On Friday, September 25 we hosted a screening of Part II of Race—The Power of an Illusion: The Story We Tell, followed by a one-hour panel discussion with experts. The panel discussion focused on the origins of the concept of race, an accounting of when it took hold in the United States , and more importantly, why.
Part II looks back in history and reveals that the idea of race came well after the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the colonies. Not until the American Revolution proclaimed the radical Enlightenment ideal that “all men are created equal” was there a need to justify the immorality of slavery and the removal of Indigenous Americans to clear land for white settlement. The social and economic hierarchy created by European colonialism was made to seem like the natural outcome of a biological destiny -- ideas that have persisted in the collective consciousness of Americans long after the formal end of slavery.
Following the film screening, expert panelists Gerald Horne (Professor of History and African American Studies at University of Houston, UC Berkeley alumnus), Terence Keel (Associate Professor in the Department of African American Studies and the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics at UC Los Angeles), Lundy Braun (Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Africana Studies at Brown University), and Kim TallBear (Associate Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta) with moderator Denise Herd (Professor and Division Head of Community Health Sciences at UC Berkeley School of Public Health, Associate Director at the Othering and Belonging Institute) explored how ideas of race evolved throughout American history.
(Scroll down for a transcript of the panel discussion)
Denise Herd: Hello, my name is Denise Herd and I'm a professor in the School of Public Health here at UC Berkeley. And I'm also the Associate Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute also at Berkeley. And as one of the organizers of this program, I'm very excited to welcome you to the second installment in our series, Race, The Power of an Illusion part two the story we tell. Before we begin today's panel, I'd like to acknowledge and thank the Ohlone people for allowing us a sheltering place and work on their beautiful land.
Denise Herd: We recognize that UC Berkeley sits on the territory of Huichin, the ancestral and unseated land of the Chochenyo Ohlone, the successors of the historic and sovereign Verona Band of Alameda County. This land was and continues to be of great importance to the Ohlone people. We recognize that every member of the UC Berkeley community has and continues to benefit from the use and occupation of this land since the institution's founding in 1868. Consistent with our values of community and diversity, we have a responsibility to acknowledge and make visible the university's relationship to native peoples. By offering this land acknowledgement, we affirm indigenous sovereignty and we'll work to hold the University of California, Berkeley, more accountable to the needs of American-Indian, and indigenous peoples.
Denise Herd: I'd also like to thank the sponsors for this program, the Othering & Belonging Institute, the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley and the Center for Research on Social Change. In addition, we'd like to thank California Newsreel for allowing us to screen this exceptional documentary that they produced and invite our viewers to visit the documentary's website at racepowerofanillusion.org for a collection of resources related to the series, including a recording of this panel. So in part one, we saw the film and panelists explore definitions of the concept of race, and they ultimately concluded that race has no biological reality apart from superficial traits, such as eye color and skin color and hair texture.
Denise Herd: In other words, the video concluded that as human beings, we're all pretty much the same under the skin. And so in today's video explored and the panel will be commenting on that is, how was this story or mythology about race created historically? And how did it become such a potent and powerful source in our society today? So, I mean we have evidence with the disturbing levels of police brutality directed at African Americans and native Americans and Mexican Americans. The disparate rates of COVID-19. And so today's video opened by considering the dilemma of reconciling the ideals of the declaration of independence with this notion of equality for everyone, with a genocide and displacement of native Americans and the enslavement of Africans. The video also highlighted how institutions such as science, medicine, and religion that are supposed to be the moral compass and unbiased source of information played a crucial role in creating this very dangerous mythology.
Denise Herd: So here to help us eliminate these issues is just a really extraordinary group of faculty from all over the country, as well as from Canada whom I have the great pleasure and honor of introducing. So first we have with us Lundy Braun and she's a Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Africana Studies at Brown University. She's the author of Breathing Race Into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics. Gerald Horne is a Professor of History and African studies at the University of Houston. His most recent book is entitled The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism, The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in 17th century North America and the Caribbean.
Denise Herd: Terrence Keel is an Associate Professor in the Department of African American Studies at UCLA, and the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics. He is currently working on his second book, examining shifting conceptions of society and human identity in the minds of American biologists, New Left critics and Neoconservatives during the "Culture Wars". And Kim TallBear is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta. Professor TallBear is the author of Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic science. So I'd like to begin our discussion this afternoon by having each panelist take a couple of minutes to explain their perspective on how the idea of race originated and developed over the last two to 300 years in US society. So who would like to begin?
