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Transcript - Ideas of Race and Racism in History

Indigenous, African American and Jewish People

 

The issues of race and racism remain as urgent as ever to our national conversation. Four scholars discuss such questions as: Since Race does not exist as a biological reality, what then is race and where did the idea develop from? What is racism? How have race and racism been used by societies to justify discrimination, oppression, and social exclusion? How did racism manifest in different national and historical contexts? How have American and World history in the modern eras been defined by ideas of race and the power hierarchies embedded in racism?

Panel:

  • Nicholas Breyfogle | Associate Professor, Department of History; Director, Goldberg Center, The Ohio State University
  • Alice Conklin | Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor, Department of History, The Ohio State University
    Robin Judd | Associate Professor, Department of History, The Ohio State University
  • Hasan Jeffries | Associate Professor, Department of History, The Ohio State University
  • Deondre Smiles | Ph.D. Geography '20; Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Victoria, Canada

[Listen to the podcast here.]

Transcription Begins Here:

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
Hello, and welcome to Ideas of Race and Racism in History brought to you by the history department Clio Society, the College of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University and by the Bexley Public Library. My name is Nick Breyfogle. I'm an associate professor of history and director of the Goldberg Center for Excellence in Teaching, and I'll be your host and moderator today. Thank you for joining us. The issues of race and racism have a long history in the United States and around the world, and they remain as urgent as ever to our national conversation. Today we'll take part in the discussion among four scholars, Alice Conklin, Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Deondre Smiles, and Robin Judd. We'll explore the ways in which understanding the history of race and racism can help us as we navigate these issues today. They'll discuss such questions as, since race doesn't exist as a biological reality, what is race? And where did the idea develop from? And when, for that matter also? How have race and racism been used by societies to justify discrimination, oppression and social exclusion? And how does racism manifest in different national historical contexts? However, American and world history in the modern era has been defined by ideas of race and the power hierarchies embedded in racism. With that introduction, let me lay out the plan. Each of our panelists will speak for a few minutes on questions of race and racism, historically, each exploring a different topic. And I'll introduce them before they speak. Then, they will take your questions, and we'll open things up for discussion. If you're interested in asking a question, please write it in the Q&A function just at the bottom of your screen at any time. We received several questions in advance when people signed up and registered, and we'll do our best to answer as many questions as we can in the time we have. Now, let's begin with Dr. Alice Conklin, who will discuss the science of race and how race developed as a scientific concept. Dr. Conklin is a professor of history at The Ohio State University, and a cultural, political and intellectual historian of modern France and its empire with the focus on the 20th century. She's currently working on a transnational history of French anti-racism between 1945 and 1965. Let me hand the microphone over to you, Alice.

Dr. Alice Conklin 
Thank you, Nick. First, a big thanks to the Origins team who came up with the idea of having this webinar. I will briefly speak about the modern history of the idea of race in the West, and particularly the role that colonialism and science together played in creating and perpetuating what we can agree is a bad, but powerful idea. And race is not just a bad but powerful idea. It is also in the long sweep of history, a relatively recent invention. Those in a nutshell will be my themes today, in these brief remarks, that the very idea of race was invented in the West quite recently, that it is pernicious, and that it remains powerful. When we understand how the very idea of different races came into existence. We understand, in part, why racism remains so difficult to dislodge. The history of the idea of race in the West is a huge topic. To tackle it in the five minutes I have, I want to make three main points.

Dr. Alice Conklin 
These are first, the idea of race as something biologically real came into existence first as a folk idea and then as a scientific one. This idea was arguably the greatest error modern Western science ever made. Second, the scientific idea of race was an error because it was based on three false premises. These were one that biologically distinct races existed in nature. Two that some races were more intelligent than others. And three, these races could be classified and ranked from superior to inferior, according to the typical brain shape, weight, or size for each so-called race. In these scientific classifications, white Caucasians were always on top, black groups on the bottom. My third point today will be that many reputable scientists clung to these flawed premises and kept trying to classify and rank peoples long after their own best evidence began showing that their hypotheses were wrong. In so doing, these experts gave the backing, the prestige, the authority of science, to the most vicious prejudices circulating in society. Let me begin with a few facts. Traditionally, we answer the question of how did the race idea begin by looking at the history of colonial expansion into the Americas. When Europeans first crossed the Atlantic, they viewed Indigenous peoples as nations, not races. By the mid-17th Century, however, colonial leaders had relegated Africans alone to a status of permanent slavery. In order to justify this new colonial form of slavery, planters in places like Virginia helped to pioneer informally a new idea, that of race. Colonial leaders began to homogenize all Europeans, regardless of ethnicity, or status or social class, into a single novel category. White people of African descent were similarly homogenized into the category of black. In this system, physical features became markers of social status. Historians call this informal idea of race, a folk idea of race. There was nothing scientific about it. Yet of race ideology developed as a folk idea, it was soon imported into science, or to be more precise, it was imported into the scientific outlook, known as the enlightenment. In other words, the first modern scientists did not invent the race concept. Slave-based colonialism had already done that. But by the end of the 18th century, enlightened naturalist turned to science to rationalize the inhumanity of slavery that had developed in the Americas. These thinkers began arguing that nature itself provided a justification for this new social order that granted privileges to all whites, and relegated Africans to perpetual servitude.

