Dear White America
I am an American of African descent. I am 66 years old. I am college educated. My wife is college educated. My six children are college educated. Five of those eight undergraduate degrees are from the Ivy League. Although my wife and I have modest beginnings, we have done ok.
I have often wondered how some White Americans form their opinions about me and other Black Americans based solely upon “race”. I mean specifically, I have always thought that some kind of training must be involved and that it must be in the home and in the culture. I have always wanted to be a “fly on the wall” to observe what actually goes on in the home to develop the cultural behaviors and signals around race in our country. I have always wanted to know how that played out to become the out and out racial bias that is unmistakable on so many levels.
Well my curiosity is being satisfied. In his book The Making of a Racist, Professor Charles B. Dew speaks quietly yet forcefully about his upbringing in the American south. His title speaks of himself and his family and his culture. It speaks of a southerner reflecting on family, history, and the slave trade. It speaks of the actual books that were read, the lessons that were taught, and the customs that were followed to denigrate a whole people – one person at a time. It speaks of the actual books that were read, the lessons that were taught, and the customs that were followed to change flawed thinking about a whole people, also one person at a time.
Like much of what is taught to us by the culture we grow up in, Professor Dew was taught never to touch a black person by observing the actions of his parents. He was taught that black people are shiftless and lazy and immoral thieves by how they were portrayed in books read to him as a child. Those were lessons from books like the Ezekiel Tales and Eneas Africanus. He was taught of the “glory” and “dignity” of the old south by books like the Youth’s Confederate Primer and Weep No More, My Lady.
These are just a few of the means used to shape the thinking of this self-identified racist. But the most insidious aspect of it all is that the day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year training was at the knee of loving people who were pillars of the community. Fortunately enough, he and others have come to understand what happened to them, what they participated in, and the power of the truth to change the mind.
That is the hope of the Unpaid Labor Project. A new viewpoint creates a new mindset. We are proud to count Professor Charles B. Dew among the 57 signatories to the Unpaid Labor Manifesto. From The Making of a Racist to the unmasking of a racist is a glorious journey to the racial reconciliation so needed for America to realize her true potential.