Gerald Horne: I'll start.
Denise Herd: Great. Thank you.
Gerald Horne: Okay so I'll take a privilege and go before two or 300 years, because in my latest book, The Dawning of the Apocalypse, which deals with the 16th century is a precursor to the book of the 17th century. I talk about the... implicitly I discussed what I considered to be the great absence of this documentary, which is the construction of whiteness which in this documentary seems to be taken for granted, despite the fact that there were many bumps along the road before you got to this construction that emerges by 1776. In my telling of the story, I tried to talk about how this construction of race and othering, to coin a phrase, is difficult to separate from religion. That is to say that with regard to the construction of race, I see some of the roots embedded in the crusades in 1095. Of course, Dubois had gone before that a few hundred years earlier to Charles Martel and his unsuccessful... his successful attempt, excuse me, to repel Muslims a few hundred years before that.
Gerald Horne: And these crusades that united Western European Christian dom to retake what they considered the Holy Land with the sort of othering of the Muslim population. And then to skip ahead to 1290 1291, in terms of the bumpiness on the road to whiteness, here you have England expels the Jewish population 200 years before Spain does in 1492, just as Columbus is about to sail the ocean blue. And of course, that's the hinge here with regard to the construction of settler colonialism, colonialism itself, the depredations inflicted on native Americans and the acceleration of the African slave trade. That's the acceleration also because it's apparent that Englishman and Englishwomen too by the way, are enslaving Africans as early as the 1400s.
Gerald Horne: It doesn't necessarily erupt in 1619, although that's a convenient year to begin a discussion. In any case, the clearest example of this entanglement of religion and race comes with Martin Luther and the Protestant secession from Catholicism, which takes London by storm, which leads to the eruption of religious wars between Spain and England. And England as the scrappy underdog, unlike Spain, which has a religious qualification for settlement, you had to be a Catholic to be a settler, which of course allow even some Negro Conquistadors to arise. England by dent of improvisation if you like, does not have a religious qualification for settlement, you don't have to be a Protestant to be a settler. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to explain the history of Maryland, for example, which is settled by English Catholics of the 17th century. They moved towards Pan-European ism which morphs into whiteness.
Gerald Horne: And then ironically enough for London, which as noted they expelled the Jewish population as early as 1290, then begins to welcome them as settlers. Particularly given the entente between Oliver Cromwell and the anti-royalers in the middle of the 17th century and the Jewish population. So it's interesting to note that originally these othered, if you like Africans, they were constructed as heathens. And it takes a while for them to be constructed as not necessarily in religious terms as non-believers, but as part of this inferior grouping. So in other words, my reaction to the documentary is that you really have to talk about whiteness when you talk about race. And if you don't, you're normalizing or assuming that that's a category that's normalized like Homosapien for example, when actually it's this historical construction, that's had many bumps along the road to its eventual "triumph." And secondly, you have to talk about religion.
Denise Herd: Great. Thank you so much, who would like to be next?
Kim TallBear: Denise, can you restate the question again?
Denise Herd: Yeah I'm asking each of you to talk about your perspective on how the idea of race originated and developed over the last two to 300 years in US society.
Kim TallBear: I don't really know that I... I was really fascinated with what Professor Horne was saying but I'm not a historian, so I don't really want to talk about the history of race in the same kind of way. I'm more of an anthropologist of science and then also of white people. And so the film for me, I'm looking at the history of the implementation of race in lands now occupied by the United States. The film did a good job at that in terms of looking at native people. So all of what was in that film is kind of the historical backdrop that I drew on in understanding the book that I wrote Native American DNA.
Kim TallBear: But I was fascinated with what Gerald was saying about religion because I've always thought about the savage civilized binary as the kind of fundamental binary and then comes race. But it seems like he's saying that religion even comes before that, which I think is really interesting. But that history, I think precedes the implementation of race in among my ancestors and the people that I'm concerned with. So I don't know that I have an answer for that, but that's just what I was thinking as he was speaking.
Denise Herd: Well I know that Terrence, you have done a lot of work on religion. Did you want to also add to this conversation at this point?
Terrence Keel: Sure. So the work that I do in a lot of ways builds and expands on some of the analysis, the historical analysis that we saw in the documentary and compliments some of the comments that Professor Horne just shared with us. What's interesting in looking at this documentary now, I don't know how many years removed it is, it's just I think an earlier generation of scholars were looking at the construction of race through a kind of Marxist socialist lens, such that race gets produced in the modern world to serve economic and political interests. And while I think that's a accurate and important analysis, I think what we've lost sight of, which Professor Horne has mentioned and the work that I've done as well is how religion specifically Christianity has been instrumental to the conceptualization of race and people hood within the West. And that this influence has permeated every dimension of Western life from philosophy to politics to economics and specifically science.