Dr. Alice Conklin 
Enlightenment scientists soon eagerly took up a whole series of questions with race at their center. They asked questions like, are all races fully human? Are all races equal? They also gave themselves the task of ranking the races of humankind on the basis of intelligence. Since classification was considered the basis of all good science. None of them questioned the biological reality of races or the superiority of white Europeans as establishing these rankings became the basis of a new professional discipline, anthropology where the science of humanity, the 19th century, saw the full flowering of the science. And it was science in the sense that it met the best scientific standards of the day. The science, moreover, leached out into society. Thanks to the invention of photography, of museums, of the penny press, and the violent colonization of Africa and large parts of Asia that took place over the course of the 19th century, the race classifications that appeared in scientific journals became fatally easy to disseminate visually to a wider public. People became used to seeing images of beauty and intelligence that correlated with whiteness, other so-called races of the world might be presented as noble, or romantic. Certainly, they were exotic, but they were always presented as inferior, a view that the best science of the day endorsed. Alas, many of these images are still with us.

Dr. Alice Conklin 
Let me now fast forward. By the end of World War II, for complex reasons, science began to correct itself and abandon the belief that race was biologically real, and that races could be placed in a fairly firm racial hierarchy. Scientists today of course, recognize that there is no gene or cluster of genes common to all blacks, or all whites. To conclude, science in the West managed for a long time to convince ordinary people that race was biologically real, when it wasn't and isn't. human races are not biological units. Races are social constructs. Human race exists solely because we humans created them, and only in the forms in which we perpetuate them. Historically, race has never been just a matter of creating categories of people. It has always been a matter of creating hierarchies. And when it came to creating racial hierarchies, Western colonialism and Western science have a lot to answer for. Thank you.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
Thank you, Alice very much for those great introductory remarks and really fascinating inspiration of the kind of origins of the modern ideas of race and racism. Our next panelist is Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries who will speak to us today about race and the black experience in American history. Dr. Jeffries is an associate professor of history in the Department of History at The Ohio State University, where he teaches courses on the African American freedom struggle. He's the editor of the award-winning collection of essays, Understanding and Teaching the Civil Rights Movement  He earned his B.A. from Morehouse College, his Ph.D. from Duke University. I'll pass you over to Hasan now. Thank you.

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
Well, thank you very much, Nick. It is a real delight and pleasure to be able to be a part of this conversation, especially at this particular moment in time, I just want to go ahead and jump right into my remarks. I'm so glad that we left off with Dr. Conklin laying out the basic groundwork that this idea of race just simply isn't real. It is not real  in a biological sense. But at the same time, as she pointed out, it is socially meaningful, so biologically meaningless, but socially meaningful, because it has structured global society for the last 500, 600 years. And it all, it is also culturally relevant. Because we use race today and have used it certainly in the American context, as a stand in for cultural heritage, and for cultural ancestry. Which is why we cannot pretend as though race itself isn't a meaningful, impactful construct in the lives of all people, and certainly all Americans.

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
But while race isn't biologically real, racism is absolutely real. And it has deep roots in the American experience, and has shaped the lives of all Americans dating back to the founding of this nation, and the original colonial endeavor. 1619. We've heard so much about 1619 over the last year or so, last two years. 1619 marks the year in which the first group of enslaved Africans were brought to British North America, brought to Virginia and that really is an important moment in what would become the American journey. Because a decision is made or choices made to embrace the enslavement of people based on, for economic necessity, for economical, rather economic advantage, exploitation based on this idea of race. And so we see at this moment in 1619, that literally embedded in our DNA as what will become a nation, or is racism, intertwined with capitalism. I mean, that is literally in our DNA, because it serves as a justification for the enslavement of this critical labor force. It also serves as justification for the taking of land for those who were already present here. It is the justification for what would be the institution of slavery that would last for two-and-a-half centuries.

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
In America, we also see that racism is embedded in our founding documents, the 1776 Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, who absolutely says all men are created equal. But that's because he does not have to qualify it with a racial qualifier. He does not have to say all white people, because he knows, everyone knows he's just talking about white men. He doesn't have to say all white men, because everyone knows he's not talking about women. Thomas Jefferson has a very rich history with the colorline and is one of the people in America who really lays the groundwork for a scientific rationalization of what racism was. So we see it embedded in our founding documents.

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
Same way with the Constitution, the father of it is James Madison, a person who, like Jefferson, enslaved 100 or so people over the course of his lifetime and never freed a single soul. So we see it embedded in our founding documents. Now there are times such as here in Ohio, it comes into the union, that we think we are on the right side of history. Ohio comes into the union and 1803 and rejects the institution of slavery, but not because it rejected the idea of racism, not because the those white men who were in the, who brought Ohio into the union, rejected white supremacy. They just didn't want black people here. So there are times when we see we are on the right side of history as a nation. But for the wrong reasons, racism and white supremacy specifically, was something that really impacted the entire nation. When we get to the Civil War, which was absolutely fought about maintaining the institution of slavery in the states where it existed, and having the opportunity to expand it in the places where it wasn't. For the West, we see that once that battle is over, racism doesn't end. In fact, the principal legacy of the institution of slavery, North and South was the persistence in the belief in of white supremacy.

