Race is a power relationship; racial categories are not about interesting cultural or physical differences, but about putting other people into groups in order to dominate, exploit and attack them.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-03-30 02:37Z by Steven

To really grasp race, we must accept a double paradox. The first one is a truism of antiracist educators: we can see race, but it’s not real. The second is stranger: race has real consequences, but we can’t see it with the naked eye. Race is a power relationship; racial categories are not about interesting cultural or physical differences, but about putting other people into groups in order to dominate, exploit and attack them. Fundamentally, race makes power visible by assigning it to physical bodies. The evidence of race right before our eyes is not a visual trace of a physical reality, but a by-product of social perceptions, in which we are trained to see certain features as salient or significant. Race does not exist as a matter of biological fact, but only as a consequence of a process of racialisation.

Gregory Smithsimon, “How to see race,” Aeon, March 26, 2018. https://aeon.co/essays/race-is-not-real-what-you-see-is-a-power-relationship-made-flesh.

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How to see race

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2018-03-30 02:30Z by Steven

How to see race

Aeon
2018-03-26

Gregory Smithsimon, Professor of Sociology
Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Edited by Sally Davies


Mulberry Street, Little Italy, New York, c1900. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Race is a shapeshifting adversary: what seems self-evident takes training to see, and twists under political pressure

We think we know what race is. When the United States Census Bureau says that the country will be majority non-white by 2044, that seems like a simple enough statement. But race has always been a weaselly thing.

Today my students, including Black and Latino students, regularly ask me why Asians (supposedly) ‘assimilate’ with whites more quickly than Blacks and Latinos. Strangely, in the 1920s, the US Supreme Court denied Asians citizenship on the basis that they could never assimilate; fast-forward to today, and Asian immigrants are held up as exemplars of assimilation. The fact that race is unyielding enough to shut out someone from the national community, yet malleable enough for my students to believe that it explains a group’s apparent assimilation, hints at what a shapeshifting adversary race is. Race is incredibly tenacious and unforgiving, a source of grave inequality and injustice. Yet over time, racial categories evolve and shift.

To really grasp race, we must accept a double paradox. The first one is a truism of antiracist educators: we can see race, but it’s not real. The second is stranger: race has real consequences, but we can’t see it with the naked eye. Race is a power relationship; racial categories are not about interesting cultural or physical differences, but about putting other people into groups in order to dominate, exploit and attack them. Fundamentally, race makes power visible by assigning it to physical bodies. The evidence of race right before our eyes is not a visual trace of a physical reality, but a by-product of social perceptions, in which we are trained to see certain features as salient or significant. Race does not exist as a matter of biological fact, but only as a consequence of a process of racialisation

Read the entire article here.

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They freed and recognised their mixed-race children, setting them up as plantation-owners in their own rights. A mixed-race property-owning class emerged, equal in rights and wealth to their white neighbours and relatives.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-03-06 04:29Z by Steven

Developing a genealogy of racial prejudice in Saint-Domingue, [Julien] Raimond began with a study of the colony’s history. He noted that, in the early 18th century, during the first generations of the colony’s existence, almost all the white settlers who travelled to the colony had been men. They had married African women. They – and the French state – acknowledged these relationships. They freed and recognised their mixed-race children, setting them up as plantation-owners in their own rights. A mixed-race property-owning class emerged, equal in rights and wealth to their white neighbours and relatives. By the 1760s, however, white colonists increasingly saw free people of colour as a threat to access to land and capital in a colony that was increasingly crowded, filled with recent immigrants from France seeking to become rich. Using racial difference as a weapon in their economic struggle, white colonists began to impose discriminatory legislation against mixed-race people.

Blake Smith, “On prejudice,” Aeon, March 5, 2018. https://aeon.co/essays/what-if-prejudice-isnt-what-causes-racism.

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On prejudice

Posted in Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Philosophy, Slavery on 2018-03-06 01:27Z by Steven

On prejudice

Aeon
2018-03-05

Blake Smith, Postdoctoral Fellow
European University Institute, Florence, Italy


Famille Métisse (1775) by Marius-Pierre le Masurier. Photo courtesy Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac/RMN

An 18th-century creole slaveholder invented the idea of ‘racial prejudice’ to defend diversity among a slave-owning elite

n 1791, Julien Raimond published one of the first critiques of racial prejudice. Raimond was a free man of racially mixed ancestry from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (today the country of Haiti), and his essay ‘Observations on the Origin and Progress of White People’s Prejudice against People of Colour’ argued that legal discrimination against people of African origin resulted from psychological biases. Raimond’s work was the first sustained account of how racial prejudice operates – and how it might be eliminated. Today, the idea that unconscious biases permeate individual psychology, prompting discriminatory behaviours and perpetuating social inequality, is central to discussions of race in politics, academia and everyday life. But this idea was the product of a specific 18th-century moment, with surprising and troubling motivations behind it.

