Community & Government

Is America a White Supremacist Nation?

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw speaks to how the American system of governance cannot be divorced from its origins in white supremacy. She also calls for a new “constitutional imaginary” to shape a better future.

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Topics include: What’s Wrong With the U.S. Constitution? • Rethinking the Baseline • Toward a New Constitution

Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.

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(SINGING) Be and praise the Lord with thy-- FILM NARRATOR: Over this ocean, 1607, Jamestown, 1620, Plymouth Rock, here was America. Out of the native oak and pine, we built a house, a church, a watchtower. We cleared a field, and there grew up a colony of free citizens. We carved new states out of the green wilderness, Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Carolina. [MUSIC INTENSIFIES] Then came the first test in the defense of that liberty. 1775, Lexington, our leaders spoke our deepest needs. "Colonists are by the law of nature free-born, as indeed all men are." "It is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government." In the midst of battle, it happened. The idea grew. The idea took form. Something new was expressed by men, a new and revolutionary doctrine, the greatest creative force in human relations, "All men are created equal." - So when I think about white supremacy, white supremacy is both a descriptive and a normative idea. Descriptive-- when I say "descriptive," it describes how a society functions. It describes what we see in society. So we are, in the United States of America, a culture that comes out of a white supremacist set of ideas. The way that our institutions have historically functioned have placed white people above everybody else. The United States was initially a white country, explicitly so. That's what we mean when we say white supremacy descriptively. And then there's also a normative idea. Should we be a white supremacist country? Should we be a country that's built for white people's enjoyment? Should we be a country that's run by white people? There was a long period of time that that was abundantly the case. The Court said it. Our Constitution basically made it so. So we have a country that, at one point, was described as white and was embracing an idea that it should be that way. What do we have now? Now we have a country that normatively has repudiated that idea. So we're no longer a country in which we say this is built for white people. But descriptively, is it still a country in which whiteness is a privilege, whiteness creates benefits, whiteness creates material differences between the lives led by people who are born white and the lives lived by people who are not? So our challenge is to be able to grasp onto the idea that we don't want to be a white supremacist country anymore, normatively. Accept that, and then look at our society to see, is it still functioning that way? And if it's still functioning that way, then we still have work to do. So, white supremacy expresses itself in many different ways, both across history and across institutions. So is the Constitution a white supremacist document? Well, if you look to see who ratified the Constitution, who the Republic was built for, who was the Republic not built for, then yes, the Constitution itself has bee...

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From critical race theory to the 1619 Project, Black intellectuals are reshaping conversations on race in America. Now seven of those preeminent voices share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future. Gain a foundational understanding of the history of white supremacy and discover a path forward through the limitless capacity and resilience of Black love.

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Angela Davis, Cornel West, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Sherrilyn Ifill, Jelani Cobb, and John McWhorter

Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.

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