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Seeing White

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Seeing White

Scene on Radio podcast: Season 2

Scene on Radio,

15 mins. de lectura
9 ideas fundamentales
Audio y Texto

¿De qué se trata?

Which came first, bigotry or exploitation?

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Hot Topic
  • Inspiring


Media examinations of matters of race tend to focus on people of color. In this podcast series, “Seeing White,” radio producer John Biewen and researcher Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika turn the lens from people of color to white people. The Peabody-nominated series zooms in on the early cultural forces that fabricated the idea of whiteness and the problems that have sprung from the creation of that concept.


The modern narrative about the origins of racism is misleading.

Many people believe that racism was a natural reaction when Europeans encountered people with darker skin tones. Since they didn’t perceive them as quite human, the narrative goes, they treated people of color badly. In truth, exploitation came first. Throughout the early years of European contact with the Americas, for example, enslaving people allowed farmers to grow labor-intensive crops cheaply. People created the concept of race, racist ideas as well as the concepts of whiteness and white superiority to justify exploitation that was already occurring.

A Portuguese man named Gomes de Zurara was among the first to put racist ideas into writing. Zurara wrote a biography about Portugal’s Prince Henry the Navigator, who spent much of the early 1400s enslaving people from Africa. Zurara claimed that people in Africa “lived like beasts” with “no understanding of good, but only knew how to live in bestial sloth.” Prince Henry was saving them by introducing them to Christianity and offering slavery as a superior life to what they knew. Zurara’s justification for slavery circulated ...

About the Podcast

Scene on Radio is a Peabody-nominated podcast that dives deeply into issues central to American society and identity. This many-part series, “Seeing White,” looks at the roots and meaning of white supremacy. Host and producer John Biewen is the director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. He’s worked in public radio and created documentaries for more than 30 years. Chenjerai Kumanyika is a researcher, journalist and artist who lectures at Rutger’s University.

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