How Race Survived History by David R. Roediger explores various ways in which the idea of race was initially created and recreated in American history. In his book, David reveals how race played a critical role in a progressive national history. He illustrates the ways in which race intersected all that was progressive and dynamic in U.S history, right from economic development, democracy to globalization and immigration. Based on what has happened in the past, Roediger explores the evidence that U.S will eventually become a ‘non-white’ majority nation probably in the next fifty years or so. In a nutshell, this masterful history depicts how race has, is and will always remain in the hearts of Americans in the 21st century (Roediger 19).
Based on David’s argument, I would say that the dominant theme in this book is ‘racism’ and to some extent ‘social class’. David Roediger presents an outstanding framework for understanding and comprehending the persistence of racism in the history of America. As a warning and a wake-up call, this book acts as an appeal for both action and understanding. It offers a convincing and clear demonstration that white supremacy is not only a historical object of the past but rather an infinitely renewable and perpetually renewed resource for injustice and inequity in the society today. Primarily, Roediger explores how the idea of race was both created and recreated from the 16th century and how dominantly it is presented today. His masterful account demonstrates how race in the 21st century remains in the heart of American life.
In the book, David describes racism in the strongest words, for instance, he gives a scenario when U.S president Barack Obama was found by many especially whites, ‘looking for the wrong Lincoln’, which in simpler terms mean; a fight for freedom, fight against racism and policies that unify the nation. He further explains in detail several paradoxes at the heart of American history illustrating ways in which the democratization of white citizenship was in due course accompanied by a remarkable growth in the scarcity of native lands and in black bondage. However, he assures that not all is at stake showing how icons such as Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson were at times sympathetic to slavery. He claims that slavery actually expanded as a result of Jefferson’s actions on the Louisiana Purchase. These were the big winds of that time who made a great influence in the nation. Their decision was final and everyone had to go by that (Roediger 54).
One concept prevailing in this book is Roediger’s provocative look at how white elites in America have over the years managed race for their own economic and political gain, doing it in the process one of America’s defining factors. By giving poor whites roles as slave catchers or overseers and by enslaving blacks, elite white gave birth to white supremacy and compressed the emerging fraternity. Roediger takes his history through the Clinton era explaining how race survived modern liberalism. He proceeds to include an afterword on Obama’s phenomenon as he seeks to find answers in the triumphant campaign. Roediger’s claims are justified and there is indeed a reason why he claims that the wealthy in the American and England colonies created the whole idea of white supremacy as the reason for taking away Indian’s land and for slavery too. He demonstrates how the creation of white supremacy has to this day not persisted but has in one way or another been nurtured by the culture of economic and political reason and by United States law as well.
Notably, the concept of the white race did not merely happen, it was critically planned and it took lots of work. For instance, the book illustrates how Barack Obama’s presidency elevated to greater heights despite the much racism in America. David makes demonstrations of what Obama’s successful presidential run meant. He states the final Election Day ballot was not a thing about Americans and not Obama himself, it was more than that. Americans voted in a union, staring into the American racism and finally made their choice. Roediger argues that there actually nothing that was foreordained about the racial order in America. For the bloody and bitter racial conflict that cropped up during the colonial period that ushered in new-world conquest. Ostensibly, primary racial difference perceptions arose through an arduously constructed system of racial and law folklore that was paved jointly an extensive ex post facto slavery justification (Roediger 115).
Seemingly, how ace survived in US history could hardly have been more timely with the election of Barack Obama as the first black President of America. It is a key point demonstrating exactly how the race was steadily survived in the U.S. Roediger rightly argues while quoting passages depicting that the discourse that surrounds racial relations cannot under any circumstance be reduced to the domestic argument between South and North chattel slavery. A critical look at nationally specific features of class formation and capitalist development in America pretty much have a distinctly disproportionate and powerful relationship with race. Reflecting on the book’s theme, Obama’s presidential bid in 2008 is a broad survey in the book that is skillfully blended while maintaining a compelling argument. The case that is put forward is that race underpinned all aspects of American society right from its initial inception and is still well and alive today. Notably, the fact that Obama really won the last elections does not in any way undermine Roediger’s argument. It is true that in America, race defines the social category where individuals are sorted thereby justifying their altering opportunities with regard to poverty and wealth, citizen and alienation, freedom and confinement and premature death.
Prognosis for the future of racism in US history is that racism will end one day and blacks will be the majority. Though racism is the single most critical barrier to building effective coalitions for social change, it can be undone if Americans fully understand where it comes from, what it is and how it functions. As David asserts, choosing of a black president is the road to freedom and equity. Since Obama’s election and re-election, a lot of barriers were, are and will be broken as racism will come to an end in America. Roediger claims that Obama’s victory proves that long-standing American social prejudices against blacks are simply underrated and a thing of the past. In addition, increase in minorities’ economic and political power is tangible evidence that past concerns about racism can be put to rest for the most part. Roediger further argues that America cannot under any circumstance continue as a cohesive society constrained by all these conditions. He critically thinks that Americans should seriously put into consideration some system of reparations to deal with both the present and past injustices and apology.
No person of color has at one time suffered discrimination due to the color of their skin. There would indeed be a solution of changing skin color if color were the problem. The issue is the value systems that pull off evil against others. This system as illustrated by Roediger has been established and it is only a matter of time that everything will be executed. Presumably, an African American at the Executive Helm will have a profound effect on this prognosis. A good example of this is the current America President Barack Obama who through thick and thin has had his way up the ladder. Being elected in 2007 and re-elected back into office is not an easy task for a black. If he has made it this far, there is no barrier for any black seeking such stance. Black is only the color of the skin not the mind. This is what should sink deep into the minds of conservatives who dwell on the past (Roediger 201).
On a scale of 1 to ten, I would rate this book at 8 simply because this is the ideal book that hits the nail on the head. David R. Roediger has used his all to deliver what rests in his heart. It is the kind of book I could recommend people to read it so as to get a glimpse of what racism actually is, what bad it has done to our society, the valueless social classes it forms that add no value in our lives and remedy to all these. It offers a convincing and clear demonstration that white supremacy is not only a historical object of the past but rather an infinitely renewable and perpetually renewed resource for injustice and inequity in the society today.
Roediger, David R. How Race Survived Us History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon. London: Verso, 2008. Print.