Terrence Keel: And actually you can push the timeline back even further, and you can look at early church notions of people hood whereby to be a member of the body of Christ was conceptualized during the early church as a type of prototypical racial, ethnic identity, whereby to be a member of the body of Christ one would transcend one's own unique cultural particular location, and step into this trans-historical universal body that creates a conceptual space where Christians began to other Jews as a type of primitive cultural precursor that Christianity supersedes and replaces. And why I think this is really important is that what we have to remember is that with the arrival of Europeans and the colonies who were Christian lens whereby the indigenous native was in fact, one of the last members, either of the tribe of Israel or a descendant of the Abrahamic faith traditions and thus conversion was restoring them back to their original Christian ancestor.
Terrence Keel: So this is an important thread because when we look at the Caribbean and particularly in the Barbados, and I'm drawing here on the work of Captain Gardner, who has coined the term protestant supremacy, what ends up happening is that Christianity is severed from notions of freedom. And it becomes the exclusive ownership of whites and why this is important is that, missionaries could convert Africans and other enslaved people, but not monument them, not free them, not give them the type of benefits and entitlement and thus whiteness, specifically Christianity and whiteness become locked together. But the way that I think we should look at this is that this is a development that takes place over a long period of time that has earlier precursors either within the founding of the Christian Church and the early church fathers themselves.
Terrence Keel: And so I look at this documentary and I look at the contemporary formations of scientific racism within our culture. And to say that look, we continue to have a kind of Christian value system that orients our thinking around race, identity, belonging, and ancestry that we have not fully dealt with and grappled with. And I don't think we really can move beyond some of these racialized notions until we really excavate its religious and value dimensions that continue to animate how we think about human difference.
Denise Herd: Yeah thank you for those comments. Lundy, do you have anything to add?
Lundy Braun: I would just add that I mean I know the historians are the people who can really speak to this. And my work hasn't done very much before the early 1900s, except that it did start with Jefferson. So I've been primarily focused in the work on lung capacity measurements and how race got institutionalized as a lens for difference in the 19th century. And I think that was an important point for institutionalization. And I personally have stayed away from saying this is the moment when race was invented, because I just knew there was more of historical work that would be done. And I was really fascinated when I first read Terence Keel's work and taught it. And it still kind of blows my students' minds away.
Lundy Braun: So and I'm anxious still to look at Professor Horne's work too. So I think there's so much work to do in excavating the history of this idea. And I think that the point that Professor Horne made is so crucial, is that it didn't just erupt. What was happening and how did that change over time? And then you know what I've been most focused on, how did it actually get institutionalized and normalized and naturalized such that we... you know COVID-19, we're starting to see all sorts of studies about innate difference and race which seems almost preposterous for COVID-19. But actually they're not just popping up, they're pretty systematically being produced.
Lundy Braun: I think the important point and I did really appreciate the comment, now I'm forgetting who made it but the gradual process of both the invention and the persistence of race in the institutionalization.
Denise Herd: Well thank you all for those comments that have really provided us with so much fuller and deeper historical understanding of how some of these concepts developed. And I can identify as somebody in public health and in medicine that the 19th century is when a lot of things took off in our field. And so that my knowledge about slavery and anti-slavery, and the way it interwove with public health also centers on that century. But hearing about the much longer history of othering and the role of religion in that process is I think really important for us to understand. So now I'd like to also dive into a couple of issues in the film that struck me, and that is how settler colonialism and slavery framed arguments regarding both enslaved Africans and indigenous peoples, because I think these histories have often... even though they're intertwined, they're not taught together. And so there's very little understanding of how the forces work together. And so I was wondering if perhaps Professor Horne and TallBear might want to comment on that issue.
Gerald Horne: Well I think one of the weaknesses of the "radical" analysis of the history of the United States, which by the way oftentimes it's not even used the term, believe it or not settler colonialism. I mean, that's like talking about South Africa before 1994, not talking about racism or a party. But a lot of the so called "radical" analysis when they look at race and racism, they don't seem to grasp that this is an essential tool of class collaboration. It led us to say, how do you unite European settlers across class lines to get them to sign on to the same agenda which obviously is the question even today in this settler colonial state as of November, 2020, and this election and what it portends.
