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Racism in America – The History We Didn’t Learn in School

SUE LINDERMAN BIO

Sue Linderman grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, graduating from Mount Pleasant High School before attending Mount Holyoke College, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.

Her 27-year career with the DuPont Company in Wilmington culminated with the spinoff of its Medical X-Ray business via a leveraged buyout that created Sterling Diagnostic Imaging, of which she was its first President.  She is especially proud of the long-term R&D investment by her business that developed a selenium array for image capture that is now at the heart of nearly every mammography machine in use in the U.S.

Throughout her career, Sue was active in various ‘diversity’ action groups, seeking to pursue equality of opportunity and treatment of employees, so that each individual’s contributions might be optimized.  But it was the series of police shootings of unarmed black men in recent years that galvanized her to develop a better understanding of how we got to where we are.  The information being presented in this series is the result of significant research about our country’s history in this regard.

Sue is a co-founder of the Westminster Peace & Justice Work Group in Wilmington that was formed in Spring 2018 with the twin goals of combating violence in Wilmington and promoting racial justice.  The Work Group is affiliated with a number of community organizations – the Delaware Center for Justice, the Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow and Smart Justice Delaware, among others.

 

RACISM IN AMERICA – THE HISTORY WE DIDN’T LEARN IN SCHOOL

I’ve had a lifelong interest in history and was a Political Science/History major in college, yet I didn’t discover until 3-4 years ago that I was missing a significant portion of our country’s history.  In my experience, American history classes stopped with the Civil War and a bit of Reconstruction, with those darn carpetbaggers, and picked up again sometime after WWII.

Much of the racial turmoil in our country today can be traced directly to elements of our history, even before the founding of the United States.  Many of the racial stereotypes we hear – or hold – are a direct consequence of intentional economic and public policy and beliefs that have no grounding in genetics.  Understanding this history gives us a foundation for action to address the profound inequities that exist in our society today.

The program will be broken into six segments.  Some notes on the structure and content of the full series follow below:

 

Week 1 – THE EARLY YEARS

Starting in August 1619 with the arrival in the Colony of Virginia of a ship bearing 20+ kidnapped Africans,  this class takes us through the establishment of slavery and its economic imperative, actions leading to the Civil War, consequences of that conflict, key Constitutional Amendments, and the hopeful start and abortive end of Reconstruction.

Week 2 – SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME

This class provides often little known information about Black Codes, which took advantage of the ‘loophole’ in the 13th Amendment and facilitated convict leasing, the Supreme Court decision in Plessy v Ferguson that enabled the explosion of Jim Crow Laws and exacerbated segregation, the magnitude and horror of terror lynchings, and the Great Migration.

Week 3 – PUBLIC POLICY AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

We will look at housing segregation in the U.S. as enacted by local governments, then enabled by racially-restricted deed covenants, the creation of the FHA and its redlining practices, the racialization of the G.I. bill implementation, impact of the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision, key events in the Civil Rights Movement, and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Week 4 – MASS INCARCERATION AND THE WAR ON DRUGS

The explosion in the U.S. prison population from 230,000 in 1970 to more than 2,300,000 in 2017 was driven in large part by racially targeted drug laws, financial incentives to law enforcement organizations, dramatic expansion of civil forfeiture, attacks on Fourth Amendment protections and the construction of for-profit prisons, leading to a criminal justice system that is racialized from start to finish.

Week 5 – VOTER SUPPRESSION – THEN AND NOW

We will explore the legal history of voting rights, the 15th Amendment and the end of Reconstruction, 100 years of voter suppression tactics, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Shelby v Holder Supreme Court decision, and the current assault of voter ID laws, roll purges, felon disenfranchisement and resource limitations.

Week 6 – WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE ?

We will look back over these classes to consider what we have learned, how does this history affect us today, what do we need to do in the way of education, dialogue, self-examination, and action, asking what actions will we take – individually and collectively – and what commitments will we make.

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