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by Ben & Jerry's and Vox Creative
Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America

Broken Bootstraps


“To pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps” was originally a metaphor for the impossible. It’s now one of the most American of American idioms — encapsulating a belief that one’s fortunes and failures hinge on individual responsibility alone. It simultaneously obscures the systemic economic theft of Black people and other people of color in the US by state and commercial interests, as well as the systemic economic enrichment of white populations by those same forces. In this episode, Carvell Wallace and Jeffery Robinson explore how Black wealth has been routinely destroyed, using the example of a 1919 massacre in Elaine, Arkansas, where Black sharecroppers organizing for better financial conditions were killed by a white mob. We’ll also hear from law professor and scholar of banking history Dr. Mehrsa Baradaran on how discriminatory housing policies, unequal access to credit, and predatory banking continue to hinder attempts at wealth-building, even among the Black middle class.  

Additional information and resources related to this episode are available on our show page.


Episode 4

Season 1

by Ben & Jerry's and Vox Creative