Why do we talk about race and racism often on Detroit Today?
It’s a question host Stephen Henderson says he’s asked frequently. He says the answer is because history matters.
“History informs the way we do things and see things and think about things now,” says Henderson. “Talking about it… is one way of coming to reckon with history and its influence on the present.”
Henderson says he knows it’s often uncomfortable for people to talk about racism in America — both past and present — but being uncomfortable is okay as long as the conversation still happens.
Co-authors Ned and Constance Sublette say Americans can and should turn to our country’s history with slavery to understand why the conversation about racism must still be had today. Their book, The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry, takes a deep look at how the slave trade formed the basis of the American economy that still thrives today.
“My studies have convinced me racism isn’t just blind, ignorant prejudice,” says Ned. “Racism is a system… [and] there’s infrastructure to that system.”
The Sublettes argue the slave industry made products of human beings, and that so-called “product” benefited not only plantation owners, but auxiliary businesses such as newspapers and saloons.
“Out of this product… they are extracting extraordinary opportunity to grow,” says Constance Sublette.
Ned Sublette says slavery was a machine that was designed to keep black people destitute and with a constantly fractured family structure, and the legacy of that destructive design endures today.
To hear more of their conversation on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.
Original air date: September 14th, 2016.