When trying to explain or to understand U.S. “race” relations, most Americans seem to focus on slavery: ordinary Americans, politicians, even many professional historians focus on slavery. And yet slavery fails as an explanatory paradigm. Slavery was ubiquitous but only the United States has a color line with all its implications. The people who forged African-American ethnicity were not slaves. U.S. racialism is dichotomous today, but it was not dichotomous where slavery was common. Slavery is irrelevant; racialism itself is the explanatory paradigm.