Coming To Terms With Being White

A curated episode list by

Creation Date July 20th, 2020
Updated Date Updated January 27th, 2021
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A fantastic introduction to race in America and opening your eyes to what has always been there.
  1. For much of human history, people viewed themselves as members of tribes or nations but had no notion of “race.” Today, science deems race biologically meaningless. Who invented race as we know it, and why? By John Biewen, with guest Chenjerai Kumanyika.  Photo: The Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon, Portugal. The highlighted figure in the center is an effigy of Gomes Eanes de Zurara. The figure at the top right is Prince Henry the Navigator. Photo by Harvey Barrison.  
  2. Chattel slavery in the United States, with its distinctive – and strikingly cruel – laws and structures, took shape over many decades in colonial America. The innovations that built American slavery are inseparable from the construction of Whiteness as we know it today. By John Biewen, with guest Chenjerai Kumanyika.    Key sources for this episode: The Racial Equity Institute Ibram Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People
  3. “All men are created equal.” Those words, from the Declaration of Independence, are central to the story that Americans tell about ourselves and our history. But what did those words mean to the man who actually wrote them? By John Biewen, with guest Chenjerai Kumanyika.   Key sources for this episode: Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People Ibram Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning The Racial Equity Institute  
  4. Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen heard next to nothing about the town’s most important historical event. In 1862, Mankato was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history – the hanging of 38 Dakota warriors – following one of the major wars between Plains Indians and settlers. In this documentary, originally produced for This American Life, John goes back to Minnesota to explore what happened, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it afterwards.   Image: The Minnesota State Seal, 1858   Key sources for this episode: Gwen Westerman, Mni Sota MakoceMary Wingerd, North Country: The Making of Minnesota
  5. When it comes to America’s racial sins, past and present, a lot of us see people in one region of the country as guiltier than the rest. Host John Biewen spoke with some white Southern friends about that tendency. Part Six of our ongoing series, Seeing White. With recurring guest, Chenjerai Kumanyika. Image: A lynching on Clarkson Street, New York City, during the Draft Riots of 1863. Credit: Greenwich Village Society of Historical Preservation. Shannon Sullivan’s books, Revealing Whiteness and Good White People.  Thanks to Chris Julin, whose 1991 NPR report on the Wisconsin fishing rights dispute we featured.
  6. “How attached are you to the idea of being white?” Chenjerai Kumanyika puts that question to host John Biewen, as they revisit an unfinished conversation from a previous episode. Part 7 of our series, Seeing White.  
  7. Scientists weren’t the first to divide humanity along racial – and and racist – lines. But for hundreds of years, racial scientists claimed to provide proof for those racist hierarchies – and some still do.   Resources for this episode: Fatal Invention, by Dorothy Roberts The History of White People, by Nell Irvin Painter
  8. In 1919, a white mob forced the entire black population of Corbin, Kentucky, to leave, at gunpoint. It was one of many racial expulsions in the United States. What happened, and how such racial cleansings became “America’s family secret.” The history of Corbin as presented by the Corbin city government, with no mention of the 1919 racial expulsion.  Elliot Jaspin’s book, Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansings in America
  9. The story of Bhagat Singh Thind, and also of Takao Ozawa – Asian immigrants who, in the 1920s, sought to convince the U.S. Supreme Court that they were white in order to gain American citizenship. Thind’s “bargain with white supremacy,” and the deeply revealing results.
  10. For hundreds of years, the white-dominated American culture has raised the specter of the dangerous, violent black man. Host John Biewen tells the story of a confrontation with an African American teenager. Then he and recurring guest Chenjerai Kumanyika discuss that longstanding image – and its neglected flipside: white-on-black violence.
  11. For years, Myra Greene had explored blackness through her photography, often in self-portraits. She wondered, what would it mean to take pictures of whiteness? For her friends, what was it like to be photographed because you’re white? With another conversation between host John Biewen and series collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika.  
  12. When it comes to U.S. government programs and support earmarked for the benefit of particular racial groups, history is clear. White folks have received most of the goodies. By John Biewen, with Deena Hayes-Greene of the Racial Equity Institute and recurring series partner Chenjerai Kumanyika.
  13. The concluding episode in our series, Seeing White. An exploration of solutions and responses to America’s deep history of white supremacy by host John Biewen, with Chenjerai Kumanyika, Robin DiAngelo, and William “Sandy” Darity, Jr.

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