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Roots Deeper Than Whiteness Review & Exercise


Review Roots Deeper Than Whiteness and make note of harm that your ancestors (of kin and/or blood, or simply as early ancestors of the social position of whiteness) endured. There is no need to watch the embedded videos or pause for reflections where indicated; we hope you will simply refresh your memory of these themes:

  • Enclosure of the commons

  • Suppression of women & the burning of “witches”

  • Urban poverty, the criminalization of vagrancy, incarceration, exploitation in early industrial jobs, and the bondage of indentured servitude (which often accompanied forced migration to a British colony abroad)

  • Continued exploitation in colonial life along similar lines as the above

  • The Americanization programs through which European immigrants assimilated (who themselves left because of the devastation of capitalism and/or feudalism in their homelands)


Having looked back over Roots, spend time with the following inquiries:

  • Where do you see your ancestral story in relationship to these events or patterns? For those of you who do not have a direct relationship – through blood or family – to any of this history, you might consider both how this history influences the social category of whiteness that you have assimilated into, as well as what general patterns represented here might have played out, in different ways, for your family.

  • How did you see the patterns of: 1) violent displacement of communities from their land, and 2) the replacement of traditional, ethnic culture with identities designed to uphold the new economic order, playing out in your family story? 

  • Keep in mind that displacement does not have to mean migration to a different continent; this story includes the migration of peasants to towns and cities after the loss of access to the commons.

*A Note to our Jewish Participants


We welcome your spending less time with the Roots Deeper Than Whiteness essay (if this particular chronicle of history feels less relevant to you), and diving into your own research and knowledge of the themes of persecution and harm in your own family and/or ethnic line. The JFREJ Understanding Antisemitism PDF may be a helpful starting place for this (direct link to the entire document here; handout created for Session 5 here and listed on main participant page directly under the link to this exercise.) 

As you review this history, we suggest you also look for the patterns of violent displacement and the ways in which traditional cultural identity was impacted by them. We recognize that, for Jews, these patterns look very different than they do for participants of other European ancestry who eventually assimilated (more or less completely) into a “nonethnic” white identity.

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