‘Mixture is a Neoliberal Good’: Mixed-Race Metaphors and Post-Racial Masks

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Philosophy on 2012-07-03 17:04Z by Steven

‘Mixture is a Neoliberal Good’: Mixed-Race Metaphors and Post-Racial Masks

darkmatter: in the ruins of imperial culture
ISSN 2041-3254
Post-Racial Imaginaries [9.1] (2012-07-02)

Daniel McNeil, Associate Professor of History, Migration and Diaspora Studies
Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

This fight for democracy against the oppression of mankind will slowly leave the confusion of neo-liberal universalism to emerge, sometimes laboriously, as a claim to nationhood. It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Many conservative commentators reacted to the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 with platitudes about the clash of civilizations. Robert Fulford, a prominent cultural critic for the Canadian National Post, was one of the few to tie a post-9/11 context to the fortieth anniversary of Frantz Fanon’s death. In an article strategically published at the beginning of Black History Month, Fulford claimed that Fanon’s classic texts were invoked and not read, as if The Wretched of the Earth was just another ironic commodity for consumers full of sound and fury who wear images of Malcolm X and Che Guevara without knowing anything about their commitment to human rights. To go further, he maintained that Fanon should be remembered as a ‘poisonous thinker’ who helped usher in a culture of violence and victimization in the West.

Providing a critical alternative to Fulford, activists and scholars marked the fiftieth anniversary of Fanon’s passing with extensive discussions of his impact on social justice movements and intellectual debates about existentialism, phenomenology and psychoanalysis. This short article takes a rather circuitous route to their commentaries on the legacy of Fanon’s explorative, suggestive and provocative work. It argues that the loaded metaphors Fanon used to target ‘half-breed’ translators in the 1950s and 60s have been creatively adapted by transnational intellectuals in their critique of forms of neoliberal multiculturalism that privilege the multiracial American citizen as a subject more universal and legitimate than even the multicultural world citizen.

The article revolves around three sections and three conceptual metaphors in its attempts to address an oft-repeated element of Fanon’s work that has rarely been the subject of extended analysis or critical inquiry. The first section introduces three popular metaphors about mixed-race objects and ‘racial bridges’ that Fanon used to invoke the threat of bestial, immature and consumerist Others – metaphors that were not swept away by the winds of change in the 1960s, or the decline and fall of Black internationalist movements in the 1970s. It contends that similar metaphors and similes continue to frame representations of mixed-race individuals that emerged after the neoliberal revolution of the 1970s and 80s called for ‘new’ multicultural identities to replace ‘old-fashioned’ notions of racial essences. The second section documents how intellectuals such as David Theo Goldberg, Paul Gilroy and Lewis Gordon have engaged with Fanon and mixed-race metaphors in order to critique the slyness of neoliberal agents in the age of Obama. The third and final section also addresses three writers – Jared Sexton, Paul Spickard and Mark Anthony Neal – who have developed work on multiracial national subjects in the United States. The short conclusion contends that Sexton’s Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism avoids some of the pitfalls of national consciousness evident in the work of Spickard and Neal – and engages with the diasporic work of Fanon and ‘Fanon’s children’ in order to challenge multiracial, and post-racial, environments that deny the legitimacy of African American anger. In short, it uses Sexton’s vision of a global African American studies to illuminate some of the discordant affinities between more insular visions of ethnic American studies and the cultural project of neoliberal multiculturalism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries…

Read the entire article here.

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Brazilian ethnoracial classification and affirmative action policies: Where are we and where do we go?

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2012-07-03 00:28Z by Steven

Brazilian ethnoracial classification and affirmative action policies: Where are we and where do we go?

Social Statistics and Ethnic Diversity: Should we count, how should we count and why?
2007-12-06 through 2007-12-08
Montreal, Quebec Canada

September 2007
12 pages

José Luis Petruccelli, Senior Researcher
Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística, Brésil

Brazilian society is characterized by persistent racial fragmentation, which constitutes a significant variable structuring social outcomes and is evident in the socioeconomic inequalities constantly observed in field research. A variety of information converges to demonstrate ethnoracial criterion as a decisive parameter of exclusion and of social subordination. Particularly salient among the reasons for this reality is the permanence of several discriminatory practices in public and private institutions against the populations of African and indigenous descent.

Although statistics of race have been incorporated in a continuous way in surveys only since the 1980’s, the country has a reasonable tradition of statistical experience of racial classification. In this sense, two aspects must be outlined: first, the majority of Brazilians identify according to a relatively restricted group of color representations; second, open-ended responses to racial self-classification, as well as pre-codified classic categories, demonstrate a fair amount of stability.

But an important ambiguity persists with respect to the category applied to the miscegenated groups, at the national level and particularly in some areas of the country that have been, historically, less influenced in their population composition by the Atlantic slave traffic. As a matter of fact, the pardo (brown) term designates a residual category in the racial classification system, inside which at least three types of ethnic groups can be distinguished: firstly, the group that identifies in this way due to phenotype that is perceived to be of African origin, which is, without any doubt, the most numerous in this category; secondly, a group that can be identified as predominantly of Indian descent, characteristic of the areas mentioned above; finally, a group that expresses an adhesion to a specific historical-geographical condition and does not actually constitutes a proper ethnic identification in the sense of physical appearance, since, in terms of social relationships, they don’t suffer racial discrimination.

In this way, it does have methodological pertinence to continue investigating the best possible means of identifying the mentioned racial categories, which present temporal persistence and sociological consistence. As a result, more finely tuned information would be available, indispensable for an appropriate elaboration of targeted affirmative action policies, understanding that the purposes of the ethnoracial classification range from allowing free expression of identities to the facilitation of formulating laws and nondiscrimination policies.

The reflections in this work aim to begin answering the following questions: Is the current system of racial classification in use, reasonably correct? Furthermore, is it possible to elaborate a classification system essentially “correct” ? What would the most appropriate number of ethnoracial categories be then? Or even, what would be the best means of accounting for the mentioned specific characteristics, granting the necessary recognition to the expression of socially relevant identities and of regional differences?

…The question of racial classification raises diverse arguments, from orthodox Marxism up to ideological right-wing positions, trying to depict the difficulties of identifying who the beneficiaries of the proposed actions would be. The ghost of the miscegenation ideology rises again to contest the justice of the compensatory policies. If Brazilians are all miscegenated, runs the argument, they would be all “equal” and it could not be a means of differentiating blacks from non-blacks, since all would have something to do with African origins. To this “ideological” position a “scientific” point of view recently emerged: the geneticists discourse about the genealogical mixture of the ancestries of Brazilian whites, shuffling genomic characteristics with social representation of ethnoracial identity, in spite of the well known differences between origin (and DNA) and colour (or mark). Yet, whatever the extent of racial mixture in the country “the majority have lacked the basic rights associated with citizenship for most of the twentieth century and for all of the country’s earlier history” (Nobles, 2000)…

Read the entire paper here.

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