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JSPES, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Spring 2017)
pp. 58–80

The Lost Context of ‘American Racism’

Dwight D. Murphey

Wichita State University, retired

A view that has been advanced by the American Left and that has become common among those whose understanding is formed by its outlook is that American society has historically been deeply racist — so much so that the society in general and its leaders are morally repugnant. In this article, the author notes that this view commits two related fallacies: a “material fallacy” of “truncated perspective” and one of “lost context.” In effect, he says, these fallacies turn reality on its head, blackening the image of a society that, however imperfectly, was one of the leading carriers of the Enlightenment and, with the British, of the global campaign against slavery. Coming into being at a time when slavery was still seen throughout the world as both normal and morally acceptable, the American colonies at first accepted — and later found themselves saddled with — a massive slave presence. The article observes that this became a “bone in the throat” with which the society has struggled in a variety of ways since the country’s founding. The author concludes by observing how in recent years the consensus in favor of racial equality has seamlessly morphed into a drive for a multiculturalist transformation of American society.