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
And so we see that white supremacy as a shared national ideology would go on into the late 19th Century, early 20th Century, serving as the justification for the for new systems of labor, exploitation of African Americans, that being Jim Crow, and all of it is enforced by violence. And so we also see in this moment of the 20th century, just as violence was a cornerstone of the institution of slavery, violence was the cornerstone of the new freedom. And so this becomes the era of lynching. And all of it is justified by these myths connected to race, whether it's black criminality, or black brutality, right? It all connects to this idea that somehow dark skin, darker skin, non-European ancestry leads to this inherent danger among African Americans or by African Americans. We also see as we move into the 20th century, during the era of Jim Crow, and just one more to two more quick comments, that we see how racism becomes embedded in our broader society. Whether we're talking about the criminal justice system and convict leasing, whether we're talking about homeownership in the New Deal, whether we're talking about segregated schools, these aren't just personal decisions that are being made by white folk in America. These are systems that are put in place, that are designed to disadvantage African Americans for the purpose of providing basic privileges for white Americans.

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
In 1965 1964, the Civil Rights Movement does not end racism in America. It certainly does outlaw and end legal racial discrimination. But just as white supremacy continued after slavery, a belief in white supremacy, a belief in racism continued after the Civil Rights era. Now the language that we use certainly changes by individuals, and we move into this era of colorblind legislation, but we still see purposeful actions and intent in legislation and business decisions and the like. But we also see the legacy of racism being the implicit biases that we harbor. And so even if we were to eliminate thoughtful or purposeful racial discrimination on the part of some, we still internalize this legacy of racist beliefs, not because we were born, anyone in this world was born racist, or harboring racist views, but because we were born in a society that normalizes racism and racist views. That is the problem. We haven't fundamentally changed that. So I'll just end simply by saying we are in the midst of a national conversation and national debate which we think we need to be having about whether or not we should be talking about race or racism. And the answer to that is a simple absolutely, because both race and racism continue to shape the contours of the lives of every single person. And you cannot understand the problems that we face as a society today, unless we take seriously race and racism, just as we can't understand the problems of yesterday, unless we understand race and racism, and the role of race and racism. And we certainly can't solve the problems that our children are going to be facing in the future unless we take seriously the role of race and racism in society. So thank you very much, and I turn it back over to Nick.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
Thank you very much, Hasan. Our next speaker is Dr. Deondre Smiles, who'll discuss issues of race and racism in the context of Native Americans and Indigenous peoples. Dr. Smiles is a member of the Lekwungen Band of Ojibwe. He is an assistant professor of geography at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. Smiles' research centers around conversations of the political role of the Indigenous deceased in relationships between Indigenous communities and the state. Smiles also has broader interests in critical Indigenous geographies, political ecology, science and technology studies and tribal cultural resource preservation. Smiles earned his Ph.D. in geography from the Ohio State University, where he also spent a year as a President's Postdoctoral Scholar in the history department. I'll pass the floor over to Deondre.

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
I'm muted. There we go. Thank you so much, Nick. I, in a typical academic fashion, I have made a short PowerPoint that I will share for you all, very quick. I'll make sure to keep myself within five minutes. So I'll share that. Alright, and we'll turn the subtitles off. There we go. So hello, everyone. As Dr. Breyfogle mentioned, my name is Dr. Deondre Smiles. I'm a citizen of the  Lekwungen Band of Ojibwe, which is a tribal nation located in north central Minnesota, about 200 miles north northwest of Minneapolis. I'm an assistant professor, newly minted assistant professor, here in the Department of Geography up in, we call it beautiful British Columbia right now. As I look out my living room window, it's a little cloudy as it is fall here. As you mentioned, I did a Ph.D. from 2016 to 2020 in geography at OSU and then I stayed for a year as a postdoc before moving to Canada. I'm so, I'm pleased to be with you all today. And as usually is the custom whenever we do anything up here in Victoria academically, I want to just briefly acknowledge and respect the Lekwungen peoples, whose traditional territory I'm presenting from today, as well as Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ, seen as peoples whose historical relationships with this land continue to the state. So in order to give this justice, we probably wouldn't need several hours. But in five minutes, I'll briefly talk about the ways that indigenous histories oftentimes get obscured in the ways that we teach it and the ways that we learn about it. And so I start off by showing this map, or this is a popular map that I always show in my lectures whenever I give guest lectures on this topic. And I usually ask, you know, are people familiar with the ways that the land, in the ways that land is controlled and is occupied? How has that changed in the United States? How has this gone all the way up to where we're looking at in the present day, we'll go through this one more time. But as you see, the green represents Native lands, white represents settler-controlled land. And this is what it looks like today. And one more time, a very, very good map by Sam Hiller down at LSU.

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
So there's a variety of different explanations as to how land in histories have been obscured. And we'll go through a couple here, but first, I want to highlight a term called settler colonialism, which I'll use in my answers today and also refer to in this talk. So settler colonialism is distinct from more what we would call maybe more traditional extractive colonialism where the idea that a colonizing power comes in and extracts resources out of a territory to bring back to the colonized country. Settler colonialism works a little differently. It's a form of colonialism that is built upon the settlement and enduring occupation of land by a colonizing power at the expense of indigenous presence upon the land. So to put that into more lay terms, settlers would come from say, England from the United Kingdom, and they would come to North America and they would occupy land and they would come into friction and conflict with Indigenous peoples and they would gradually push them off of the lands in order to build up white Anglo European cities and villages and structures of inhabitants. The late scholar Patrick Wolf, who in settler colonial studies is one of the fore runners of the modern field, famously said that settler colonialism is a structure, not an event. He said that because there is, while there is a beginning to colonization, there is no point in settler colonial logics where colonization is meant to end. There is no point where that settler colony says, okay, we've gotten what we need, we can pack up and go back to Europe. Settler colonialism is instead built in, is structurally constructed, in order to endure and to permanently occupy the space. It does so by eliminating in the pursuit of replacements, and it relies on the myth of terra nullius to proceed.

