Racial Capitalism

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-06-30 23:18Z by Steven

Racial Capitalism

Harvard Law Review
Volume 126, Number 8 (June 2013)
pages 2151-2226

Nancy Leong, Associate Professor
University of Denver, Sturm College of Law

Racial capitalism—the process of deriving social and economic value from racial identity—is a longstanding, common, and deeply problematic practice. This Article is the first to identify racial capitalism as a systemic phenomenon and to undertake a close examination of its causes and consequences.

The Article focuses on instances of racial capitalism in which white individuals and predominantly white institutions use non-white people to acquire social and economic value. Our affirmative action doctrine provides much of the impetus for this form of racial capitalism. That doctrine has fueled an intense legal and social preoccupation with the notion of diversity, which encourages white individuals and predominantly white institutions to engage in racial capitalism by using non-white people to acquire social and economic value. An examination of these consequences is particularly timely given the Supreme Court’s recent grant of certiorari in Fisher v. University of Texas.

Racial capitalism has serious negative consequences both for individuals and for society as a whole. The process of racial capitalism requires commodification of racial identity, which degrades that identity by reducing it to another thing to be bought and sold. Commodification also fosters racial resentment by causing non-white people to feel used or exploited by white people. And the superficial value assigned to non-whiteness within a system of racial capitalism displaces measures that would lead to meaningful social reform.

In an ideal society, commodification of racial identity would not occur. Given the imperfections of our current society, however, the Article instead proposes a pragmatic approach of reactive commodification. Under this approach, we would discourage commodification of race. But if commodification did occur, we would identify it as commodification, call attention to its harms, and ensure that non-white individuals received compensation for the value derived from their racial identity. This approach would ultimately allow progress toward a society in which we successfully recognize and respect racial identity without engaging in racial capitalism.


  • I. Valuing Race
    • A. Whiteness as Property
    • B. Diversity as Revaluation
    • C. The Worth of Non-Whiteness
  • II. A Theory of Racial Capital
    • A. Race as Marxian Capital
    • B. Race as Social Capital
    • C. Racial Capital
  • III. Critiquing Racial Capitalism
    • A. Commodification
    • B. Individual Harms
      • 1. Fractured Identity
      • 2. Performance Demands
      • 3. Economic Disadvantage
    • C. Social Harms
      • 1. Impoverished Discourse
      • 2. Racial Resentment
      • 3. Displaced Reform
  • IV. A Way Forward

…This Article is the first to identify racial capitalism as a systemic phenomenon and the first to describe the way that non-whiteness, in particular, is capitalized. Of course, assigning value to race is nothing new for America. Whiteness has been a source of value throughout our history, conferring power and privilege on the possessor. Courts have recognized the value of whiteness—for example, they have held that calling a white person “black” constitutes defamation and therefore qualifies for legal redress. Litigants have also acknowledged the value of whiteness—for example, in Plessy v. Ferguson, Homer Plessy referred to his racial identity as the “most valuable sort of property.” And scholars have examined the value of whiteness—for example, Cheryl Harris’ acclaimed work Whiteness as Property posits that whiteness is a kind of “status property” that can be both analogized to conventional forms of property and literally converted to those forms…

Read the entire article here.

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A Nation of Mutts

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-06-30 22:57Z by Steven

A Nation of Mutts

The New York Times

David Brooks

Over the past few decades, American society has been transformed in a fit of absence of mind. First, we’ve gone from a low immigrant nation to a high immigrant nation. If you grew up between 1950 and 1985, you grew up at a time when only about 5 percent or 6 percent of American residents were foreign born. Today, roughly 13 percent of American residents are foreign born, and we’re possibly heading to 15 percent.

Moreover, up until now, America was primarily an outpost of European civilization. Between 1830 and 1880, 80 percent of the immigrants came from Northern and Western Europe. Over the following decades, the bulk came from Southern and Central Europe. In 1960, 75 percent of the foreign-born population came from Europe, with European ideas and European heritage.

