TheGrio Daily

The Whitest Laws in American History

Episode 27

“Headrights sparked the slavery boom in America not because of agriculture or commerce but because white people wanted more wealth.” August is still not over, so we continue to celebrate White History Month. Today, Michael Harriot lists the ten most explicitly racist laws in American history.

You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] It’s Wypipo Wednesday on theGrio Daily. And, you know, here it’s White History Month. And in the rest of the world is the 337th consecutive day of white history. So unlike those racists who insist on brainwashing our children with the leftist 1619 project. TheGrio, we believe in honoring both sides of history. You know, the factual part as well as the part is kind of based on a true story. We would never cast a man like Abraham Lincoln as a white supremacist, even though, you know, he said there’s a physical difference between the white and the Black races, which literally fits the definition of white supremacy. We even get a whole podcast about that, so you don’t get to talk about it here. But we don’t think it’s necessary to tell our kids that he was in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race just because, you know, it’s 100% true. So to honor the legacy of the men who gave us race-based slavery, Jim Crow, separate but equal, and all those other things, we present the greatest accomplishment in the fields of systemic racism. Welcome to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that will tell you about the ten most racist laws of all time. I’m Michael Harriot world famous wypipologist and this is theGrio Daily. So there’s been racist laws since the beginning of time, right? Like it’s literally in the Constitution. But today we’re going to talk about, you know, some of the most explicitly racist laws that targeted Black people or nonwhite people throughout history. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:55] At number ten is Sundown States. Like I know y’all had a sundown towns, right? But in America, they are actually states that were like sundown towns. And if you don’t know what a sun downtown is, it’s one of those towns where Black people couldn’t be after dark. But there are a few states that try to ban people who use seasoning from going inside the borders. Right. So like in Iowa’s first legislative act as a state. Right. They passed an act to regulate Blacks and mulattos and that barred Black people from going inside our unless, quote, “he or she shall produce a fair certificate from some court within the United States of his or her actual freedom.” So you had to have your freedom papers to actually enter the state of Iowa if you are Black. But, you know, I don’t even think that most DMVs have judges that issue freedom or free Negro licenses. The law effectively abolished Blackness in the state and three years later, the state went full white and declared that no free negro or mulatto shall be permitted to settle in this state. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:13] They outlawed Black people and they weren’t the only one. Right? Oregon, their founding fathers saw Iowa’s law and they said, “Yo, hold my beer.” But they probably didn’t drink beer back then. What white people drink in the 1800s? Like ale. They didn’t drink Crown Royal, was Crown Royal invented then? I don’t know, you know what white people drink, you know, sugar free Kool-Aid. Anyway, in their state constitution, they said, quote, “No free Negro or mulatto not residing in the state at the time of the adoption of this constitution shall come, reside or be within this state or hold any real estate or make contracts or maintain any therein. And the Legislative Assembly shall provide by penal laws for the removal by public offices of all such Negroes.” So they basically just banned Black people from not just living, but conducting businesses. But here’s the crazy thing, right? They didn’t just say, like, if you Black, you going go to jail. They passed what they called a Lash Law that outlawed Black people. But if a white person ran across a Black person, the white person was allowed to dish out 39 lashes to any Black person they found in the state. That’s racist as hell. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:39] But not as racist as number nine, the White History Law. Ya’ll know what this is, like Florida, Alabama, Georgia. 34 states so far have moved to ensure that only white history is taught in public schools, which is why we dedicated August to White History Month. Right. Because, you know, how else are white people going to learn their history, if not for programs like this? We’re really doing a public service. Really, this is a public service announcement, if you think about it. Right. But that’s not the most racist law because, you know, white people have been embracing history since white people came here. Right. 

Michael Harriot [00:05:19] Number eight is Stop and Frisk. Right. Like America’s system of policing, we all know. We’ve actually done a podcast about this. We’ve done podcast about a lot of stuff. But we know that America’s system of policing is a direct descendant of slave patrols, and they’ve evolved over time. And New York is 43% white, but white people only made up 9% of the stop and frisk searches in New York City in 2019. And Black residents were 59% of the searches, even though they’re just 24% of the population. But one of my favorite states, the city of New York, stopped and frisked more Black men than there were Black men inside of the city of New York, which is crazy. Like, I don’t know where to find people from New York, from New Jersey, from Connecticut. I don’t know. Like maybe they were outsourcing the racism, which is a great deal. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:20] Number seven is White versus Clements, though. So I think we might have talked about this before. But in Georgia, right after the Civil War, the Georgia population elected 33 Black representatives to the state legislature, to the state Congress, into the state Senate. And white people went. HAM, right. They just flipped out, but they just went on a campaign of killing Black people, like killing all legislatures. But what the Georgia Supreme Court did, is they had a case where they decided that basically Black people didn’t have the right to hold office. What they said is that Black people don’t have a right to be in the legislature and consequently they don’t have the right, a legal right to hold and exercise the duties of the office which the people elected them to. And that’s one of the reasons that’s the main reason why Georgia is the only state to be kicked out of the union twice. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:28] And the sixth whitest law of all time is, Outlawing Learning. The Negro Act of 1740 outlawed reading or writing among enslaved Africans. And then after the 13th Amendment was passed, they just passed a law that says no person of color shall, quote, “pursue or practice the art, trade or business of an artisan mechanic or shopkeeper or any other trade, employment or business on his own account and for his own benefit.” So not only were Black people excluded from learning, they were excluded from doing any job that required learning. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:15] Number five is Gerrymandering. And we don’t talk about gerrymandering a lot as a form of voter suppression, but it is right. And it’s an anti-democratic, open secret used in every election to silence the voices of millions of people in every state and in every national election. There’s this guy, right? His name is James Hoffler. I think that’s how you pronounce it. But maybe, you know, I just say it like that because that fella is a hoe. But anyway, he’s called the godfather of gerrymandering. He basically showed the Republican Party how to exclude Black people from voting districts and heard them into one district to reduce their voting power. And so that’s why gerrymandering maps create a disproportionately white electorate. When it comes to laws. He pioneered using race to do this. 