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
So the next question that probably pops up is well, what is terra nullius? That's right, it's a Latin term that stands for nobody's land. And I'll again put this into kind of more general terms. So terra nullius, is this logic where the land was believed to be empty. Europeans would come and say, well, look at all of this, look at all this open land for us to be able to settle into, farm into, make industrial use out of. Generally speaking, that wasn't exactly the case. They would find Indigenous peoples on that land. And that would be waved away by saying, well, if you take a look at these, quote, savage people, right, they don't farm like we do. They don't really make use of the land like we do. They're not making productive use of the land at all. And they're so bad at trying to make use of it productively per our standards that it might as well be empty and unused.

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
Terra nullius is a is oftentimes a very colloquial term when we study this sort of thing. In the Australian context, it's actually a legal term. There's a series of court cases in the 1990s that talked about whether the British Crown, whether the British Crown could recognize terra nullius as a legal framework through which settlers occupied the continents that Australia. But in American and Canadian settler colonialism, which are the two forms of colonialism that I work with, there are similar concepts. Probably the most well-known ones, the idea of Manifest Destiny is represented here by the famous picture Manifest Destiny, as you see here, settlers moving from the right or from the east, across to the left of the West are bringing progress and light and driving away Indigenous peoples and their and wild animals and trying to tame them and trying to build a country, right? This is one of the most enduring images of the way that we've constructed American history is through the building of a country out of nothing, that there was nothing here and hardworking pioneers constructed a country and built up a continent. So of course, as we talked about this is accomplished through elimination and destruction.

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
So on one hand, you have the destruction of indigenous identity, right? The policy of assimilation. And again, I use it here and quote, "savage indigenous peoples" were to be brought into quote "modern European society." Of course, there was no guarantee of full political rights. But the idea was that, you know, maybe, it may not be humane to just brutally genocide them, so let's try to find ways to try to make them into better human beings. It's probably, for those of you that follow the news, especially indigenous news articles, residential schools, or boarding schools have been in the news quite recently. Boarding schools and residential schools were just one such technique, right? In these schools, they were, Indigenous children were discouraged from practicing their language, practicing their culture, their religion, and they were generally trained in manual labor. They were trained to fill in kind of the lower rungs of settler colonial economic society.

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
We talk about destruction of the land. So for those of you that may be calling in from the upper Midwest, you probably recognize that the picture on the first slide is a picture of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe. A well-known story from where I'm from in Minnesota. And the story was that, for those of you that don't know, the Cliff notes version is Paul is this legend of this giant Lumberjack and together with his blue ox, who he oftentimes tied a plow to, they basically reshaped the geographies of the Midwest in the northwest. They cut down trees. Their footsteps are so big that they filled up with water and became Minnesota's 10,000 Lakes. They rough housed and created the Grand Tetons and Yosemite. This is a form of kind of whitewashing the destruction of the land, right?

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
In actuality, there was widespread over hunting and destruction of animals and plants important to Indigenous peoples. The over hunting of bison on the Great Plains was one such example. Another example is as covered by scholars such as Nick Estes, the flooding of Indigenous territories in the name of flood control and irrigation. That picture here on the right is during the 1930s, when the Indigenous Chief pictured here on the left-hand side here is signing away his land to authorities in the Dakotas for a flood control project called the Pick-Sloan Act. And you can see he's not very happy about that, right? He's signing that knowing that he really doesn't have a choice and that his people will be monetarily compensated. But hundreds of 1000s of acres of their land would subsequently be underwater, as well as something that is, well, as other forms of destruction of the land and energy production initiatives such as pipelines have been very prominent in news media and public consciousness today, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline on Keystone XL, etc.

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
So what does this all have to do with teaching about indigenous peoples in history, right, in K through 12 education and even beyond. I talk about how, you know, people oftentimes don't know these histories. And then I teach about these things in college. And a lot of times my students say, I didn't know that this happened. Why did I not know this happened? This makes me angry that I didn't know and I say, well, it's not really your fault, right? It's how education about Indigenous peoples have proceeded. Or there's a lack of Indigenous histories and presences in social studies, education in K through 12, in college curriculum beyond elective coursework. And then if you're lucky enough at the college level, your school might have an Indigenous Studies Program, right? We have American Indian Studies at OSU. Up here at UVic, we have Indigenous Studies. Things are getting better. I was fortunate enough when I grew up in the Twin Cities that I went to a school that actually had a Native education program. But we still have a lot of work to go. And a lot of times this kind of comes out of kind of a broader view that, well Native Americans and indigenous people are part of the past and have either assimilated or disappeared completely. Then I say, well, what I taught earlier this summer in the workshop is well that's not the case, right? That there are, there oftentimes you are more than likely to have an Indigenous student in your classroom. And recognizing that we are a part of contemporary American society, and that we are still here is an important juncture point and beginning point to beginning to uncover the ways that Indigenous histories have been obscured in this country.

