Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Thoughts On The Non-Racialism And Post-Race Postures

Of late, I have been thinking/writing here about racialization and the positioning of race/ism in the post-postapartheid, or rather the post-transitional, era.

My purpose is an attempt at theorizing what the processes of racialization look like for the further purpose of understanding how race, inside of its multiple meanings, transitions in the so called political field of non-racialism.

In the US the election of Obama is said by many to usher the so called post-racial era.

Non-racialism and post-racial are both grounded by a similar set of socio-political assumptions.

Both, for example, assume that race can be legally reduced to narrow, even eliminate, the centrality of race in post-settler societies like South Africa and the United States.

In so doing, the assumption is carried further to reorient race, not eliminate race, to appear as a largely benign matter of socio-cultural association.

What hardly disappears though is the centrality of race as an ongoing structural reality even as racializations take on varied meaning(s).

In short, race is a fluid a concept even as it remains fixed as an imagined reality.

Nothing about race is organic, or real. And for this reason there is more than a little irony in manifesting a non-racial/post-racial moment in human history.

Still, post-settler societies, in particular, seem fixated to prove that a constructed tool of oppression, and vehicle of privilege, can be decontextualized or deconstructed to be universally progressive.

In thinking about this contested terrain I was struck by Professor Victor M. Rodriguez Domínguez's theorization of the "Imagined Latino Community" and its implications Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a self-defined Latina, to the US Supreme Court.

Domínguez writes in his article Judge Sonia Sotomayor: Racialization, Ideology and the “Imagined Latino Community” that:

The media that focuses on the Latino communities in the United States has contributed to a pervasive misperception that exists about who Mexicans, Puerto Rican, Cubans, Salvadorians and other groups of Latin American descent are in the larger context of United States society. While the Anglo media has always perpetuated stereotypes about “latinos,” the “latino” media, in order to expand its markets beyond the ethnic niches of the various Latin-American origin groups, has also contributed to the idea that all Latin-American origin groups are alike. While there are many similarities among these groups there are also significant differences that are revealed in the discourse about the selection of a second generation Puerto Rican to be the first “latina” in the Supreme Court.

It is ironic that this process of racialization (erasure of the cultural and historical differences between ethnic groups) that has created a “Latino” pseudo-racial group is occurring at a time when a color-blind ideology is dominant in political, legal and pedagogical discourse in the United States. Although race is still the essential pivot around which American society is constructed and its hierarchies developed, the courts, politicians and the educational system are negating the role of race and racism in the inequalities that persist in our society. This ideology is so prevalent that it has become common sense and unexamined and is dominating our most important institutions. In the educational system, for example, Janet Schoefield, in study done in a school in 2001, revealed that white students did not know Martin Luther King was an African American. The courts have narrowed the use of race in redressing racial inequalities and politicians do not dare utter the word racism in the public sphere ...

The recent election of President Barack Obama has led many to talk about a “post-racial” United States. Yet, the same inequalities exist, the same hate crimes exist and children of the various Latin American heritages continue attending substandard and underfinanced schools. Recently, evidence suggests we may be at the dawn of a new “post-racial” “Latino” politics emerging across the nation. Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa has increasingly distanced himself from appearing too ethnic, ...
This passage points to the layered complexity and persistence of race as it appears inside of Obama's "post-race" nonsense and it is similarly relevant for post-postapartheid South Africa.

The critique is obviously not complete. What is needed now (to begin) is to take stock of and to interrogate the structural forces that reposition/replicate race and its destructive commonsense.

And so it goes ... still.


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