Soon, we will no longer be an outpost of Europe, but a nation of mutts, a nation with hundreds of fluid ethnicities from around the world, intermarrying and intermingling. Americans of European descent are already a minority among 5-year-olds. European-Americans will be a minority over all in 30 years at the latest, and probably sooner…

…Soon there will be no dominant block, just complex networks of fluid streams — Vietnamese, Bengalis, Kazakhs. It’s a bit like the end of the cold war when bipolar thinking had to give way to a radically multipolar mind-set.

Because high immigration is taking place at a time of unprecedentedly low ethnic hostility, we’re seeing high rates of intermarriage. This creates large numbers of hybrid individuals, biracial or triracial people with names like Enrique Cohen-Chan. These people transcend existing categories and soften the social boundaries between groups.

This won’t lead to a bland mélange America but probably a move to ethnic re-orthodoxy. As Alvaro Vargas Llosa points out in his book, “Global Crossings,” the typical pattern is that the more third-generation people assimilate, the more they also value their ethnic roots. We could soon see people with completely unaccented English joining Chinese-American Federations and Honduran-American Support Networks…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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‘One Drop of Love’ (Theatre Review)

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-29 19:31Z by Steven

‘One Drop of Love’ (Theatre Review)

The Chic of Domesticity: A Woman-to-Women Conversation on All Facets of Life – Fashion – Politics – Religion – Style – Travel

Jennifer Vaughn-Estrada

Plans free for tomorrow evening? I recommend catching the final performance of One Drop of Love: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father’s Racial Approval at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Race is an uncomfortable, and often confusing, subject for us “mixies,” and Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, co-founder of the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival, addresses it head on in this one-woman play about identities, stereotypes, and family frustrations…

Read the entire review here.

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Obama hails Mandela ‘inspiration’ in South Africa visit

Posted in Africa, Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, South Africa on 2013-06-29 19:11Z by Steven

Obama hails Mandela ‘inspiration’ in South Africa visit

BBC News

US President Barack Obama has praised Nelson Mandela as “an inspiration to the world” while visiting South Africa.

The US leader, who was speaking in Pretoria after talks with President Jacob Zuma, does not intend to visit the 94-year-old, who has been critically ill for nearly a week.

But he met the Mandela family in private and spoke by telephone to his wife, Graça Machel.

Riot police clashed with anti-Obama protesters in Soweto.

The American leader was in Soweto to deliver a speech to young African leaders at the University of Johannesburg.

According to Mr Zuma, Mr Mandela remains “stable but critical”, and he added that he had “every hope that he will be out of hospital soon”.

However, South Africa’s last apartheid president and the man jointly awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Mr Mandela, FW de Klerk, is to cut short a visit to Europe due to Mr Mandela’s poor health, his foundation said in a statement…

…Mrs Machel, who remains by Mr Mandela’s side in the hospital in Pretoria, said after their phone call that she had conveyed their “messages of strength and inspiration” to her husband.

Mr Zuma said that as the first black leaders of their respective countries, Mr Obama and Mr Mandela were “bound by history” and so “carry the dreams of millions of people in Africa and in the diaspora who were previously oppressed”…

Read the entire article here.

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Miracle Fruit

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Poetry on 2013-06-29 19:01Z by Steven

Miracle Fruit

Tupelo Press
86 pages
9.1 x 6 x 0.3 inches
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9710310-8-1

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

As three worlds collide, a mother’s Philippines, a father’s India, and the poet’s contemporary America, the resulting impressions are chronicled in this collection of incisive and penetrating verse. The writer weaves her words carefully into a wise and affecting embroidery that celebrates the senses while remaining down-to-earth and genuine.

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‘Soy Yo!’: Play explores being multi-racial in a world where race matters

Posted in Articles, Arts, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-29 18:55Z by Steven

‘Soy Yo!’: Play explores being multi-racial in a world where race matters

St. Louis Beacon

Nancy Fowler

Parents, can you even imagine being accused of kidnapping your own children? It happened to Shari LeKane-Yentumi of University City.

The reason was race. She’s white, her husband’s black. Their three children are both; and in our society, “both” often reads: black.

It was the mid-1990s. LeKane-Yentumi opened her door to the accusing faces of state officials. Someone had seen a white woman shepherding a black toddler and baby across a grocery-store parking lot on Lindell in St. Louis City, and called the authorities.

“It was reported that I had children who were not mine,” LeKane-Yentumi said. “And I was investigated.”

