The Clash of Blackness and Authority (B2)

The American society is decorated with a history of racism and as of today, racism is still prevalent everywhere you look because America has imbedded race in everything, to the point when it dictates how you are treated. In the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine, particularly the story Stop and Frisk the literary device allegory is used to explain a symbol that conveys a deeper meaning, that symbol in this case is the process of a Black individual being wrongfully accused for something they didn’t do and the deeper meaning is the racism Blacks go through when they are unfairly accused of a crime.  

Image result for police brutality against blacks

Within the first passage of the story is this quote, “Everywhere were flashes, a siren sounding and a stretched-out roar. Get on the ground. Get on the ground now. Then I just knew.” This shows what exactly happens when a Black person is pulled over by the police. The Police become overly aggressive as a reaction from fear of blackness and the Black individual does everything, they can to seem less dangerous by cooperating and being selective, cautious with their tone and diction, one wrong move and it’ll all escalate. All you can do is cooperate because of the fear of dying. In the sixth passage there seems to be a conversation with the police officer and the Black man, or the Black man is having a conversation with himself within his subconscious as a way of trying to understand the situation he’s in. The dialogue has no parentheses, but it includes the words, “You didn’t do anything wrong. Why am I pulled over? Put your hands up.” However, thinking of that dialogue now it could just be him reassuring himself of what to do, even though he knows he did nothing wrong he also knows that the police officer doesn’t care if he is guilty or not so it’s best for him to just cooperate and appear less as a threat.  

Image result for police brutality against blacks

Nevertheless, Black men have been accused of crimes and misdemeanors that they didn’t commit but because they’re Black they were still blamed. Claudia Rankine states, “And still you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description.” This is saying that yes, a Black man can be innocent but because he fits into a stereotype that all Blacks are dangerous and cause chaos in society, he often isn’t believed, he’s mistaken for something he isn’t, which connects back to the way your treated in society depending on if you’re White or Black and on how close you’re to whiteness which is acceptable in contrast to blackness. It shouldn’t be like this, but it is, and it won’t change until the actual aggressor changes their tactics and stop reacting with racial fear. 

                                                        Works Cited 

                      Rankine, Claudia. Citizen. Graywolf Press, 2014. (Book) 

 

…But What Happens Next?

 

Elementary school taught me the five categories of race. Middle School introduced me to memes and taught me how to joke “That’s Racist!” to my friends. High School taught me that institutional power is an essential part of racism. And college is teaching me how to unpack the very notion of race as a “social construct,” thanks to writers such as Ijeoma Oluo and Chenjerai Kumanyika. These writers explore the confusing thing we call race.

Race is no easy topic of discussion. In our current society, many wonder why “social justice warriors” make such a fuss about it. I mean, why do we keep talking about something that is fake right?

Ijeoma Oluo’s book So You Want to Talk About Race, published in 2018, dives deeper into the idea of race as a social construct. Through her own narrative, Oluo says, “out of a social construct created to brutalize and oppress, we’ve managed to create a lot of beauty.” (21) Race is a system of power that imposes pain, but it also informs Oluo’s identity as a Black woman. And so the question is not whether we can simply be color blind and all get along in the future, but whether we can see race as an architect of both our society at large and personal lives too.

Chenjerai Kumanyika assistant professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers, and contributor of the “Seeing White” podcast, also builds upon the idea of the systematic power of racism. He also addresses how the word appears in our vernacular. Kumanyika says, “It’s not about just attitudes, like your distant cousin who’s a bigot. Right? But we also do use the term racist for that too” (Kumanyika). Throughout the podcast, Kumanyika expresses his confusion in having to grapple with an understanding of racism at the macro level in our institutions, and micro level in interactions between people. Hence, it is easy to throw the word “racist” around and create tension and confusion but no progress.