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
So in the interest of time, I will leave you with a question to think about, right? What was it? When was the first time you learned about Indigenous peoples, either in the United States or if you're not from the US in your home country, right? Was it in grade school or college? What did you first learn about them? And did you ever spend a lot of time on this topic. I can say in K through 12, we probably spent maybe a grand total of maybe like five or six classroom days on it and a lot of the things that I learned were in extracurricular things such as our Native education program. So I will leave it at that. Thank you. I don't know if this information is made available. But if you want to talk to me outside of this webinar today, there's my contact information, and I can make that available later on, too. Thank you all very much.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
Thanks so much, Deondre. And last, but not least, let me introduce you to Dr. Robin Judd, who will talk today about race and Nazi Germany. Dr. Judd is associate professor of history at The Ohio State University. She is the author of Contested Rituals, Circumcision, Kosher Butchering, and the Making of German Jewish Political Life. And she's completing her newest book, Love, Liberation and Loss: Jewish Military Marriages After the Holocaust. She currently directs the history department's Hoffman Leaders and Leadership in History Fellowship Program and is the Vice President for Programming of the Association for Jewish Studies, the leading Jewish Studies organization worldwide. at OSU, she teaches classes in Holocaust studies, Jewish history, and immigration history, and has received seven teaching awards. Over to you, Robin.

Dr. Robin Judd 
Wonderful, and I am just going to share my screen and go from there. I thank you so much, Nick, and the Origins team for inviting me and for organizing this session. So to jump in, and to take advantage of the five minutes or so that I have to speak. When I talk with my students about considering race and racism and Nazi policy, I often want them to come away from my courses with three important points.

Dr. Robin Judd 
And the first is the recognition of how tempting it is to back shadow and how very important it is for us as historians not to take the information that we have about what happens next and to place it on the past. But to really wrestle with the past and the past actors and what they knew and what was available to them. And that allows us to move to our next two points, right.

Dr. Robin Judd 
The second point is the constant interplay of ideology and action and behavior that today I'll be talking a bit more about, sort of the place of race and racism and Nazi thought. But it almost means nothing unless we also connect that with action, and also to be thinking about place in time that even in as short of a period of the study of Nazism from its formation of the German Workers Party in 1919, until the end of the war, and the sort of the post war years. Even though that's a pretty short period, even there, we see how place in time can really shape the ways in which people understood race and racism. So if we were to think about this teleology, if we were to think about this arc of different periods of time, what are some of the major points that I hope students understand? Well, first, I want them to understand the foundation. How before 1933, even before the Nazis are coming into power, and then consolidating power, there's first an understanding of racial purity, that there's a belief that there's something that can allow for a pure race, and something that can allow for an impure race. And that there are, there is a hierarchy of racism, races, and there's a superiority of one particular race. There's an uber mentioned race, and that is the Germanic race for the Aryan master race. There's a belief that not only is there a hierarchy of races, but at the very top of the race, the Aryan Germanic people, and the very bottom of the races, the Jews are locked in a struggle. And that struggle is almost going to be never-ending until the Jews are eliminated, that the Jews themselves are a racial category. They're not a national category. They're not a religious category. But to speak to what Deondre and Hasan and Alice set out, right, this is an imagined category, a sense that Jews live off of other races and weaken them, that they're parasitic, that they use their sexuality and sex for that to happen, that there's something in physically the act of reproduction that can sort of shift the genetic makeup and a person not using that language at this time, right to make these races and pure. That there're these deviant dangerous characteristics that are racial in nature. That they can't be removed. That there's, that even if a Jew converts, that this Jew will be forever deviant in some way. And that the family is absolutely central to race. That the nation is talked about in terms of a genealogical term, it's the volksgemeinschaft that the family is the source of reproduction, and that nonAryans have to be extirpated. They have to be taken from the national family tree, root and branch until if that's our foundation, then between '33 and '39 we see it built upon, right? In '33 to '39 we see the notion of living space, lebensraum, around being intricately connected to race. There's an explicit linkage of race with citizenship, that one can only be a citizen if one is of Germanic, or kindred blood, that there are certain groups that pose a racial threat to this revitalized state, and those include Jews and Roma Sinti, but they also include those who identified with hereditary and cognitively inherited diseases.

Dr. Robin Judd 
And as early as 1933, the Nazi state enforces sterilization and in 1939, it begins the so-called euthanasia program, or the T4 Program. And in this period of '33 to '39, there's a lot of attention on the United States. There's fascination with the so-called unruly racism of the US and there're questions as to how to separate the unruly racism of the United States with the very sort of organized racism of Nazi Germany. When we move to '39 to '41, we see that next layer being built upon right here, race and lebensraum, race and living space go hand in hand. There is the T4 program that gets introduced where we have the so-called euthanasia program. We have this focus on Slavs and the introduction of Slavs and Roma Sinti as slave laborers. We have the creation of ghettoisation for Jews in Poland, and we have the forcible movement of ethnic Germans. There's a supposed linkage between Jews and the war, between Jews and disease and that gets built upon one more time in 1941 to 1945 with the final solution. When we not only have an explicit link of Jews with the Soviet state, but we also have this racial threat that we imagine and all kinds of lands the Nazis claim for themselves, and an articulation of a need for the final solution, a need to eliminate racial threats through killing. So for my students, it's very important for them to understand the way in which the narrative gets built upon, and the ways in which Nazi Germany does not operate alone. That there's sort of a constant gaze to other racialized societies and how they are playing, how they play, that play out, and enact racial ideologies there. And with that, I'll end and hand the floor back over to you, Nick. Thank you.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
Thank you so much to all four of you for these, these great opening remarks. I mean, it's so helpful to have a moment where we can sort of lay out some basic kind of aspects of the history that are important for us to think about and to walk away with. While you guys have all been talking, there have been an incredibly large number of questions that have come in. We will do our best to answer as many of them as we can. And I apologize in advance to the people who have asked if we don't get to your question. It's not because we didn't love it, just that there's really so many that have come in. But let's start here. Alice, I'm going to throw a question your way. Just to begin with, we've had several questions about really sort of the difference between perhaps modern racism and the premodern world. And in the sense that, you get the sense that racism in some ways began with the last few 100 years, or race or ideas of race began, our last few 100 years. What's different about kind of modern ideas of race and racism? What might we have seen in earlier societies? People have asked about the Greeks and Romans. People have asked about the kind of early Islamic civilizations. I'm hoping you could talk a little bit about what, yeah, what makes modern ideas of modern race modern?

