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a thoughtful article by Roediger

Indeed in stark contrast to pleasant narratives of progress, white family wealth in the U.S. is nine times that of African American family wealth and black young men are seven times as likely as whites to be incarcerated. The diseases of the poor in the U.S. are the diseases of poor people of color. 75 percent of all active tuberculosis cases afflict them. In Obama’s home state of Illinois, a majority of  HIV-AIDS cases occur among African Americans. Three in ten black and Latino children live in poverty, triple the white child poverty rate.

To think more precisely about the coexistence in the U.S. of such stark and deadly racial inequalities with the historic triumph of an African American presidential candidate requires that we recognize that racism is more than one thing and that we specify what has changed. The view that Obama heralds the end of race-thinking in the U.S. rests on  a particular definition of racism, one that currently very much holds sway in U.S. politics and popular culture. Racism turns, on this view, on bad but disappearing individual attitudes, of the sort that can be measured by whether many or few voters act on those attitudes on election day, or even by the ratings among whites of Oprah Winfrey’s television shows or the sales of products Tiger Woods endorses. Deep structural inequalities may be considered unfortunate, but race is personal.

This personalisation or depoliticisation is precisely what VD has been trying (imho unsuccessfully) to do above with gender -- to obfuscate persistent patterns of privilege and power affecting the material conditions of millions, by resorting repeatedly to the individual or anecdotal.  Neoliberalism has won a major victory here in papering over the structural or general with the individual narrative and what I can only call the Oprah Doctrine:  you create your own reality, everyone gets what they wish for (or work for) hard enough.  OTOH trad Communism and related left thought has shot self in foot repeatedly by the opposite error of judgment, refusing to regard the individual and the exceptional and focussing exclusively and prescriptively on the mass, the demographic, and the group identity -- not to mention the persistent theme that "equality" can be created by brute force and conformity.  (but this I suspect has more than a little to do with the co-optation of left rhetoric as a stalking horse for the age-old human taste for power, control, micromanagement and humiliation of "lesser" folks).

If anything the ambiguity of hapa, mixte, metis persons helps to undermine both dysfunctional worldviews, by reminding us both of the power of demographic categories (how little melanin it takes to be defined as Nieblanke and to be regarded with suspicion as a potential shoplifter in a white store) and of how permeable and ambiguous are these apparently concrete taxonomies of race -- and gender too, the original hotly-defended dichotomy.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 02:48:26 PM EST

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