In their work, Both Oluo and Kumanyika acknowledge that race is systematic, ingrained into the institutions that organize our society. But they also paint a clearer picture into what we as individuals make of race outside of the system, and how race can simultaneously bridge and separate people.

While race is not scientific fact, it is still real socially, and very much “alive” (Oluo 12).  After 13 years of schooling, I now understand how race is a social construct, but what happens next? What conversations are there to be had after acknowledging the complex and confusing versatility of race?

Works Cited:

Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. New York, Hachette Book Group, 2018

Kumanyika, Chenjerai. How Race Was Made (Seeing White Part 2). Scene On Radio, Mar. 1, 2017. http://www.sceneonradio.org/episode-32-how-race-was-made-seeing-white-part-2/

 

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Race Is Real

Race, should it even be considered real? According to Ijeoma Oluo’s 2018 publication So You Want to Talk About Race, she addresses the idea of race having no meaning in terms of science, but still “[being] alive”(Oluo 11) in todays economic and societal systems. This ideology is also supported in John Biewen’s podcast series Seeing White, while he talks with REI advocator Suzanne Plihcik.

While talking with Plihcik on his podcast, Biewen plays a clip of her presenting at a Racial Equity Inclusion workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina. She makes the interesting claim “there is more genetic variation within groups that have come to be called races than there is across groups that have come to be called races”(Biewen Seeing White). Plihcik then points at the crowd and states it is statistically more likely that she shares a closer genetic relation to a black man in the crowd than a white woman. This statistic helps shatter what we think we know about how race is categorized in society. It is so common for people to group others based off of appearance alone, and in regards to race skin color plays a crucial part in these groupings. But so what? The varying levels of melanin in skin is an easy thing to sort since color is easy to see. The problem lies when some of these sorted groups are perceived as being less or more “dangerous” than other groups. Plihcik makes the claim that anthropologists have now started to consider race as “anthropological nonsense” (Biewen Seeing White), but this does not mean it doesn’t exist, doesn’t affect the lives of millions of people, and mostly importantly it doesn’t give any justification for race to be a subject brushed under the rug. 

Oluo also addresses this issue of race being a very real reality especially for black and brown people in America. She makes the bold claim that race “was invented to lock people of color into the bottom of [a racially exploitative economic system”(Oluo 12). Thisconnects back to the history shared in Biewen’s podcast where they explained racially discrimination for those not considered white Christians was a westernized concept. Western civilizations purposefully enslaved people with the mindset the were “less human” by the color of their skin and religious affiliation. This has manifested itself into the disadvantages experienced by POC’s today. Not being able to acquire jobs on the basis of their names, being seen are more violent or scary without having committed any crime, which in turn leads to them being targeted.

Both Oluo and Biewen aim to shed some light on how past categorizations of race have affected modern views on the subject. They help us understand how history has influenced the underlying forms of racial oppression and discrimination towards black and brown people in our society, that put millions at a disadvantage for opportunities. 

Work Cited:

Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. Seal Press, 2018.

Biewen, John, host. “Turning the Lens.” Seeing White, Scene on Radio, 15 Feb 2017.

Acknowledging Race and Racial Formation in a Multicultural Society

In his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. memorably said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In the United States where issues of race and racism is prevalent, the injustice Dr. King speaks of is occurring.

Michael Omi and Howard Winant, in their book, Racial Formation in the United States (Routledge 1994), contributes to the discussion with their definition of racial formation. They define it as, “the sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed” (Omi and Winant 55). They further this discussion by acknowledging the history behind race and racial projects, as well as linking that to how society has evolved into the power structure that is current. This essentially is the foundational structure for understanding how categories of race came to be and how racism, the side product of these categories was birthed in the United States. The combination of these two is precisely stated as, “to recognize the racial dimension in social structure is to interpret the meaning of race,” (Omi and Winant 57). Race and Racism are not scientific, but the social and political impacts and realness they hold make it undeniably important to understand and speak on in our society. The history of race in America is one of wars, conquest, and categorizing. That has lead to racial formation and race relations creating issues of racism that must be brought into dialogue.

