ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — The Community Coalition on Race is hosting a series of online workshops with the goal of deconstructing racism.
“There is no black gene or white gene,” said Mikki Murphy, the main speaker at the most recent workshop. “Scientific research has determined that there can be more genetic variation within a race than is found from one race to the other.”
The Maplewood-based coalition is a non-profit organization, started in 1996, with the initial goal of addressing stagnating property values and the perceived decline in the quality of public schools. The organization has since expanded its goals to include programs that promote racial inclusion and integration.
The current series of workshops began on Feb. 12 and will continue until May 21, taking place on two Sundays each month, starting at 3 p.m. Upcoming topics include “The Impact of White Supremacy on People of Color and Everyone in the Nation” and “What We Can Do to Disrupt White Supremacy.”
The first two workshops on deconstructing racism explored themes of white supremacy and the many forms that it has taken throughout the history of the U.S.
The organization, run by volunteers, has hosted nearly 1,000 free forums, training and cultural events that promote racial integration and equity. They have also received more than 70 grants to support their work and have participated in President Clinton’s initiative on race to explore state and national pro-integration policies.
Murphy discussed how race evolved over time and became a centralized theme surrounding our laws and history in America.
“Africans shared a status of indentured servants with poor white servants during the early years of America,” Murphy said. “This was short lived; the planter class began to have challenges with white disgruntled laborers which resulted in a greater reliance on African laborers.”
These challenges, according to Murphy, laid the foundation for justifying free labor through the new ideology of white supremacy.
“The planter class realized that in order to maintain their system of free labor that they thought they needed, they would have to divide and conquer,” Murphy said.
“They enlisted European Americans as supporters of making Africans lifetime inherited slaves. This is when the new identity of white was formed and was applied to both the worker and ruling class.”
Murphy also discussed the role of laws in enforcing this new ideology and maintaining this new system that was starting to be created.
“Any amount of African heritage classified people as ‘black,’” Murphy said. “Slave codes were created to identify enslaved people as property and not people. Laws around chattel slavery were the foundation of the social construction of race and white supremacy.”
Murphy identified laws that perpetuated the idea of whiteness, as well as the mindset of harming and abusing non-white people without consequence.
“White skin laws gave every white man a pride of race and an authority to enact violence against black and indigenous people without fear of reprisal,” he said.
Even after slavery ended and the civil rights movement began, white supremacy and racism did not end, according to Murphy. It simply became more covert and pervasive throughout America.
“White supremacy did not end with the civil rights act or the voting rights act,” Murphy said. “It continues to determine life experiences and outcomes; it is a systemic reality.”
Race in politics is more covert today than at other points in American history, according to Murphy.
“White supremacy is ubiquitous,” Murphy said. “Even if there were no people with racist beliefs in their heart, it still exists in the systems around us and makes our society unhealthy. We cannot fix it without acknowledging it.”
The next workshop date is March 12. To register, go to: