Ed Simon: “The Jacobean playwright Thomas Middleton invented the concept of ‘white people’ on 29 October 1613, the date that his play The Triumphs of Truth was first performed. The phrase was first uttered by the character of an African king who looks out upon an English audience and declares: ‘I see amazement set upon the faces/Of these white people, wond’rings and strange gazes.’ As far as we are able to tell, Middleton’s play is the earliest printed example of a European author referring to fellow Europeans as ‘white people’.”

Toni Morrison: “The cultural mechanics of becoming American are clearly understood. A citizen of Italy or Russia immigrates to the United States. She keeps much or some of the language and customs of her home country. But if she wishes to be American—to be known as such and to actually belong—she must become a thing unimaginable in her home country: she must become white.”

Deji Bryce Olutokun: “In 2016, an old scam began circulating on Facebook about a man who needed to collect money to rescue his cousin, a Nigerian astronaut, from space. One Dr. Bakare Tunde explained that he needed to raise $3 million to save the astronaut from a secret Soviet-era space station where he was trapped. The email seemed preposterous—the astronaut would have been stuck on the space station for some 25 years—but the subject of the scam wasn’t entirely far fetched. Nigeria does operate a space program that is managed by the National Space Research and Development Agency, which the scammer accurately described. And in 2016 Nigeria announced it really would be sending a manned mission to the moon.”


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