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Modern Voices
Deborah Gray White on the relationship between white and black children
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Q: What does it mean to be growing up on a plantation and playing with people that you own -- and that one day you will regard as your own personal property?
Deborah Gray White

A: Quite frequently they would be playing with each other, particularly if you're in an isolated area and the white children had no other children to play with but the slave. But I think what happens at that particular point is the white child begins to understand not only what it means to be an owner, but what it means to be white. What it means to have privilege. And privilege becomes associated with whiteness. "I am white. Therefore, I learned how to read and write. I am white. Therefore I can no longer play with black children because it's not acceptable." And it's corrupting. It teaches them mastery -- and how to rule.
Deborah Gray White
Professor of History
Rutgers University

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