RaceSex & Gender

op-ed: black historian expose white women slave owners

May 27, 2019
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University of California-Berkeley professor Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers is a historian who has used her work to unpack and demystify the role of white women during slavery. Her research on the group has shattered the widely held assumption that white woman sat around as unwilling participants to the violent subjugation of enslaved Africans but Jones-Rogers new release, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South reveals that white women were just as invested in slavery and that they made up around 40 percent of slave owners according to Atlanta Black Star.

The dehumanization of Africans to property entrenched the power of white men but is also served as a means for white women to amass the kind of power that would liberate them from second class citizens. Because it was harder for women to own land without association to a white man at that time, Jones-Rogers research painted a picture of parents gifting enslaved Africans, specifically Black girls who were considered valuable because of their ability to birth to “more assets”. This deliberate historical oversight that glossed over the role of white slave mistresses speaks to a conception of white womanhood built on the ownership of people – a conception proven multiple times through history when white women would sacrifice Black allies for their own historical gains.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the 19th amendment (prohibiting the States and the Federal Government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex) and with the presence of the 53 percent that voted for Trump as well as the white women that authored and signed Alabama’s heartbeat law, it’s time we consistently reserve some smoke for female white supremacists. We no longer have the luxury of ignoring the role of white women in the proliferation of white supremacy because white men use them as decoys to pass legislation that will also harm them — they do it anyway because the trade-off they enjoy is the proximity to power that protects them from the worst of legislative tyranny.

Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers

Nancy Pelosi’s strategy of waiting for an election that may very well be America’s last is peak white womanhood because herself and those closest to her will not be affected by the heinous laws that affect marginalized communities in the US and abroad. She can afford to wait because she is not a Black trans woman, hunted and killed almost every month. She can afford to wait because she is not a low-income Black woman who needs an abortion as a form of healthcare and family planning. She isn’t a trans person being stripped of rights, even the right to protect and serve this hellish dystopian ethnostate. As far as proximity to power goes, Pelosi is the Speaker of House — the highest-ranking woman in the United States government — and her strategy is to not impeach the man setting fire to all the checks and balances.

What can white women in power really do for the movement against white supremacy when their sights are set on the power held by white men instead of undoing the system in its entirety? Tyrannical white men mostly see them as glorified incubators to pass down power and wealth through the birthing of white children. In fact, the wave of abortion bans can be seen as the result of that white nationalist fear, borne out of a dwindling birthrate of Caucasians worldwide. White Feminism continues to go unchecked and what we are faced with, as a result, is powerful white women who contribute to and sustain white supremacy – that includes complacent liberals like Pelosi.

Next year, when the feminism does its dance for white feminists that made history, ask white feminist what their faces did for POC and the LGBTQ+ community. What you’ll mostly find are white women who looked out for themselves — looking around, not much has changed.