Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America

By Ben & Jerry's and Vox Creative

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On Who We Are, host Carvell Wallace and ACLU Deputy Director Jeffery Robinson reach back to tipping points in American history, to examine the white supremacist foundation on which the nation’s legal, political and social systems were built. A podcast by Ben & Jerry’s and produced by Vox Creative.

Episode Date
Revisiting Reparations
In 1865, General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15— a promise to redistribute 40 acres of once Confederate-owned land in coastal South Carolina and Florida to each formerly enslaved adult to begin mending the seemingly unmendable. It never came to pass. H.R. 40, also known as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, has been brought to Congress repeatedly since 1989, first by the late Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), now by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex). Hear Jeffery Robinson, founder of the Who We Are Project and deputy director of the ACLU take on the past, present and future of reparations with veteran political activist Dr. Ron Daniels and legal expert and reparations advocate Nkechi Taifa. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. Vintage, 1992 Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic. June, 2014. Du Bois, W.E.B. Black Reconstruction in America 1860 - 1880. Free Press, 1999 Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863 - 1877. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2014. H.R.40 - Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act Lockhart, P.R. The 2020 Democratic Primary Debate Over Reparations, Explained. Vox.com, June 19, 2019 Marable, Manning. Beyond Boundaries: The Manning Marable Reader. Routledge, 2011. National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) 10-Point Reparations Plan Taifa, Nkechi. Black Power, Black Lawyer. House of Songhay II, 2020.
Feb 19, 2021
Episode 6: The Myth of Post-Racial America
From slavery to sharecropping to mass incarceration, American institutions have reproduced cycles of social rupture and exploitation by design. Is it even possible to imagine true equity as long as the current carceral system stands? Carvell Wallace and Jeffery Robinson begin with Bill Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill before turning to the ways in which incarceration ripples through questions of voting, health, wealth, and state violence. With final words from Afro-futurist author Sheree Renee Thomas, we’ll explore how we might dream a new America into being and the possibilities of Black liberation. Additional information and resources related to this episode are available on our show page.
Oct 20, 2020
Episode 5: How We Arrive
What does it mean to be well in America? Who is seen as deserving of healthcare? Racism has plagued the American medical system since its inception and continues to produce disparities in health and life expectancy to this day. In this episode, Carvell Wallace and Jeffery Robinson trace the decades-long epidemic of sharply higher mortality rates among both Black people giving birth and their babies. In conversation with OB/GYN and maternal/infant health advocate Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, as well as SéSé Doula Services founder Nicole JeanBaptiste, we’ll examine the way the healthcare system was designed to fail Black people, with a focus on Black maternal and infant health. Additional information and resources related to this episode are available on our show page.
Oct 13, 2020
Episode 4: Broken Bootstraps
“To pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps” was originally a metaphor for the impossible. It’s now one of the most American of American idioms — encapsulating a belief that one’s fortunes and failures hinge on individual responsibility alone. It simultaneously obscures the systemic economic theft of Black people and other people of color in the US by state and commercial interests, as well as the systemic economic enrichment of white populations by those same forces. In this episode, Carvell Wallace and Jeffery Robinson explore how Black wealth has been routinely destroyed, using the example of a 1919 massacre in Elaine, Arkansas, where Black sharecroppers organizing for better financial conditions were killed by a white mob. We’ll also hear from law professor and scholar of banking history Dr. Mehrsa Baradaran on how discriminatory housing policies, unequal access to credit, and predatory banking continue to hinder attempts at wealth-building, even among the Black middle class.   Additional information and resources related to this episode are available on our show page.
Oct 06, 2020
Episode 3: A Home and a Country
Black bodies have always been on the line in America, whether on the auction block or in a parking lot in Minneapolis. American law has enshrined the state’s ability to enact violence with almost total impunity. And, going back to as far as the Colonial Marines in 1808, reclaiming one’s body from this system has required fearless acts of rebellion. In this episode, Carvell and Jeffery trace the evolution of slave patrols into modern policing, exploring the consequences of that origin story with activist and lead of Black Visions Collective Miski Noor and Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson, an historian of Black resistance and rebellion in the US. Collectively, they make the case that protest is vital to American progress and racial justice—and that we must keep taking to the streets. Third stanza of “The Star Spangled Banner” arranged and sung by Sandra Lawson-Ndu Additional information and resources related to this episode are available on our show page.
Sep 29, 2020
Episode 2: The Failure of the “Great Compromise"
The right to vote is the right to help define the future of the country. It’s at the heart of our democracy. But for much of US history, only property-owning white men had access to this right. Suffrage for Black men was hard won and enshrined by the 15th amendment after the Civil War. But, even that limited enfranchisement was quickly stymied by campaigns of terror and voter suppression that were then codified by the creation of the Electoral College — amplifying the power of white Southern voters and essentially bringing an end to Reconstruction in 1877. In this episode, host Carvell Wallace explores the history of, and ongoing battle for, total Black enfranchisement in conversation with formerly incarcerated Florida-based voting rights activists Betty Riddle and Marq Mitchell, as well as historian Dr. Yohuru Williams.  For more on what you can do to protect voting rights in the US, visit the ACLU’s Voting Rights page.  Additional information and resources related to this episode are available on our show page.
Sep 22, 2020
Episode 1: Desire, Prosperity, Fortune, Hope
Far from promising the fruits of equality and justice for all, the United States was founded on white supremacist ideals. Given this legacy, how do Black parents decipher and explain American history to their children? Or, even what it means to be Black in the US? These are questions that host and writer Carvell Wallace and ACLU Legal Deputy Director and attorney Jeffery Robinson have had to confront. Their answer has been to look more closely at the past and at the laws that continue to enshrine and reinforce racial inequity. This is how we both make sense of the present and shape a more equitable future for generations to come. Hear them start this journey into some of the lesser-known moments in America’s history which will reckon with the state of voting rights, the wealth gap, healthcare, policing, and the carceral state.  Featuring the performance of a new work by city of Boston poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola. For more, visit our show page: https://bit.ly/2FzwX57
Sep 15, 2020
Introducing Who We Are
If America was built on a white supremacist foundation, what does that mean for our lives today? Join journalist Carvell Wallace and ACLU Deputy Director Jeffery Robinson for an exploration of how white supremacy became the law of the land. This is Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.
Aug 28, 2020