A Review of The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade, by Charles B. Dew
As any historian can probably attest to, it is often frustrating and fruitless to have a debate or discussion about African American history, specifically slavery, the causes of the Civil War, the failure of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the overall impact on African Americans today from almost 400 years of oppression, with anyone who believes in the Lost Cause ideology. There will be very few times, if ever, that a person’s mind can be changed. However, it is not impossible.
Charles B. Dew grew up in the South. He was the definition of a child of the confederacy. He was raised to be, in his own words, a racist. However, upon attending Williams College in Massachusetts, his racist beliefs were turned upside down. It was during his time at Williams College that he began to understand that the things he was taught were not only historically inaccurate, but they were the epitome of revisionist history.
In his book, The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade, Dew outlines his journey to “unmaking” his racism. The style of this book is very unique, as it is not only a historical account of slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow era, but it is also part autobiography. His work is raw and honest and opens up the question, can racists be made “unracist”? The vulnerability of his reflection of his past allows the reader to see firsthand how someone can still grow up to believe that blacks are an inferior race. More importantly it shows that it is not impossible to change that type of thinking and the behaviors associated with it.
Dew, Charles B. The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade. Charlottesville: The University of Virginia Press, 2016.