To Eliminate Racism We Must Eliminate Race
I'm really glad to see this idea grow roots. It's about time. The good news is that at the existential level, I'm sure there is are abundant resources available that have been misappropriated by those who haven't had the benefit of thinking through what you're explaining. Just on the face of it, James Weldon Johnson immediately comes to mind. It's all in the title: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. What's funny is the depth at which such subterfuges can go. People who claim to be passing for white are actually just passing for passing. Just as people passing for black are passing for passing. An Oreo inside of a cue ball and its checkerboards and Dalmatians all the way down.
Thank you for this great essay! Intelligent and very necessary.
Dr. Mason, I'm in awe of and so grateful for your work. This resonates with me because so many aspects of the "conversation" about "race" are distressing; not because as a pale, ethnic European I feel uncomfortable with people who don't look like me, but because so many of the character traits now ascribed to people who do look like me just aren't accurate or true (of me). And isn't that exactly the point? That attributing both negative AND positive *moral* value to people based on their phenotypical traits is just wrong, on every level?
I can imagine the kind of pushback you must receive, both from people who are "traditionally" racist and from people who are race(ist). I applaud your courage. And I'll be following your work from here on out.
The case for antirace(sm) is bound to be won in no time!
I can’t tell you how much I love this perspective and hope it spreads more broadly! I am, however, left with a few elements of cognitive dissonance. We are here on the “Journal of Free Black Thought,” which elevates the voices of thinkers that challenge the mainstream thinking about race(ism) that is especially common within the group of people who either self-identify or are socially identified as “black,” focusing on heterodox thinkers from within this group. Is this journal reifying race by using this title and focusing on writers from this group? It does seem like there is value in exploring these topics specifically from a perspective which feels less likely to be accused of seeking to maintain a racial hierarchy with whites at the top. Feels like a paradox- though eliminating race would eliminate racial hierarchies, some could argue we’re currently too trapped in this hierarchy to trust the perspectives of people who benefit from it to be unbiased about studying it. I don’t agree with this take, but it feels latent in the appeal of seeking out “unconventional black thought” in the first place. How do we square this circle?
Excellent. I wish everyone would absorb this and rethink their world view.
This was really excellent - thank you!
I appreciate your perspective, and I do think racial skepticism provides a good foundation for anti-racism.
However I must respectfully disagree that the idea of race should be abolished. I guess it’s more that I don’t think it would matter. Whether we call it race, lineage, ethnicity, or ancestry, there exists a legitimate empirical notion of common geographical origin of and biological lineage. My brothers and I share the same parents, and my parents each share their parents, and their aunts and uncles, etc, with their siblings, and so on, and that ancestry tree goes back and back and branches intertwine.
People who are called “black” and “white” intertwine with my branches sooner with me than people who are called “asian”. While the genetic similarities between me and any particular “black” or “white” person may in fact be theoretically not as significant as any particular “asian” person, the biological lineage isn’t something that I can really discount rationally.
The fact that such lineages exist, and that such lineages are inclined to produce individuals who more visually resemble one another, means people will be vulnerable to developing bigotry based on those lineages.
A prominent form of “racism” in my mind is simply bigotry connected to those perceived lineages. And my conception of racism has historical precedent. Thus I see no reason to radically alter my conception.
The words racism and racist have a connotation of moral badness — thus it is understandable why people like that man with European ancestry would be compelled to define the denotation of it in a way that would exclude all people not with exclusive European ancestry (ignore if that is actually something that can exist) from responsibility for racism if he feels that doing so would provide himself personally with some sort of higher moral virtue for what he thinks is sympathy toward non “white” people. Regardless of his emotional motivations though I think that is nonsense to do so given the historical and cultural precedent of the word, and even if we did define racism in the way he suggests, it would not absolve people not “white” from any bigotry they have toward “white” people, nor would that bigotry be any less morally blameworthy than the bigotry exemplified by the newly defined word racism.
Likewise, eliminating racism by eliminating race through fashioning a particular definition of race I think would have no substantial effect on the bigotry people develop toward people they perceive as having particular broad biological ancestry. Whether we call the bigotry that fueled the violent massacre of Tutsis by Hutus “racism” or we call the Tutsis a race or an ethnic group or a tribe or whatever, doesn’t alter the moral calculations. The same logic applies to bigotries held by people Americans call “white” and “black”.
I agree, but I might suggest that you need to confront that race as it's understood in colloquial terms doesn't actually depend on biology/phenotype, but is really understood as describing groups with a common ancestry. So the average kid in the U.S. understands that there are five "races" in our society: whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and native Americans. That there are Hispanics who are phenotypically black or that Guatemalans look a lot more like Cambodians, than either do Iranians doesn't really matter much. The point is that they share known common ancestry, and it's not a social construct, they really do share known common ancestry!
I know that I am taking one sentence out of context, somewhat, for my own purposes, but here it goes. The author wrote
-- Still, this assigning of “race” to people as indicative of their permanent, yes, their fixed status in society exemplifies a conviction embraced by too many people. --
I will use this sentence to point out the secret which Wokers do not want others to know. Those who OVERCOME discrimination usually end up far ahead of where they would be without discrimination. While racists may want to make servitude permanent, in the long run they fail. Along the way, the discriminated group can suffer unspeakable horrors like the Holocaust and slavery, but those who continue to strive and who OVERCOME end up far better people than those who were deprived of being discriminated against. Becoming better people tramples merely becoming wealthier.
I know this idea may sound like I encourage oppression or that I am advocating some absurd "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" while you're being lynched or gassed. Rather, I am referring to something that I and Michael have noticed in a variety of contexts including mundane life. Since we were both gym rats, we both noticed that there were a lot, but not all, Black guys at the gym who were extraordinarily nice. I mean a degree of openness and decency which was of an order higher than others .
By portraying Blacks are permanent victims, Wokers are perniciously depriving Blacks of something vital. Yes, America is far from perfect, but no group has OVERCOME more than Blacks in such a short period of time. Insisting that Blacks cannot overcome and are permanent victims without the hand outs from the Wokers perpetuates the worst part of the myth of race.
Jews have been around longer, and thus, we have a few extra millennia at overcoming. After all we left being slaves in Egypt 3,500 years ago. I believe that this why so many Jews admired Blacks in the 1940's, 1950's, etc. until Wokeism took over and everyone was mandated to see Blacks as only hapless victims. Wokeism is merely one more obstacle like slavery and Jim Crow to overcome. To think that Blacks cannot overcome Wokeism is another form of low expectations based on the illusion of race.
Just learned about you through FAIR Leadership. I am excited to learn from you at our next chapter meeting!
Interesting thoughts ...This maybe off topic...what of indigenous peoples ? Is this another name for race ...
Brilliant! My own small effort is here: https://marymcdonaldlewis.substack.com/p/things-that-keep-me-up-at-night?r=7y4uo&s=w&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=direct