Gerald Horne: But I'd also like to add a footnote to what I said earlier, which is that if once again, to look at the bumpiness on the road to the construction of whiteness. If you look at the maltreatment and mistreatment of the Jewish population in England before the expulsion, many of the same tropes that are fixed to them, but they have a particular odor, that they have horns, they have tails, that they should not be allowed to engage in so-called miscegenation, or then transferred to the enslaved population and other so-called nonwhite populations under settler colonialism. Likewise, to continue on this theme of religion, it's quite striking that proceeding the heyday of London settler colonial project, the kind of land expropriations that they became notorious for, not at least in North America, were practiced on Irish Catholics, particularly in Northern Ireland which is a issue that's still bubbling to the surface.
Gerald Horne: And then there's the threshold question that many people do not necessarily address, which is what are we doing here speaking English in the first instance, given that this was a minor kingdom at the onset of settler colonialism. And one of the ways that they were able to surge ahead was because of miscalculations by another power. Speaking of the Ottoman Turks who cut deals with London against the interests of the other major power, which is His Catholic Majesty in Spain. And that underestimation in some ways, I analogize to them in my book to how the United States in the 1970s, in order to encircle the Soviet union, they cut a deal with China and led to massive foreign investment in China, creating this juggernaut that we're on the precipice of clashing with in a particularly cataclysmic conflict.
Gerald Horne: So to reiterate, I think that one of... I think it was Dale who mentioned it in passing this idea of race and racism, being an essential tool of class collaboration, which in turn becomes essential tool of settler colonialism because it reminds me of when the Cherokees were expropriated approximately 200 years ago in what is now Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, et cetera. So they were forced on the trail of tears and then Europeans almost fresh off the boat were able to get their land and they were very afford Europeans at that. So even though the Cherokees sought to assimilate up to and including enslaving Africans, but that was not sufficient to keep them from being expropriated.
Denise Herd: Thank you. Professor TallBear did you want to add to that or?
Kim TallBear: So I'm sorry, the original question was why are histories of race and settler colonialism not taught together usually?
Denise Herd: Right yeah or slavery, I mean slavery is one form of subjugation and so the colonial as another, and perhaps they're more intertwined than we usually think.
Kim TallBear: Yeah I mean when I did an interview, I guess it was released today, with one of the Berkeley communications people, we were talking about my education around race as an academic in the United States before I moved to Canada. And I was saying that back in the nineties and early two thousands, when all the literature I was assigned to read on racial formation in the US really, almost nothing on indigenous people, just a throw away line. And you can't understand race in the United States or Canada as well without understanding the different ways in which different peoples have been racialized. And to support complimentary but different parts of the white supremacy project. And I would say since the mid two thousands around 2007, in critical indigenous studies has really flourished and we do teach... I mean we teach histories of anti-black racism.
Kim TallBear: We're not a history field in total so we're not going deep into those histories but we're looking at a theory around written by black scholars. We do settler colonialism, we study whiteness and then indigenous history. We do all of these things together because we're very clear that we can't understand the state for indigenous peoples in the US and Canada without understanding anti-blackness as well, without understanding anti-immigration stuff, without understanding Islamophobia even so. I feel like critical indigenous studies is doing all of these things now, but this is relatively recent.
Kim TallBear: And for sure, I was not... I mean, when I did my PhD and I took a post-colonial theory class, indigenous people were also a race. We're talking about colonialism, Canada was post-colonialism theory. We went to school in Santa Cruz, California, and there was no indigenous content in that class. We're only studying colonialism outside the North America was fascinating. So anyway, I don't know if I answered the question but I think things are getting better in terms of us teaching those things together I would hope. And this conversation is a evidence of that.
Denise Herd: Yeah well thank you both for your comments. I think one of the important things and we're confronting that right now nationally, is that slavery and its impact has not been taught very much either. In California I think you pass the American history requirement in college if you've had it in the 11th grade and when I had it and I know that was a while ago, there was this much devoted to the discussion of slavery and everybody in the class turned and looked at me as if I was the expert because I was an African American. So I think slavery has been under taught and I'm wondering, are there unique things about slavery that are very important to carry forth from understanding of this period? And if anyone else would like to just comment on that?