Dr. Alice Conklin 
Well, I could answer that in one word, which is science. In many ways, race and racism, though always linked, they're not the same thing. So you can have what we call racism, or we might call it ethnocentrism. I mean, that's existed historically forever, outsiders and insiders. So I very consciously use the word modern, because the modern way of sort of being in the world, modern rationality, we trace, typically back to the scientific revolution, or what's called the new science, if you don't like the word revolution. So in that sense, there is, it's very important to hold on to that concept when listening to me, because what I'm talking about is we live in a kind of post, but we live in the world that the scientific revolution created in every sense. And our modern lifestyle is linked to the development of modern science with its norms, its pursuit of a certain kind of truth, and the ways of ascertaining that truth. So when I say that the best science of the day accepted this concept of race, I'm talking about people who actually put their ideas through the scientific processes, we understand, that peer review, publish articles in scientific journals, debates. And it's through that process that they ultimately recognize their errors, too. So I want to, I hope that clarifies what is modern about the idea, our idea of race. I'm not sure it's the only genealogy for our modern idea of race, but it's an important one.

Dr. Robin Judd 
Do you think too, Alice, that there's something about the state and citizenship that informs modern kinds of modern notions of race, but also the implications of those notions?

Dr. Alice Conklin 
Absolutely. I think that the next step, and the argument you might take, is whatever scientists thought they were doing in their laboratory got politicized, always gets politicized, more dangerously in some moments than others. We know that living through a moment in which science is being contested. So the whole development of the modern nation state made it really almost impossible that the race concept did not somehow get politicized, I would say weaponized even, as nations began to think of themselves as perhaps needing to correspond to a specific race. And of course, the Nazi state is the ultimate expression of that horrific kind of politicization and weaponization.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
So, excuse me, Hasan, let me throw a question your way because there were a couple of questions that came out of your initial comments about the relationship between kind of race and racism on one hand, and capitalism on the other, or capitalism and class on the other. With a question in particular, is capitalism somehow implicit in American racism and kind of vice versa?

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
I would say that racism is implicit in American capitalism, and it has always been. Capitalism, racism gave us slavery. Capitalism and racism gave us Jim Crow. Capitalism and racism have given us mass incarceration. Now, we also, there's nothing inherently, I mean, that's just a critique of the economic system in which we live. And sometimes it's the way that capital operates, the way that sometimes you know, African Americans have been excluded from participating in particular capitalist endeavors from employment to homeownership. But also the way in which racism as an ideology is used to justify the flight of capital, the flight of jobs more recently, in the modern American context. A multinational corporation closes a factory in Cleveland, Ohio, and moves to Mexico or to China. And white workers who are now unemployed are blaming Mexican workers and Chinese workers, as opposed to the multinational corporation that has chosen to flee this country for tax breaks and for lower wages. I mean, that's racism and capitalism being played out on a global scale. So I would say yes, they're intimately connected, and have always been so, which means that if we want to seriously do away with racism, we have to reimagine how our economic system operates in American society. Thank you.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
I'm curious, Robin and Alice, do you see similar kinds of connections between kind of race and capitalism in the European context?

Dr. Robin Judd 
Certainly, I mean, one of the things that we talk a lot about in my courses is how the Nazis manipulated and used the economy toward their benefit, which was, by definition, a racialized economy. The Aryanization of Jewish businesses allowed for the Nazi state to recover the forced labor of Roma Senti, of Slavs, of Jews, that allows for the Nazi war machine to succeed for as long as it does. And, indeed, that there's a way in which the economies of small towns where internment camps or prison camps were located would become revitalized because of the work that was required. So there's so many ways in which the economies become intertwined and economic revival becomes intertwined with racial ideologies.

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
And if I may just add, I mean, the parallel to what we've seen since the 1980s in rural white communities being revitalized following deindustrialization by the placement of a prison and the warehousing of mainly black and brown people there. And you see exactly I mean, the way in which that is sort of racism and capitalism intertwined.

Dr. Robin Judd 
Absolutely. I mean, and it, you know, one begins to sort of break down, okay, well, what's needed, right? What's needed to build the present. Now what do we need in terms of workers? What do we need in terms of the profiting of the products? You know, what do we need? Do we need wood? Do we need steel? You know, who's going to be bringing it in and out? You know, who's going to be serving the meals and all of these kinds of questions. And then when we break it down to the local level, I think it allows students to really see how often racism can be intertwined with our economy.

