How do children acquire racist beliefs

Strategies of dehumanizationracism and slavery in the United States

A year ago, George Floyd died - a black citizen who had a white cop knee to his neck until he suffocated. The Americanist Michael Hochgeschwender tells how dehumanization and racist convictions in the USA have been changed and updated again and again since slavery.

The enslavement of people in the southern states of the USA was described somewhat ashamed as a "special institution", as a "peculiar institution". The theologian and Americanist Michael Hochgeschwender has examined how the institution of slavery was historically founded, which models of serfdom it preceded and which role economic reasons played in its approval or rejection.

"Slavery has been gradually abolished in the north since 1778, but many jobs nonetheless remained in the textile industry, which is why there was considerable interest in the north in not abolishing slavery."
Michael Hochgeschwender, historian and Americanist, LMU Munich

The dehumanization was used flexibly and renegotiated several times. Native Americans, Irish, displaced Africans - at times they were all treated as animals rather than humans. The European Enlightenment provided arguments for this supposedly scientific racism: Immanuel Kant and John Locke developed the corresponding theories.

"This inability to acquire civil rights was shared with children, madmen and women. These are the other groups that were excluded from John Locke."
Michael Hochgeschwender, historian and Americanist, LMU Munich

Michael Hochgeschwender shows in his lecture the differences between slavery in the USA and the Caribbean and also goes into the internal differences in the US states. Even the enslaved themselves, especially the males, were given different attributes over time. First more as children to be brought up, then as "black perpetrators", that is, "black perpetrators". And with these ascriptions, the fear of them also grew.

"If you read the diaries of the slave owners of that time, it becomes clear how quickly hatred builds up."
Michael Hochgeschwender, historian and Americanist, LMU Munich

The former slave owners fear acts of revenge by their former serfs after the American Civil War. These acts of revenge did not actually exist, says Michael Hochgeschwender.

But between 1890 and 1925 alone, 3,200 people were ritually lynched in the American South, 90 percent of whom were black men. These lynchings did not take place in secret. The historian reports that these acts were often announced and placarded in advance, and tickets were sometimes sold for them.

"Interestingly, there were practically no acts of revenge. The main interest of the blacks was to gather their families and build schools in order to gain access to American society through education."
Michael Hochgeschwender, historian and Americanist, LMU Munich

Note: The speaker deals, among other things, with racist terms and concepts and he names them in this lecture.

The presentation:

Michael Hochgeschwender is Professor of North American Cultural History at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. At the invitation of VHS Wissen, he gave his lecture entitled "Racism in the USA" live, organized by the Adult Education Center in the Erding district and the South East Adult Education Center in the Munich district. He sometimes finds the term "structural racism" imprecise.