Raimond was an activist for the rights of people of colour. In 1789, he left his home in Saint-Domingue just before the outbreak of the French Revolution. He went to Paris to lobby the government to grant equal status to free people of African origin. In Paris, Raimond joined a circle of radical thinkers and politicians who believed that racial equality had to be part of the emerging Revolution. But Raimond was no opponent of slavery. On the contrary, while his allies argued for its abolition, Raimond insisted that racial equality and abolition of slavery had nothing to do with each other. The first page of his treatise claimed that a cabal of ‘white plantation-owners … have cleverly conflated the cause of people of colour with that of slaves’. Raimond, in fact, wanted to preserve slavery. He believed that eliminating racial prejudice would bring white and non-white slave-owners together in a united front against enslaved Africans. He drew on the pro-slavery arguments of white plantation-owners. Raimond’s idea that there is such a thing as ‘racial prejudice’ and that discrimination is rooted in this psychological phenomenon originated in these plantation-owners’ defences of slavery.

Raimond’s ideas strike many present-day readers as bizarre and hypocritical. After all, he pioneered modern critiques of racial prejudice while also defending slavery. Most people today presume that racism led to slavery, and that slavery and racism were practically synonymous. But in the 18th century, this was not so clearly the case. From Raimond’s perspective, as an 18th-century creole slave-owner, slavery and racism were distinct, and it seemed urgent to disentangle them. Slavery, after all, had existed for thousands of years, while modern racial discrimination, Raimond held, was something recent, contingent and reformable. Like many thinkers of his era (including many of the United States’ Founding Fathers), Raimond saw the world divided between an elite of propertied men and a servile mass of labourers. He saw that the power of a tiny elite would be more resilient if the privileged included people of different colours…

Read the entire article here.

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The future is mixed-race

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2017-02-03 01:26Z by Steven

The future is mixed-race

Aeon
2017-02-02

Scott Solomon, Professor in the Practice
Department of BioSciences
Rice University, Houston, Texas

Edited by Sam Dresser


A grandmother and granddaughter from Cape Verde. Photo by O. Louis Mazzatenta/National Geographic

And so is the past. Migration and mingling are essential to human success in the past, the present and into the future

In the future, a lot of people might look like Danielle Shewmake, a 21-year-old college student from Fort Worth, Texas. Shewmake has dark, curly hair, brown eyes, and an olive skin tone that causes many to mistake her heritage as Mediterranean. Her actual pedigree is more complex. Her father is half-Cherokee and half-Caucasian, and her mother, who was born in Jamaica, is the child of an Indian mother and an African and Scottish father.

‘My sister and I are just a combination of all that,’ she says, adding that she dislikes having to pick a particular racial identity. She prefers the term ‘mixed’.

Differences in physical traits between human populations accumulated slowly over tens of thousands of years. As people spread across the globe and adapted to local conditions, a combination of natural selection and cultural innovation led to physical distinctions. But these groups did not remain apart. Contact between groups, whether through trade or conflict, led to the exchange of both genes and ideas. Recent insights from the sequencing of hundreds of thousands of human genomes in the past decade have revealed that our species’ history has been punctuated by many episodes of migration and genetic exchange. The mixing of human groups is nothing new.

What is new is the rate of mixing currently underway. Globalisation means that our species is more mobile than ever before. International migration has reached record highs, as has the number of interracial marriages, leading to a surge of multiracial people such as Shewmake. While genetic differences between human populations do not fall neatly along racial lines, race nevertheless provides insight into the extent of population hybridisation currently underway. This reshuffling of human populations is affecting the very structure of the human gene pool…

Read the entire article here.

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Why the Nazis studied American race laws for inspiration

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2016-12-14 21:38Z by Steven

Why the Nazis studied American race laws for inspiration

Aeon
2016-12-13

James Q. Whitman, Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law
Yale Law School

Edited by Marina Benjamin


‘At the bus station in Durham, North Carolina.’ May 1940. Photo by Jack Delano/FSA/Library of Congress.

James Q Whitman is the Ford Foundation professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale Law School. His subjects are comparative law, criminal law, and legal history. His latest book is Hitler’s American Model (2017).

On 5 June 1934, about a year and half after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich, the leading lawyers of Nazi Germany gathered at a meeting to plan what would become the Nuremberg Laws, the centrepiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi race regime. The meeting was an important one, and a stenographer was present to take down a verbatim transcript, to be preserved by the ever-diligent Nazi bureaucracy as a record of a crucial moment in the creation of the new race regime.

That transcript reveals a startling fact: the meeting involved lengthy discussions of the law of the United States of America. At its very opening, the Minister of Justice presented a memorandum on US race law and, as the meeting progressed, the participants turned to the US example repeatedly. They debated whether they should bring Jim Crow segregation to the Third Reich. They engaged in detailed discussion of the statutes from the 30 US states that criminalised racially mixed marriages. They reviewed how the various US states determined who counted as a ‘Negro’ or a ‘Mongol’, and weighed whether they should adopt US techniques in their own approach to determining who counted as a Jew. Throughout the meeting the most ardent supporters of the US model were the most radical Nazis in the room…

Read the entire article here.

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