Race is an absurdity, having long ago been discredited as a valid biological category and, in the Brown decision, a defensible legal one. Yet as a means of defining and separating people, it retains its power.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-01-05 01:54Z by Steven

Race is an absurdity, having long ago been discredited as a valid biological category and, in the Brown decision, a defensible legal one. Yet as a means of defining and separating people, it retains its power. That power can’t be undone simply by pretending it doesn’t exist, or even by telling African Americans that they should desist from “race-holding” as an excuse or crutch. How do we ignore the power of racialist thinking when we see it exploited by cynical politicians who ignore facts and try to convince white voters—often in coded ways—that their economic woes are largely attributable to blacks and other minorities who are getting more than their share in a zero-sum struggle for economic advancement and opportunities? “We make up selves from a tool kit of options made available by our culture and society,” writes the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah. “We do make choices, but we do not determine the options among which we choose.”4 For my part, I can’t help seeing the ways race played, and continues to play, a role in my life. Yet at the same time, I recognize how a racial identity can be limiting and burdensome, particularly when it is based on, and helps to perpetuate, hoary myths and outright lies.

W. Ralph Eubanks, “What Makes Me Black? What Makes You White?” The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture, Volume 20, Number 2 (Summer 2018). https://iasc-culture.org/THR/THR_article_2018_Summer_Eubanks.php.

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What Makes Me Black? What Makes You White?

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2019-01-04 20:49Z by Steven

What Makes Me Black? What Makes You White?

The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture
Volume 20, Number 2 (Summer 2018)

W. Ralph Eubanks, Visiting professor of English and Southern Studies
University of Mississippi

The obelisk bearing the chiseled gray-granite face of a Confederate soldier enters my field of vision each morning as I stroll across campus. After forty years away from Mississippi, I returned last year to teach at my alma mater, Ole Miss. Having entered the University of Mississippi in 1974, only twelve years after James Meredith shattered the color barrier, I was one of about fifty black students in a freshman class of more than 800, African Americans then making up less than 5 percent of the entire student body.

During my time as a student at Ole Miss, the culture, heritage, and traditions of the university stood as obdurate barriers to a black person attempting to feel part of the university, much less at home in it. And though Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi more broadly have since made certain commendable strides in reckoning with the past, the statue is a reminder of how the forces of race and history remain in constant collision, and of how the misinterpretation of the past can sometimes overshadow historical reality.

“Most white Americans are obviously and often all too unconsciously committed to White Anglo-Saxon Protestant supremacy,” wrote the essayist and critic Albert Murray more than forty years ago in his enduring reflections on our nation’s “mulatto” culture, The Omni-Americans.1 What we are witnessing today, however, is quite conscious. I don’t mean here simply ugly and even violent displays, such as the now infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last summer, but something more insidious. This new iteration of racialized politics is one that dares not say its name. It even pretends that race-based discrimination and white supremacy are things of the past, issues well behind us. More brazenly—one might even say cynically—this new politics appropriates the language of the civil rights movement, and does so precisely to undercut some of the movement’s signal accomplishments (including voting rights), or at least to prevent some its goals (including equal as well as integrated schools) from being fully achieved…

Read the entire article here.

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