Lundy Braun: I'm not a historian of slavery but I had to learn more in part, because my research on lung capacity measurements and the idea of difference went straight back to Jefferson. I mean, I didn't know that in advance. I was in a seminar with Evelynn Hammonds at the time, which raises questions of funding and how institutional racism works through funding or the lack of it. But the lung capacity measurements, which are alive and well in spirometers where you have to push a button or a touch screen and indicate the race of the individual in the room, if you have. And it's widely, widely used for any kind of respiratory disease or suspected disease. So I became interested from a contemporary perspective but it took me straight back to Jefferson and white supremacy. So this is an example of white supremacy alive and well in the clinics of worldwide, pretty much worldwide.
Lundy Braun: They correct, so-called correct for mostly black race. Note there are in the UK, but for the most part it's black race. And not indigenous peoples are completely erased, but it did take me back to a period where I wasn't comfortable and the danger someone... so I was trained as French literature then went into public health and did basic science and then meandered into science studies and history of science. But the danger is you're always worried about not doing justice to whatever histories you do. So exchanges, there's possibilities now for exchanges of syllabi and ways to actually strengthen these pretty much erased history so.
Denise Herd: Well, thank you. Thanks so much for those comments. Did anyone want to add anything more about slavery and its contribution?
Terrence Keel: Yeah Denise, I just want to make a brief complimentary point here. And it's one that I think many scholars have made in many places, so I'm not covering new territory but I think it's important that we keep in mind that the project Of settler colonialism and the project of slavery were spaces where modern experimentation took place. And I mean that at every level, in terms of development of certain crops and seeds to certain forms of cattle hurdling, to even city design architecture. These were things that were being experimented in a colonial environment, where there were many different warring European powers all throughout the colonies who were strategizing in various ways with and against indigenous people. New forms of jailing and policing needed to be developed to be able to ensure that the black subjugated population and the subjugated indigenous population were compliant in certain measures of the extraction of resources and their return back to the old world. These were all being pioneer and experimented on. And why I say this is that, innovation is often thought to be a 19th century phenomenon.
Terrence Keel: And that the advent of modernity is when we get electricity and railroads and steam engines. But actually you can push the timeline much back further in that to arrive as a settler colonialists and to create essentially what become a nation state, that when you raise indigenous sovereignty and subjugate black people took a whole lot of experimentation. And thus, when we think about modern science and we think about the stuff that you've raised in our present moment, I think it's important that we remember that these, what we think innovation is actually is very old and in lots of different ways. And that were not for the project of settler colonialism, many of the technologies and ways that we think about, nearly every aspect of modern life would not have been possible.
Denise Herd: Yes thank you for those points. And I think that when you're mentioning agriculture, it's a reminder that forced labor was a very, very important part of the process of subjugating certainly African-Americans and which continued through the penal system and in some forms even today. So I was struck Professor Braun by what you were saying about science and about what happened that the video depicted that science was called upon to really help solidify the notion of racial inferiority. Could you speak to that a little bit and perhaps others can join in to talk about this role of science that we'd like to characterize as neutral and unbiased, but it was actually a big part of this project of creating the story of inferiority.
Lundy Braun: I'm sure... I mean what's interesting about that question is it takes us towards the institutionalization of the ideas of inferiority. Moments like when the census was being developed and that has had tremendous consequences for the notion of race, but that simultaneously it didn't come from nowhere. So there was just a long, long gradual history, that did lead to it. But nonetheless, once institutionalization and particularly professionalization occurred in the forms of professional societies, in forms of journals where what you can say in a science paper and a journalist strictly, strictly circumscribed, anybody who's tried to publish and signed a piece in a scientific journal, knows that what you can say is... it's just stunning what's not allowed and very much in the present.
Lundy Braun: And so it just becomes not scientific. So this divide that is not really a divide as I think in this video, but also elsewhere, many, many scholars have talked about this, but normal scientists are regular people and their science, how the questions are asking in the first place as Troy Duster says over and over the questions that get asked and then of course the methodology that are developed to ask those questions. They're very much shaping what we think of as science and then what we think of is knowledge and what we think of is the truth. So in my class this semester, I've undergrads in med students. And one of the hardest things to shake is that science is objective truth.
Lundy Braun: And the only thing I can say is that, and it actually is kind of persuasive is that humans make science. So right there, if humans are doing this, it has a major social dimension. So with that, a lot of my research and the way I think about this is informed by my interactions with students and sort of what they find as the most difficult barriers and the objectivity of science's objective truth, that they did such a great job of convincing people in the 19th century. And then of course building on that in the 20th century. But I don't think we've broken out of that is I think the point I'd like to make.
Denise Herd: Thank you. Is there anyone else want to comment on that. I thought that Professor Keel might've had a comment.
Terrence Keel: The Professor TallBear wanted to add something.