A review of birth certificates and other documentation settled that situation. But the demoralizing incident put LeKane-Yentumi on alert whenever she left the inclusiveness of her own community.

Being multi-racial—with African, Caribbean, European and Native American heritage—also forces the Yentumi children, now young adults, to deny much of their identity when they have to check a single box.

LIke the loose translation of “Soy Yo!,” an upcoming local play about being multi-racial, the Yentumi children believe, “I Am Me.” They and their friends, who are mostly multi-racial, reject narrow definitions of “black,” “white” and other such categories.

“They aren’t as strict about how they want to define race,” LeKane-Yentumi said. “And they don’t want to be defined by it.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Solo Show at 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival Examines Notions of Racial Identity

Posted in Articles, Arts, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-29 18:45Z by Steven

Solo Show at 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival Examines Notions of Racial Identity

Contact: Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni
Email: onedropoflove@gmail.com
Website: http://www.onedropoflove.com/
May 2013

(Los Angeles, Calif.) — When actress and playwright Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni married the love of her life in 2006, her father did not walk her down the aisle. In fact, he declined to attend the wedding altogether.

Seeking to understand why he chose not to participate, DiGiovanni began a trek through family history — and time and space — that ultimately led to her M.F.A. thesis project: the multimedia one-woman play, “One Drop of Love: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father’s Racial Approval.”

DiGiovanni will perform the hour-long show on Friday, June 21st at 2:30 p.m., Friday, June 28th at 4:15 p.m. and Sunday, June 30th at 6:00 p.m. at the Lounge Theatres (www.hollywoodfringe.org/venues/11). The cost of the two Friday perrformances is $12 per ticket. The Sunday show is a fundraiser for MASC – Multiracial Americans of Southern California (www.mascsite.org) – all proceeds ($15 per ticket) will go to MASC. This show is also a Los Angeles celebration of Loving Day (www.lovingday.org).

Incorporating filmed images, photographs, and animation DiGiovanni tells the story of how the notion of race came into existence in the United States, and its effects on her relationship with her father. To tell her story, DiGiovanni travels back in time to the first US census in 1790, to cities across the United States, and to West and East Africa, where both father and daughter spent time in search of their racial roots. A leading activist on issues related to mixed cultures and ethnicities, DiGiovanni is an actor, comedian, producer, and educator. She developed “One Drop of Love” as the thesis project for her Master of Fine Arts degree in film, television, and theater from California State University Los Angeles. She will use footage from her performances—the most recent was at the University of California, Santa Barbara—to produce a documentary film. DiGiovanni, who appeared in the Academy Award-winning film “Argo,” is also the co-creator, co-producer, and co-host of the award-winning weekly podcast Mixed Chicks Chat, and co-founder and co-producer of the Mixed Roots Fm & Literary Festival®.

Read the entire press release here.

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Rare Visit Underscores Tangles in Obama’s Ties to Africa

Posted in Africa, Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive on 2013-06-27 16:58Z by Steven

Rare Visit Underscores Tangles in Obama’s Ties to Africa

The New York Times

Michael D. Shear, Nicholas Kulish and Lydia Polgreen

DAKAR, Senegal — As a freshman senator from Illinois, Barack Obama told a packed auditorium in Kenya’s capital, “I want you all to know that as your ally, your friend and your brother, I will be there in every way I can.”

But he will not be there. President Obama, who Wednesday began his second trip to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office, will skip his father’s homeland once again, a reflection of the many challenges that his administration has faced in trying to make a lasting imprint across the continent.

Despite decades of American investment to promote stability in the volatile region of East Africa, Kenya just elected a president indicted by the International Criminal Court, accused of bankrolling death squads driven by ethnic rivalry. It was the outcome that Washington had desperately tried to avoid, and Mr. Obama’s advisers determined that a photo op of the American president shaking hands with a man awaiting trial was not one they needed.

“It just wasn’t the best time for the president to travel to Kenya at this point,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

For Africans across the continent, the election of an African-American president signaled a transformative moment in their relationship with the United States, one that would usher in a special understanding of their hopes and needs…

Read the entire article here.

