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Founding White America

“Indeed, the very fact of citizenship itself was linked to white racial identity” (285).

To be white was to be free, but the necessity of being white was an unwritten clause in the Declaration of Independence. Harris comments that the “concept of whiteness” was “established by centuries of custom (illegitimate custom, but custom nonetheless)” (280). Harris argues that justice and subsequently equality are heavily dependent on the color of one’s skin. On page 279, she states, “Whiteness was the characteristic, the attribute, the property of free human beings.” Slavery was a system that thrived from the division of color, facilitating the idea that ownership was a birthright of skin tone. There were many continuing underlying issues perpetuating the idea of whiteness as property, but the most notable was the monetary gain white slave owners were earning from their black slaves. I believe it’s also important to note that, while Harris focuses primarily on slavery, these statements transcend the historical timeline to modern day where white privileges are sprouts on the deeply rooted practice of slavery. There is an expectation of inferiority associated with blackness in America, a concept supported and uplifted, according to Harrison, through the perpetuated encouragement of the establishment that was slavery.

One thought on “Founding White America”

  1. Great explication of Harris’s claims by drawing on her language. I’d love for you to have extended your final point about the implications of her argument for the present day by also looking at where she ends up in her article; the part we didn’t discuss in depth last week of course concerns affirmative action policies and what happens when we approach those policies with an awareness of the close link between whiteness and property.


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