Michael Harriot [00:09:16] But number four, Everything in Louisiana. 80% of the people who are still in prison because of non-unanimous jury verdicts are Black. And you got think about this, right? In Louisiana you can’t vote, which still exists, which still is the worst state for voter suppression. Then Black people can’t really serve on juries. And the state also has its own electoral college that tilts the voting power towards its white majority. So in Louisiana, not only do you have to win your congressional district, but you also have to get the majority of votes from the rest of the state. Right. So they divided the state into these lasting gerrymandered districts to improve the white chances of being elected to statewide office. That’s why Louisiana, all our laws are basically racist. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:20] But number three is Felony Disenfranchisement. Right. So we know that in a lot of states, mostly where there are a lot of Black people, felons are excluded from voting. So if you just, you know, gerrymandered the districts and you create racist laws that target Black people and then you police them in a racist way, then you can take away Black people’s voting power by enacting felony disenfranchisement. And the crazy thing about this is, like most white people don’t even like felony disenfranchisement. Time and time again, polls show that white people don’t support this. As a matter of fact, in Florida, right. A couple of years ago voted to change the state constitution and eliminate felony disenfranchisement. But then the politicians of Florida looked at what the people said and be like, “Fuck that democracy shit.” When it went to the state Supreme Court, a Trump appointee said. Yeah. I mean, it seems seems good to me. So felony disenfranchisement is just a way to increase white voting power. 

Michael Harriot [00:11:33] Number two, Redlining. Maybe there’s no government policy that has affected the economic well-being of this country more than the policy of redlining. Here’s how it worked. Right. Back during the New Deal, the Home Owners Loan Corporation, which was a corporation that was government owned, created by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, color coded properties to guarantee bank loans. And on these color coded maps, what they said was basically any place Black people lived was too big of a risk for the government to back a loan. Now it seems like Black people can’t own homes, they got to work harder. But that’s not the only thing that redlining does. See, redlining affects how people paid school taxes because if 60% of local school taxes come from property taxes and Black people’s property is by definition worth less than Black schools, majority Black schools are underfunded. 

Michael Harriot [00:12:44] And I know you think that number one is going to be about slavery, but nah, it’s not about slavery. Kind of see, the number one most racist law that was ever created was Headrights. So. In the beginning of America, white people really didn’t know how to build stuff or how to do stuff or how to grow stuff. So the Virginia Company of London created a rule that says, Hey, if you bring people over here to help us build stuff and grow stuff, you just work. We’ll give you 50 free acres of land. And then in 1638, this dude named George Menefee figured out, hey, you know what? Instead of bringing white people over here and making them work for seven years to pay us back, we can just bring Black people over here and never set them free. And that’s when the headrights boom started. After that, millions of Black people came here to the United States because having slaves made you richer, right? Not just because they were doing your work, but because you brought them here. You got free land, which gave you more power, which gave you generational wealth that could never be taken away unless someone in your family decided to sell that land. Headrights sparked the slavery boom in America. Not just because of agriculture. Not just because of commerce. But because white people wanted more wealth. And it’s got to be the whitest law of all time. 

Michael Harriot [00:14:42] Now that you’ve heard those ten whitest laws, remember to download theGrio app. Remember to tell a friend. And remember, we’re here every other day to give you a dose of what’s going on in your village. And as always, we’re going to leave you with a famous Black saying, “Ain’t nothing whiter than a white man who wants your land.” Thank you for checking out theGrio Daily. We’ll see you on the next episode. Peace. Thank you for listening to theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio dot com. 

[00:15:33] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Maiysha Kai [00:15:39] Hey guys, it’s Maiysha Kai, lifestyle editor here at theGrio and your handy dandy Grammy nominated goddess next door, as I like to be known. Just so you know, your girls, not just behind the scenes editing and writing. I’ve also got a new podcast coming up every Sunday called Writing Black. We are launching on August 14th and we really hope you will join us. This is all about Black wordsmiths. That’s what we do here. We are storytellers because that’s theGrio.