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Gilberto Freyre: The Reassessment Continues

Posted in Articles, Biography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science on 2013-06-26 20:56Z by Steven

Gilberto Freyre: The Reassessment Continues

Latin American Research Review
Volume 43, Number 1, 2008
pages 208-218
DOI: 10.1353/lar.2008.0002

David Lehmann, Reader in Social Science
University of Cambridge

Gilberto Freyre e os estudos latino-americanos. Edited by Joshua Lund and Malcolm McNee. Pittsburgh: Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana, Universidad de Pittsburgh, 2006. Pp. 399.

Casa-grande e senzala. By Gilberto Freyre. Critical edition by Guillermo Giucci, Enrique Rodríguez Larreta, and Edson Nery da Fonseca. Madrid: Acordo Archivos ALLCA XX, 2002. Pp. 1297.

Gilberto Freyre: um vitoriano dos tropicos. By Maria Lúcia Garcia Pallares-Burke. São Paulo: Editora UNESP, 2005. Pp. 484.

Casa-grande e senzala was published when Freyre, born in 1900, was only thirty-three years old. This precocious book dealt with a vast range of themes and a variety of sources, and its largely non-Brazilian intellectual precursors were beyond the physical and even intellectual range of Freyre’s contemporaries, few of whom had traveled to the United States or even to Europe, as Freyre had done in the early and late 1920s. The mere length of the book, as Thomas Skidmore has noted, put off established publishers. Casa-grande probably drew on all the then-published historical writing on Brazil in Portuguese, English, and French, as well as on comparative medical and anatomical studies, travel literature, ethnographies of different parts of Africa, and published colonial reports, plus a sprinkling of quasi-ethnographic personal reminiscence. Already at that age, Freyre, though himself from an urban professional, rather than landholding, family, deployed his trademark patrician assuredness. He invented his own genre—a propensity for ex cathedra pronouncements and self-glorification, combined with an intellectual curiosity at once undisciplined and creative.

At first, as the essays in the volume edited by Lund and McNee often remind us, Freyre’s book had the effect of an earthquake, though admittedly in a very small intellectual elite. In 2001, Antonio Candido recalled a friend from the left-wing branch of a prominent political family going to the mirror on reading it and musing, “Acho que sou mulato!” (Lund and McNee, 10). Lilia Schwarz elaborates by reminding us in the same collection that the Estado Novo itself fell under the influence of Freyre, implementing official projects in which mestiçagem (racial mixture) was recognized as “a verdadeira nacionalidade,” Brazil’s true nationality (314), although on this one might also find contrary evidence, notably the notorious case of the sculpture “O homem brasileiro,” by Celso Antonio.

Whatever individuals’ disposition toward the black population and the poor, the climate of public debate in Brazil at the time started from the assumption that the black skin and African descent of a large portion of the population was in some sense a problem; Freyre on the contrary told them it was a solution. Freyre had little knowledge of or interest in the recent European immigrants who were fl ooding into the South; for him the Portuguese were not white at all, their mestiço heritage shaped by centuries of Arab presence among them. Clearly Casa-grande is written by a confident member of the Northeastern elite, but is it written by a “white man”? In a telling passage quoted by Neil Larsen (Lund and McNee, 382), Freyre evokes almost voluptuously the black influence in “everything that is a sincere expression of life . . . the tenderness, the exaggerated mimicry, the Catholicism that indulges our senses, music, language, gait and the lullabies . . . the escrava who nursed us and fed us and told us our first children’s horror stories, the mulata who so deliciously extracted the first splinter from our feet and, finally and inevitably, the woman who initiated us into the delights of physical love and gave us our first sense of male completeness, to the creaking sounds of the chaise lounge” (Freyre, 301, my translation). Who is—or are—this “us”? The writer is reflected impersonally in the text like the artist in Velázquez’s Las Meninas.