Dr. Alice Conklin 
I would just add that obviously, the whole history of European Colonialism in Africa and Asia is premised and in a very similar way on how to get, and you mentioned this, Deondre, too because settler colonialism worked the same way in America, as it did in South Africa, or Algeria, in places where the Europeans settled. But if you go to other parts of Africa, where they practice extractive colonialism, the whole idea was to integrate these economies in such a way that you had a cheap, docile labor force in the global south, and you had the wealth skimmed off and headed back to what they called the metropoles, or Europe itself. And Europeans are, you know, have long, there's long been a criticism within Europe, obviously, of these racist colonial economics. But it's really actually only in the last 20 years, that the same kind of reckonings going on there that has a much earlier history in the US.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
Marvelous, thank you. I have a question that I wanted to send to Deondre, which has to do with sort of how do we differentiate between ethnicity, nationality and race? And in particular, how do those categories, what do those categories mean in the case of Native Americans and Indigenous peoples?

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
And so that's a great question. And that's a very, very complex one, when it comes to Indigenous peoples, especially in the American in the Canadian context is because a lot of times, sometimes people will refer to Indigenous peoples as a race and you'll if you ask many Indigenous peoples, they'll oftentimes say, well, we're not a race, right? We're a nation. You know, I can speak for like my own people where, you know, the Ojibwe, we have a long, long history of using our tribal identity, as viewing it in political and kinship sort of frameworks, rather than racial or biological constructs. I mean, there's well known examples of black Americans becoming adopted into the tribe and becoming well-respected members of the tribal community. And so, a lot of times when I get asked that sort of question, I always say, well, in terms of Indigenous peoples, you know, we get placed into racial categories and ethnic categories for the ease of demographics and things like that. But I always say, try to think about nationhood and kind of like, kind of national sort of frameworks above everything, right? Because we are not only peoples, but we're also political entities that many times predate the United States or predate Canada. And so that's generally a good entry way to think through such a thing such as that.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
There's a series of thank you, Deondre, sorry, I was just reading all the different questions and trying to get them all in some form or other. Robin, there's a series of questions for you. And I guess I'll take two of them in particular. One about which was asked so why was being a Jew not considered a religion? And then also, are there similarities between the ideas of the volksgemeinschaft and of citizenship in Nazi Germany with modern perceptions of who is deemed American in our society?

Dr. Robin Judd 
That's, they're both such good questions. So one of the reasons why then Nazis were hesitant to think about the Jews as a religion was because Germany, when the Nazis come to power and then seize and consolidate power, Germany is a highly integrated mixed society. Jews intermarried at a very high rate, converted to Christianity, at a very high rate, in which you, they're no longer considered Jews, by themselves or by the Jewish community. But they are considered Jews by the Nazis, right. And so part of the part of what happens is that the Nazis don't want to work with Judaism and Jewishness as a religious category, because then it would allow for conversion to be meaningful. And instead, the Nazis want to use this imaginary category of race as a way of thinking, this biological race as thinking of that there's something quite inherent to the Jews that can't be converted out. I think the question about the volksgemeinschaft is a wonderful one. And certainly, this sort of the thinking about this messy, weird category of the nation state as being part of a family unit, right, and nationalist family unit is resonant to all of us, because we've been hearing a lot about that, right, over the last several years. And certainly, I think there's rhetoric, exclusionary rhetoric, in the nation now that imagines the US as this family, but it's not, but it's a particular family. It's a family of certain like individuals that excludes all the others and I think that's been quite resonant today.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
Fabulous, thank you. A question that I'll send to Hasan. Can you talk a little bit, you know, in less than 20 hours about the current debate regarding critical race theory? We've had several people asking about this particular debate, so I think we'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
Well, if you didn't know what critical race theory, we'd have heard, if you never heard about critical race theory before the start of this year, then there's a good chance what you think it is, it ain't. Critical race theory is simply a legal construct that, in its most simplest terms, says you have to take seriously the role of race and racism in society in order to understand the American past. And in order to understand the American present, that's it, or everything else is just political mumbo jumbo. It's not about sort of white people, you know, creating white guilt and white shame and that and all this other. That's just silly. I think what we're in the midst of is a politically manufactured hysteria that unfortunately we cannot dismiss because it is now impacting what we can and should and could and cannot actually teach in our classrooms. And so we have to take it very seriously. But it is really just saying that the idea and what people are advocating, they're saying you've got to take race and racism seriously in the classroom. And that we need to teach historical facts. We need to focus on honesty, and we have to lean into difficult conversations, and that which makes us uncomfortable, which is one of the things that we're doing right now. And look at that, we're having this conversation. And guess what, no white children blew up in the process, right? I mean it's totally possible for us to do this, and learn something and take it away and take something away.

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
Nick may have blown up. You still there, Nick?

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
I'm still there. Sorry. You know, it's the problem of Zoom. I click mute, the unmute, and I don't unmute. But there you go. But now I'm here. I have a sort of larger question here. That what I'll throw to Deondre to start, but I think everybody will want to talk about, which is, are recent racism kind of unit directional issues, meaning, should we only study racial dynamics relative to a normative pattern, that of white Europeans maintaining power or do the speakers believe racial systems should be studied as dynamic systems in which power can shift among racial groups?