Kim TallBear: Oh well, I was just nodding my head. One of the Donna Haraway was one of my PhD advisors. And she really taught us to disabuse ourselves of the inappropriate use of the term pseudoscience. And this happens to me all the time when I'm critiquing the genome science as inherently standing somewhere. And I don't like to use the word bias but everybody stands somewhere and asks questions as Paul Finkelman said in this film, if that's the question science asks, meaning what made black people inferior to white people, then that's the question science will answer.
Kim TallBear: I thought that was a really great way to put it but people want to not take responsibility for the mistakes, well I don't know, for the mistakes of even cutting edge science of real science by dismissing it as pseudoscience. And this film was talking about some of the leading scientific thinkers of the day at the leading institutions in the 19th century, incredibly racist science. It would be a mistake to call that pseudo science, because that is I think to let science off the hook for responsibility that it is always situated as Professor Braun said, that's all I wanted to say, so yeah.
Terrence Keel: I just wanted to add to that. One of this is where I think excavating the Christian cultural influence over Western science and Western thoughts is really valuable because we have to remember that up until about the 19th century Christian truth was taken to be an objective value, neutral assessment of the purpose and destiny of humanity. And what happens with the professionalization of science and its rise and its connection to capitalism and the production of many different tools and industrial products is that science, inherits and supersedes this space once occupied by Christianity. And now it becomes this objective value, neutral arbiter of truth and knowledge. And thus, when we start having conversations about where the humans come from and what forms of knowledge give us an unbiased objective conception of human origination? Science thus steps into this space as well, and tells us all these things about humans are more or less being directed by these sort of laws that transcend culture and time i.e mechanisms of biology and eventually mechanisms of genetics.
Terrence Keel: The problem with that framing is that you put out into the world beyond social lives. What governs human beings? And this plays out in very dangerous ways when we think about health disparities, particularly in our present moment for COVID-19. So this absurd discourse that black and brown bodies are dying of COVID-19 because of genetics is absurd because what it allows us to not pay attention to are the forms of structural inequality and violence that predisposed people of color in the context of the project of white supremacy and in the context of structural inequality to become sick and ill because of lack of access to healthcare, living in food deserts, being subjected to chronic stress, racist encounters within the clinics, so forth and so on.
Terrence Keel: And so when we have a science that is oriented towards telling us truths that have nothing to do with our social life and politics, it can't really render the full dimension of human agency and thus human responsibility for the forms of difference that we embodied. So health disparities across the social body are the result of historical, structural forms of violence that we embody and express, not ancient ancestors whose genes continue to determine our life chances and our ability to become healthy people. This is a consequence of this Christian cultural value system that continues to haunt scientific thought and practice when it comes to race.
Denise Herd: Thank you. Thank you all so much for those comments. And as the hour moves along, I wanted to begin to talk a little bit about is from what you know, all of you know how can we begin to move beyond what we've seen the destructive illusion of race and white supremacy and the damage that has occurred in our society. Are there new social models, new models of science and medicine that can help with this project, any comments that people might have on that?
Kim TallBear: That's a hard question. Like where do we go from here? That I got asked yesterday by the reporter who did that piece about what did I think that all of our race theory had done? And I, said well, I don't think it's lessened white supremacy. That's for sure. But I do think it's given those of us who are anti racist and who are subjected to racism, theoretical tools and frameworks for articulating alternatives for organizing. It's given us a lot of practical tools. I don't know that it's actually changed that it's less than white supremacy but maybe some of the other people can comment on that. Oh yeah so I don't know. I don't know where to from here, except I think that that is in and of itself quite useful just for resisting right theory, I think can help us resist.
Terrence Keel: If I could just add to that, I think that we need a new type of scientist and we need a scientist and we need a scientist that has the type of imagination to think about what Benjamin others call abolitionists futures, which is to say a understanding of what we want this society to be beyond the white supremacy, patriarchal settler, colonial project that has continued to haunt life in North America since we've been here. And so I think that's a project of imagination. It's a project of training and quite frankly, I think it requires us to develop tools to look for the social causes to the types of disparities and the types of violence that get embodied in our bodies.
Terrence Keel: And I think that if we look at medical schools across the country, if we look at a curriculum within biology, our future scientists and physicians and doctors are not necessarily getting this training to think about what structural inequality is, how you can measure it, how you can track it over time and how you can think about genes as the kind of expression of these social histories, not the other way around. And so I think it takes political will and conviction to think about a future beyond the present. I don't know to what degree the needle has moved in terms of national discourse but I think that... the students that I teach that come into my classroom, they're witnessing the social revolution that's been happening over the last six months. And they're frustrated quite frankly and exhausted with living in the world that functions like this.