Freyre is often credited—or blamed—for coining and spreading the myth of “racial democracy.” It is repeated with particular insistence, near unanimity, and no small dose of righteous indignation among those whom Brazilian writers describe as Brazilianists—not, note, Brazilianistas—as well as by several Brazilian authorities. In a 1996 article, George Reid Andrews (the quality of whose work on race in Brazil is otherwise not in doubt) seems to refer the reader to the 1946 English translation of Casa-grande in support of the claim that Freyre coined the term, but I could find no such thing on the page quoted! More recently, to take but one of innumerable examples, Robin Sheriff states that Casa-grande “reconstituted the country as a democracia racial.”  Thankfully, in a 2002 paper published on the Internet, Levy Cruz provides the results of what must be the most exhaustive effort so far to uncover whether and when Freyre used the expression. The results are a testimony to Cruz’s archaeological talents on the one hand, and unfortunately, on the other, to the capacity of academics sometimes to believe and propagate a malign fiction, like a slow-motion lynch mob. Cruz first reminds us not only that the belief has been attributed to Freyre that Brazil is a racial democracy, but also that he has been blamed for perpetuating racial discrimination in Brazil on account of the false consciousness engendered by the myth! But then he goes on to show decisively that there is not a single instance where Freyre stated that Brazil is a racial democracy. He did state several times, though mostly in lectures and statements for English-speaking audiences, that Brazil might be on a path toward an “ethnic or racial democracy,” and in the English translation of Sobrados e mucambos, he inserted in an additional final sentence the statement that “Brazil is becoming more and more a racial democracy, characterized by an almost unique combination of diversity and unity.”  The nearest he gets in Portuguese is in an interview from 1980 published very obscurely in Recife, when he says that Brazil is far from a pure democracy in any sense (“racial, social or political”) but “is the nearest thing in the world to a racial democracy.” It is worth noting that here he uses the expression democracia relativa, which had figured in the vocabulary of the military government during its prolonged and tortuous “decompression” of the mid- to late 1970s. Freyre might have helped his own reputation on the left—if that had mattered to him—and among social scientists generally had he taken more care with his use of terms; but let us not forget how much he became a political animal, more concerned to navigate different currents of opinion than to achieve analytical coherence. Indeed, one source of the “racial democracy” imbroglio is his practice of projecting different personae at home and abroad: a study of Freyre’s management of his translations and of his persona outside Brazil (para inglês ver . . .) would be of great interest. Overall, however, one can well sympathize with Hermano Vianna’s outburst about “the myth of the myth of racial democracy” (quoted in Lund and McNee, 40)…

Read the entire article here.

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Podcast interview with Paisley Rekdal, poet and 2013 UNT Rilke Prize winner

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-26 20:21Z by Steven

Podcast interview with Paisley Rekdal, poet and 2013 UNT Rilke Prize winner

University of North Texas, Denton, Texas

Julie K. West, Publications Specialist
Office of Research and Economic Development

Poet Paisley Rekdal is the 2013 recipient of the University of North Texas Rilke Prize. The $10,000 award, named for the great German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, recognizes a book written by a mid-career poet and published in the preceding year that demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision. Paisley visited the UNT Department of English in April 2013 to accept the award for her prize-winning collection of poetry, “Animal Eye,” published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. She joins Julie West, publications specialist with the UNT Office of Research, in an audio podcast interview to discuss her poetry and the creative writing process.

…JW: But yet that does seem to be somewhat of a theme running not only through this work but you, yourself, as a Chinese-American with Norwegian ancestry … surely you are used to switching lens …

PR: doubled

JW: … and having that doubled perspective, and I’m just now thinking of that, even, as I hear you read this last poem.

PR: I think that’s very true. I think that’s a really good point. What’s funny though, is the doubled-ness of my vision is not cultural because I grew up in America. So, to a certain extent, the doubled-ness of my vision is something that’s been placed on me. The ways in which — depending on who’s looking at me — I’m either potentially Chinese, or White, or a mixture of both … when people are interested in my ancestry and they’ll ask me questions about that. For me I feel like there’s a real — even though any self contains multiplicities and complexities — I feel like there’s a real unity to my vision. But the experience of being biracial in America means that I do recognize how I can appear two ways and what I mean can mean multiple things. So the willingness and the interest in playing with multiple perspectives — moving in and out of different bodies — I think reflects that, for sure, what you’re just pointing out — that experience of being biracial. But it doesn’t actually reflect my own identity, if that makes any sense. How biracialism exists outside of me, even though I, myself, am biracial…

Listen to the podcast here. Read the transcript here.

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