Stamped from the Beginning - Racist ideas in America

22 August 2017

I’m excited to start a new book: Stamped from the Beginning, the difinitive history of racist ideas in Amerca. It just release last week, and hey, it’s already a national book award winner. I read The New Jim Crow a few years ago and it had definitely changed my perspective on things, showing the hidden and discriminatory side of the law of which many are completely unaware. The ideas are becoming more exposed with social media, and movies like Thirteen (a sort of short and more accessible version of The New Jim Crow). There is still a lot to be exposed, and there is definitely still an obvious contention between different groups on what the problem is and who’s to blame or not to blame. Often it seems there are two sides shouting. One saying racism exists and another saying it doesn’t, there is no problem (Hey Obama was the president wasn’t he?) or at least I’m not to blame. And one of the main things done in Stamped from the Beginning is it shows that there’s a sort of myth, one he says he held and discovered while writing the book, that what drives racist ideas is not hate and ignorance, but discriminatory policies driven by economic, political and cultural self-intrest:

I was taught the popular folktale of racism: that ignorant and hateful people had produced racist ideas, and that these racist people had instituted racist policies. But when I learned the motives behind the production of many of America’s most influentially racist ideas, it became quite obvious that this folktale, though sensible, was not based on a firm footing of historical evidence. Ignorance/hate->racist ideas->discrimination: this casual relationship is largely ahistorical. It has actually been the inverse relationship—racial discrimination led to racist ideas which led to ignorance and hate. Racial discrimination->racist ideas->ignorance/hate: this is the causal relationship driving America’s history of race relations.

It’s an apt time to start a new book on this topic given the recent events and I’m excited to read through it. I’ll try to share a bit as I go.

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