Terrence Keel: I mean, the fact that the ruling for Brianna Taylor was once again yet another disappointment, it's something that's not lost on them. So I think that there is some measure of optimism and hope to have, if we continue to have young people who grew up upset and disappointed with the world as it presents itself. And I think we should be alarmed when people become numb to the kind of injustices that continue to afflict people of color, people who are poor, people who are disenfranchised. And I don't think we're quite there yet, fortunately.
Denise Herd: Other comments? Thank you, Professor Horne.
Gerald Horne: Well one major event that will be shaping the construction of race and particularly what I would call the devolution of white supremacy is what the financial times of London and other business publications have pointed out of late, which is the pandemic is helping to accelerate changes in the global economy that were already evident before the pandemic. What I mean is it's no secret that because of these decisions made by US imperialism in 1970s with Nixon and Kissinger, the China's in the passing lane because of the ability of Asian nations such as China, even Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, to deal with the pandemic more effectively. If you look at their growth rates now compared to the growth rates in the Anglo sphere or even in the North Atlantic community, it's reaching the difference between night and day. And it's going to be difficult to maintain these rather musty ideas about white supremacy when returning to 1500 when China was the major power on planet earth. And the Anglo sphere was hardly to be contended with.
Gerald Horne: The other point that I would make is that I think with regard, perhaps to the scientist that Professor Braun is talking about, but certainly with regard to social sciences and folks in the humanities, they tend to be rather credulous it seems to me, which should not be surprised given the fact that they're emerging from these defective societies, these white supremacists, racist, sexist societies. And so it may be asking too much to ask them to transcend it. But even having said that, they're being so credulous is it was really sometimes astonishing. I mean, for example, you would think that the first amendment, for example, in the subjective formulation comes straight from the brains of these enlightenment thinkers, et cetera, without understanding how settler colonialism in the Anglo sphere depended heavily upon reconciliation across religious lines, between and amongst those who were Protestant, Catholic and happened to be Jewish in the first place.
Gerald Horne: And so the first amendment happened to facilitate their unity just like a class collaboration helped to facilitate settler colonialism. And then with regard to the so-called vaunted bill of rights. Now you don't have to be a historian to know that say the second amendment did not apply to black people, did not apply to the indigenous population. The strategic ambition and goal of the settlers was to keep arms out of the hands of the indigenous population. But yet once again, you would not know that the bill of rights was too part of this consolidation of settler colonialism. We were taught to think that there's some sort of universal concept, with a little tweaking can then be applied to the people who originally left out when actually it was designed to keep people out basically and to keep them out of the project and to continue their exploitation. And because of this credulous approach by so many scholars, that's one of the many reasons why this country is now on the cusp of catastrophe.
Lundy Braun: So I just have a brief point to add to this and it's building on what everybody has just said, but especially Kim TallBear and that is that we have developed a lot of tools for clarification. And one thing I've been working in the med school for a long time with trying to develop what is an anti-racist curriculum, and it has a long way to go but there is interest in the med school and doing this and particularly interest among the students. But when some people say oh you're just preaching to the choir. I said, there is no choir. There's tremendous confusion and the need for being in small groups and discussing what do we really mean by structural racism. People now in medicine, Rachel Hardeman and her colleagues wrote a paper in new England journal of medicine that some of you might know in 2016 articulating quite nicely how structural racism works in medicine in about three pages.
Lundy Braun: It was amazing. But it's become a buzzword and yet the news, certainly every day there's an article about how structural racism is actually working in COVID but still it just falls back. People would tend to fall back on buzzwords. And I think we brought it, one of the important things as we go forward is to really tease apart those buzzwords in our teaching in particular. And then I think what does fall on us is to find ways to articulate to broader audiences what we mean. And it can be hard and sometimes there's compromises that I'm shocked that are even an issue, but I think finding ways to bridge the various gaps across disciplines, but also communicate with regular people in language that isn't alienating. So just a few thoughts.
Denise Herd: Wonderful, thoughts on uh, I think the entire panel on this question and I certainly agree that we need more imagination. We need to think more carefully about the tools that we're using. And that COVID is bringing us to the brink of needing to rethink a lot. In my teaching, some of the students saw the first panel that we did and they were reading about the importance of slavery and gynecology, and they were horrified because they're medical students and they're in public health. And they were asking the question, how on earth are we going to change what's happening with people of color and terrible birth outcomes when American gynecology was born during slavery and it was designed to oppress? And I was frantically looking as to what could I tell them?
