Monday, July 27, 2020

On Structural Racism

Structural racism, also known as systemic or societal racism, is more deeply entrenched in our working culture than you think.

A quick google search on the definition of structural racism gives us the following:

"A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with 'whiteness' and disadvantages associated with 'color' to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist." [1]

This brings us to the point of this article: we need a revised definition for structural racism—one that hones in on what it is and how it affects people of color. While the above definition is effective in broadly describing structural racism, it suffers from lack of specificity. What "public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms" are most damaging in terms of perpetuating whiteness in working spaces?

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Fragile Rights: The History of Voting in the United States

This story was originally published by the Davis Humanities Institute on May 1st, 2017, but is no longer hosted there after a website update. I am re-posting it here for that reason. 

In 2013, the Shelby v. Holder U.S. Supreme Court decision gave states permission to change their election laws without needing advance clearance from the Department of Justice. This decision invalidated a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required preclearance with the DoJ to protect voters of color. Most people might ask: How did we get to this point?

But Professor of History Greg Downs is not interested in asking “how did we get here?” In fact, he sees this as the wrong question. The United States, he argues, has never been a country where the government guaranteed the right to vote. Indeed, the United States is a country with a tradition of disenfranchisement, rather than enfranchisement.

The White Woman's Slave Market: Black Wet Nurses and Reproductive Violence

This story was originally published by the Davis Humanities Institute on November 13th, 2017, but is no longer hosted there after a website update. Additionally, the original article was unfortunately plagiarized (albeit in a way that mangled its content) by a website I won't repeat here. Therefore I am re-publishing it here as it was meant to be. 

On Wednesday, November 8th, Assistant Professor of History Stephanie Jones-Rogers of UC Berkeley brought to light the market for enslaved wet nurses in nineteenth-century America in a talk hosted by the DHI Research Cluster Women and Gender in the World.

In a talk entitled “‘She could spare one ample breast for the profit of her owner’: White Mothers and Enslaved Wet Nurses’ Invisible Labor in American Slave Markets,” Jones-Rogers argued that studying enslaved wet nurses reveals white women’s complicity in expanding slavery in the south and demonstrates how white mothers were at the forefront of these market transactions. White southern women had created a “niche sector of the slave market” dedicated to providing them with the specific maternal labor that they sought from bondswomen.

Jones-Rogers emphasized that we cannot forget about the reproductive and maternal violence white women perpetrated against black bondswomen. Indeed, the commodification of slave mothers provides an important example of the disturbing “quotidian” horrors of slavery.

Defining Capitalism: Commodification, Fungibility, and Plantation Slavery

The new history of slavery and capitalism | Aeon Ideas

This story was originally published by the Davis Humanities Institute on May 8th, 2017, but is no longer hosted there after a website update. I am re-posting it here for that reason.

For UC Berkeley Assistant Professor of History Caitlin Rosenthal, the history of capitalism will remain impenetrable as long as we continue to provide weak definitions for “capitalism.” Though countless scholars have tried to define capitalism, no definition has been settled on. In her new book Accounting for Slavery, Rosenthal hopes to change that.

Described as one of the premier historians of capitalism, Rosenthal visited UC Davis on April 25th to field questions about the arguments at the center of her forthcoming book. Put simply, she contends that nineteenth century southern plantations need to be studied as businesses, much as northern factories are, in order to better understand capitalism.

For Rosenthal, capitalism is commodification. As such, she argues that the commodification of slaves allows us to better understand how capitalism and slavery were related. But beyond commodification, she believes that “at the center of capitalism is capital,” and that systems of managing capital were “advanced” in the South by the late antebellum period.

From Slavery to Servitude: Making Free Labor Unfree in Nineteenth-Century Brazil

This story was originally published by the Davis Humanities Institute on January 29th, 2018, but is no longer hosted there after a website update. I am re-posting it here for that reason.

In 1888, Brazil became the last country to abolish slavery. But the seeds contributing to its demise had been planted decades earlier. As Assistant Professor of History José Juan Pérez Meléndez revealed in a talk on Tuesday, Jan. 23rd, Brazil implemented laws regulating free immigrant labor as early as 1837, marking a period of transition from the use of black slaves. But perhaps because slavery was so entrenched in Brazil, its free laborers were, in practice, far from being truly free.