Thursday, April 30, 2015

Race Is Not Real, Racism Is Real, and This Is Not a Zero-Sum Game

There is no scientific basis for distinguishing human beings by race, because there are no significant biological differences between what we call the races.

Race is entirely a social construct, created specifically to allow the dehumanization of others: racism.

And it is racism, with all its evil attachments and results, that conditions white people into thinking that only one "race" can "win."

Adrien Schless-Meier at TPM:

While it’s easy to cast off discussions of pop culture as trivial or inane, Andreeva’s article draws on and reinforces a logic with deep, pervasive implications. It is the axiom according to which white folks organize our histories, our lives, our relationships: In a world based on whiteness, there is only room for one winner — and it had better be us.

Take, for instance, the creeping anxiety among white folks in the U.S. about our impending “minority” status. The most recent projections from the Census Bureau name 2044 as the point when people of color will collectively outnumber white people in this country. This demographic reality has fostered a deep sense of paranoia about a pervasive existential threat, not just to white people but also to white institutions, values, and culture. White folks are, irrationally, afraid of being wiped out.
The irony of this fear shouldn’t be lost on us — white people simply wouldn’t exist as we do today, embedded within and sitting atop a racial hierarchy, if it weren’t for systematic violence against Native people and African slaves in the early years of colonialism. We have learned, over the course of generations, that the path to power runs through the graveyard.

And so, the zero-sum game of racial politics is a throughline to the epidemic of state-sanctioned violence in this country. It lives and breathes the idea that white people are made safer by a police state that makes people of color less safe. The brutal and relentless crackdown on undocumented immigrants of color and the xenophobic rhetoric that supports it are evidence of this mentality, but more importantly, of its consequences — families unhinged, children denied asylum from violence, persistent poverty.


When white cops are free to gun down black children, black women, black men, with impunity and the media engages a sustained smear campaign against the victims, the message is that the loss of black life should be understood as a net gain for white people. The various Michael Slager support funds that have popped up on crowdfunding sites reveal that there are plenty of white folks willing to reward black death with money and emotional support.

On the flip side, white people routinely fail to empathize with black people and people of color in general about their pain and grief. But is that particularly surprising, when we’ve been taught our whole lives that our success depends on other people’s failure?

Which brings us back to Andreeva’s article and the subtle violence it perpetuates. When we ask whether we’ve gone “too far” in creating spaces for people of color to explore and articulate nuanced, intricate life experiences, we are reinforcing the idea that only one narrative — that people of color represent a threat to white people — can or should endure. Left unchecked, this belief is the bedrock for the justification of everything from forced deportations to police killings. We cannot do the hard work of reshaping both the limits of our own empathy and the structures of our institutions if we continue to buy into the logic of the zero-sum game.

The sustained assault on people of color in the U.S. demands, at the very least, the dignity of better questions. Rather than wonder what white people might lose if people of color win, we should start by asking why we continue to tolerate, even condone, a world where the cost of protecting whiteness is measured in real, valuable lives lost.

1 comment:

northierthanthou said...

The sheer panic of some 'white' folks as they realize they are losing a clear hegemony is really dangerous. they themselves are doing their damnedest to destablize the nation and thereby undermine the very sense of justice they would now need to rely on for their own safety.