.

Ta Nehisi Coates describes this terror best: “But all our phrasing— race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy —serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this … They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people … At the onset of the Civil War, our stolen bodies were worth $4 billion, more than all of American industry, all of American railroads, workshops, and factories combined, and the prime product rendered by our stolen bodies—cotton—was America’s primary export. The richest men in America lived in the Mississippi River Valley, and they made their riches off our stolen bodies. Our bodies were held in bondage by the early presidents. Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free.

Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains—whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains.” (Letter to My Son, 2015)


Meeting and Video

Occupy SMA presents “What Does it Mean to Be White?”

Mon, Oct 9, 1pm

Quinta Loreto Hotel, TV room

Loreto 15, Centro




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