Dr. Deondre Smiles 
So I guess I can start with that. So that's a really, really good question. I would probably say that if that would presuppose a system where you could have, you can presuppose a possibility where Indigenous peoples and Black Americans and Latinx peoples and Asian Americans could have, be allowed to occupy positions in power, where there could be a radical shifting of that dynamic. And I think that in current political discourse that that in itself creates so much kind of pushback, right? The Indigenous circles, the idea of the Land Back Movement, the idea that Indigenous people should be allowed to have ongoing relationships with the land and that land should be returned to Indigenous peoples. I mean, just that in itself. I see about every two months on Twitter, I see somebody going on there saying, oh, well Land Back as ethno-nationalism, right? Well, Indigenous peoples, if they get control of the land are just going to kick white people off of it. And I say, well, that's, I don't think that's exactly what that is. But I think that because of that kind of fear, right? The fear that well, what happens if they get power and they do the same thing to us that day that we did to them? I think that you have to think about how do we construct those kinds of discourses? And how do we make it so that, you know, it's truly, you know, a, quote, multiracial society, multiethnic society? It doesn't carry that Boogeyman with it, where it's like, oh, well, if we lose power, right? Isn't that like the, I'll probably get this wrong, but like the replacement theory, right? Isn't that kind of based on the idea that, oh, you know, other nonwhite Americans are going to, are gaining demographic strength compared to white Americans? And, you know, what are they going to do when that happens? And so I think that deconstructing that would be the first step to even kind of, I think, even approaching the kind of conversation of like, kind of shifting power dynamics or racial dynamics. I mean, I think there's other kinds of, there's other ones that can be described. You know, in Indigenous circles, a lot of times we talk about sometimes a rampant anti Blackness, right, that runs within those circles in the ways that Black Natives are treated, you know. But a lot of it kind of comes after people kind of point to well, that comes from kind of these colonial dynamics rights, where colonial or settler, settler colonial powers, oftentimes positioned Indigenous peoples, as you know, you're racially superior to African Americans and Black slaves, and therefore, you know, you occupy a higher rung in society. And unfortunately, I think some of our, some people kind of carry that colonized mindset with them into the present day, in very destructive and very racist ways. So I'll leave it at that and turn it over to other folks and see if they want to take a stab at this.

Dr. Alice Conklin 
I might jump in here and just say, I think for someone who tries to teach European and colonialism to you know what are mostly white students, I try to tell students, what we're really doing is probing sort of the blind spots in liberalism. Not, you know, trying to understand, because there is a lot, not that we only have to study European, white Europeans, and that responsibility, though I think that's very important because a lot of them haven't understood the responsibility, and the complicity that white liberalism historically has played in constructing and perpetuating racism. But I also like to complicate the story by saying, you know, there's always resistance to these sort of white Europeans' privilege, and that white allies have been important to the struggle too and understanding how different sort of power dynamics developed within particular historical situations is critical to trying to change things. So I don't, I'm just sort of getting people to be comfortable with acknowledging that things, that awful things happened in the past, but that they, that we can hope that they can be corrected, if they learn about why it happened. So, you know, to get people past the sort of guilt, you know, guilting of white, anybody who is white, and trying to make them understand that talking about race is actually the first step to some kind of understanding and accountability.

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 
You know, if we have a second, I would just say this is kind of a version of the reverse racism question, right? Like is reverse racism real? I know it's not real because you have to have the power in addition to the prejudice, right? Like it, you can always have prejudice, but that you don't have the historical examples of people of color of African Americans being in significant of positions of power to exert the kind of racial discrimination against white people that white people want to claim. Those who say reverse racism exists in some significant way. It's quite interesting that systemic racism against black people doesn't exist, but apparently systemic racism against white people does exist. It's always the same thing like on a theoretical kind, on a theoretical level. Certainly, right, anybody can harbor a kind of prejudice. But when we actually deal with it on concrete terms and historical reality, and say, well, who has had the power to exercise the prejudice over people, then historically, we're talking about certainly in the American context, and even globally, people of European descent, people of American descent. So we got to deal with the facts, and not deal with the myths centered around sort of the theoretical possibilities, that kind of ain't real, right? I mean, we deal with America.

Dr. Robin Judd 
Or the fear, I mean, you know, to just tap onto what Hasan just said, I think quite brilliantly, right. So much of it is about being afraid. And I think for our students, there's kind of a moment where we encourage them to recognize that that's real, and that it's really important there in the classroom and here and able to have those conversations and we work with them to figure out how to get beyond the fear to being able to see this, these historical patterns. So they understand that there can't be reverse racism in the world in which we exist, because the power just isn't there.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
Marvelous. I think this is maybe a good place for us to unfortunately call it a day. We've gone over the hour that we're supposed to have set aside for this. And my apologies, there were so many great questions that I had hoped we might get to. And thank you all for posing those questions and hopefully, to some degree they've been answered through the conversations today. Let me say a very big thank you to Doctors Conklin, Jeffrey, Smiles, and Judd, for sharing their expertise today and their passion for history. Please join me in giving them a kind of virtual round of applause for what they've done today. I'd also like to thank the College of Arts and Sciences, especially Clara Davison, Jake Lack and Maddie Kurma. And also the history department, the Harvey Goldberg Center for Excellence in Teaching, the Clio Society, Bexley Public Library, and the magazine Origins, Current Events in Historical Perspective for their sponsorship. And once again, thank you, our audience for your excellent questions and for your ongoing connection to Ohio State. Stay safe and healthy, and we'll see you next time. Thank you all so much.