Thursday, December 20, 2007

Erasing race

Where racism is concerned, our attention has the disturbing tendency of being confined to transgressions against "our own." Many black bloggers took Andrew Young to the woodshed over recent comments about Barack Obama, but how many mentioned Young's insensitive description of Obama's Indonesian stepfather as "a Chinese?" Where do white feminists stand on mainstream hip hop's denigration of black women? How vocal were Latino activists during Nappyheadedhogate? While black folks lament the poverty and despair in the urban ghetto, do they care about the poverty and despair on the reservation? How much compassion do American-born people of color have for the men and women in underdeveloped countries, who manufacture our clothes and trinkets for a pittance? Post 9/11, when irrational voices slandered American Arabs and Muslims, did Asian Americans speak out against bigotry? Or are we all largely silent when the prejudice and profiling doesn't concern us?
 
Maybe the problem is race.
 
If you have never visited the blog, Mixed Race America, you should. Jennifer offers some truly insightful commentary. Two of her recent posts,  Getting Rid of Race and Living the Anti-Race Praxis, intrigued me. Getting Rid of Race discusses a book by Paul Gilroy with a unique premise:
 
It's not race that causes racism--it's race that is a byproduct, an after-effect, of racism. We (especially Americans) are immersed, obsessed, disgusted by, proud of, distraught over race because we are living with the legacy of racism--because racism, the colonial, imperial, institutional forms of racism have undergirded the systems of power and philosophy that comprise our lives.

Because of racism, we cling to the social construct of race. We revel in and lift up the idiosyncrasies of our tribe. We develop an "us" to protect against "them." We are not so much against racism as we are against racism directed toward "our kind."
 
And it makes me giddy to think what we could do if we could shift the conversation from race to racism--or more specifically, if we could start to recognize the ways in which an anti-racist paradigm and philosophy would really benefit us ALL because we are ALL impacted/invested in a racist ideology that has constrained us into believing in race--into believing that we need to chop people up into categories and to hang values and judgments on people based on race.
 
Perhaps the most effective way to gain justice for all is to focus on racism wherever it exists, not race. Mixed Race America suggests the need for coalitions of black and white, gay and straight, middle class and working class, all working together to defeat the "isms" that plague our society.
 
Visit Mixed Race America and read Jennifer's post in its entirety. What do you think?
 
 
 

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