In the book, “So you want to talk about race (Seal Press 2018), Ijeoma Oluo adds to the conversation about race and racial formation through her definition of racism and the steps useful in having these conversations. Oluo defines racism as, “racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power” (26). The important point to note in her definition is systems of power reinforces racially held prejudice. Yes, individuals can be racist and that is a conversation to have, but more importantly, looking at the systems of power that gives them the tools to reinforce racism over generations and in detrimental aspects of other lives is most critical. Secondly, Oluo gives useful advice for when speaking about race. One of the most important advice was “do your research” (46). This means that before entering a conversation on race, read, learn, and gain knowledge to know what you are talking about. With conversations on such a sensitive and real issue, doing the research can be the difference between productive or non effective conversations.

 

Ijeoma Oluo and Omi and Winant arguments and points parallel each other and act as building blocks for the conversation on race, racial formation, and racism. Both definitions of race and racism focus on the history behind the issue as well as acknowledging the systems of power that cause the perpetuation of the oppression. Oluo’s ideas are useful because it gives people the tools needed to have resourceful and progressive conversation about race. Omi and Winant’s ideas are useful in providing the history of racial formation and giving readers the tools to understand how race and racism developed in the United States. The combination of both works creates dialogue on the pressing and important issue or race as well as providing humans foundation blocks for having the uncomfortable conversation about race, racial formation, and racism in our society.

 

Works Cited

King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” 16 Apr. 1963.

Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the United States from the 1960s to the 1990s. Routledge, 1994.

Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. Seal Press, 2018.

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From Big Thoughts to Big Talks: Racial Projects in Action

In casual conversation, many of us tend to avoid complex academic theories and topics that will elicit divergent and heated reactions. So how likely is it that we’ll strike up a conversation about racial formation in the United States? Despite their trickiness, such conversations are essential.

In Racial Formation in the United States (Routledge 1994), Michael Omi and Howard Winant define a racial project as “an interpretation, representation, or explanation of racial dynamics, and an effort to reorganize and redistribute resources along particular Image result for omi and winantracial lines” (Omi and Winant 56). Such a project could be essentializing and racist, or explicitly anti-racist. Racial projects abound in the United States— but we don’t often think of them by that name, or even recognize their presence.

In her book So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal Press 2018), Ijeoma Oluo, without using this language, asks readers to recognize racial projects and undertake one of their own. She asks white people to consider the underlying assumptions and goals of their racial beliefs and asks everyone to engage in meaningful discussions around race Seattle writer Ijeoma Oluo as one step in the process of dismantling systemic racial injustice. Oluo writes, “…if you are white, and you don’t want to feel any of that pain by having these conversations [about race], then you are asking people of color to continue to bear the entire burden of racism alone” (Oluo 51). Here, she points to the burden of emotional labor, time, and energy created by a system that asks people of color to both experience and solve racism. If white people were to take on more of the responsibility of educating ourselves and each other, the crucial resources of time and energy would be more equitably distributed. Although Oluo does not conceive of her work explicitly as a racial project, Omi and Winant’s definition illuminates this aspect of her work.

Just as Omi and Winant’s theory provides insight into Oluo’s strategies, Oluo’s anecdotes and praxis-based arguments show the importance of understanding racial projects in action. Making harmful racial projects visible and refusing to normalize them is essential in the work of dismantling racism. Often, theory can appear intangible and inapplicable to daily life, while pragmatic strategies that lack theory can be misguided and therefore unsuccessful. Reading Omi & Winant and Oluo in conversation with each other reveals how a symbiotic relationship between the theory of racial formation and the everyday work of creating meaningful conversations about race enriches both projects.

Works Cited

Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. Seal Press, 2018.

Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the United States from the 1960s to the 1990s. Routledge, 1994.

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