Denise Herd: There is a reproductive justice movement. Public health and medicine, I think, have not acknowledged or being really a part of that movement. And so, what you're saying about the importance of interacting with what's going on in the society is very important. A lot of the organizations at the forefront of racial justice have not necessarily been aligned with public health. And so when COVID happened, color of change or black lives matter, we in public health and medicine started thinking where were we? And where were we because when we weren't necessarily thinking about justice in these broader terms.
Denise Herd: So anyway, we have an audience that's been eagerly watching you and eagerly watching the video and they are posing some questions and we actually have a few more minutes left to take some of those questions. So I wanted to ask a few. One person from the audience is asking, was there a counter narrative, I guess to racism and white supremacy from other whites, blacks, indigenous people? And I would also add what about the resistance of some of those groups to those narratives? Can anyone on the panel want to take a stab at addressing those questions?
Gerald Horne: Well, the resistance in part helps to explain why we're in North America now speaking English. That is to say that in some ways London had a second mover's advantage because the Spanish who supposedly had the first movers advantage, they were in constant warfare with the native Americans, particularly well accelerating I should say in Florida, 1565 with the first settlement in St. Augustine. But even before that, but in some ways what happens is that the native Americans and the Spanish engaged in neutral exhaustion, which then allows the English to sweep into what they call Jamestown in 1607, the Spanish room, their purchase in both Havana and St. Augustine realize that, but they're too died down fighting not only the indigenous population, but their African allies and therefore are unable to block the London project. Certainly with regard to white supremacy, there has been a quick counter narrative because it was oftentimes obviously difficult for those not inducted into the hallowed halls of whiteness to accept that particular magic. And therefore they resisted it tooth and nail both in action and rhetorically.
Denise Herd: Any other comments from those on the panel? I'll make a very brief comment. As a doctoral student, I got interested in the history of science and disease and was surprised to find that there was actually a very, very strong black temperance movement, which I had never heard about it and never been taught about. The American temperance movement was along with the anti-slavery movement, one of the biggest popular social movements in the 19th century and African Americans were part and parcel of these major movements. They were part of the abolition movements.
Denise Herd: So one of the things that I felt that if I were remaking the video currently is to focus a lot on what indigenous people were doing and what enslaved Africans were doing to actually counter the narrative and the situation they found themselves in. So I think we have time for one or two more questions from our audience. One person in the audience has raised the question of what steps are needed to make reparations to native peoples and descendants of slaves? Did anyone want to comment on that question or provide a response?
Kim TallBear: I don't think we should use the word reparations when we're talking about indigenous people. That's not our mode or our word. We have treaties and we have... I mean it's very complicated the language we use, but we don't invoke the term reparations. And I worry that... when I think Sanders, Warren and Biden have all brought up repar... when black people have been demanding reparations, they're like well what about natives? Don't bring us into that. That's just deflection from black people's demands. We have language about nation to nation stuff, treaty stuff, and yeah that's problematic language, but it's our language. It's at the center of indigenous studies and indigenous law. But that said, uphold the treaties, land back. We already know what needs to be done for us. And I'm really interested in what black people have to say about reparations, but that's not my word. That's not our word.
Terrence Keel: I would just add that right now in the state of California, there's a reparations bill sitting on Gavin Newsom's desk. And I think it'll be interesting to see what that bill produces because it'll set the course I think for other States for similar forms of reparation bills. The language of that bill is quite interesting because it includes enslaved Africans and their descendants and others to acknowledge Mexican populations, Chinese populations who are also in the state. So there's some complicated social history there that I think the state of California is trying to work out. And it'll be a really interesting test case for other kinds of conversations nationally about reparations. But I obviously agree with everything that Kim just said, I think that language of reparations and language of trees are not the same thing.
Denise Herd: No, those are very important points. Thank you. So we are about at time and I wanted to thank our fabulous panel. I think they've done an amazing job and also thank our audience who's been very engaged throughout the entire video and panel for a really interesting experience and conversation. So I'd also like to remind you that in two weeks we will have our third and final panel and video showing based on Race, The Power of an Illusion. And I hope you'll return for this very important discussion on citizenship, housing, wealth, and poverty in America. So again, thank you all. And we look forward to seeing you another time.
Kim TallBear: Thank you.
Gerald Horne: Okay thank you.