Critical Race Theory

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AT -- Black is ‘Ontological’

Race is a performative identity

Carbado 3--(Devon W., Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Law, Critical Race Theory, and Criminal Adjudication. The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 112, No. 7 (May, 2003), pp. 1757-1828 , cayla_)

A concrete application of the concept of race as a social construct is the idea of race as a performative identity. The claim is that the social meaning of, for example, a black person's racial identity is a function of the way in which that person performs (presents) her blackness.63 At the core of this conception is the notion that race is not just a structural or macro dynamic. It is a micro and interpersonal dynamic as well; racial identities are formed in, and produced by, social encounters. In the context of everyday interactions, people construct-that is, they project and interpret particular images of-race. This means that the intelligibility of a black person's racial identity derives at least in part from (1) the "picture" of blackness she projects and (2) how that racial projection is seen. This implies that there is more than one way to be, and be interpreted as, black. Blackness, in other words, is not monolithic. On one side of the spectrum are "conventional" black people. They are black prototypes-that is, people who are perceived to be stereotypically black. Their performance of blackness is consistent with society's understanding of who black people really are. On the other side are "unconventional" black people--people who are not stereotypically black. Their performance of blackness is outside of what society perceives to be conventional black behavior. A black person's vulnerability to discrimination is shaped in part by her racial position on this spectrum. The less stereotypically black she is, the more palatable her identity is. The more palatable her identity is, the less vulnerable she is to discrimination. The relationship among black unconventionality, racial palatability, and vulnerability to discrimination creates an incentive for black people to signal-through identity performances-that they are unconventionally black.64 These signals convey the idea that the sender is black in a phenotypic but not a social sense. Put another way, the signals function as a marketing device. They brand the black person so as to make clear that she is not a black prototype.65 The concept of race as performative suggests that people of color are not simply acted on. They have some agency to structure the terms upon which they are experienced.66 For example, how a law firm treats a black woman may depend on whether her hair is straightened, "natural" and short, Afroed, or dreaded. In other words, the choices a black woman makes about how to groom her hair will inform how their employers racialize her. But how? "Hair seems to be such a little thing."67 Paulette Caldwell has provided a wonderful articulation of the racializing potential of black women's hair.68 Her article on the subject begins this way:

AT -- Capitalism

The Alternative fails -- Economic inequality is perpetuated because of whiteness – It gives lower socio-economic whites a reason to feel superior

Durr, 2002 (Marlese [Professor of Sociology], "The New Politics of Race: From Du Bois to the 21st Century", 6/28, 178-180) // cjh

Social reformers worked for years to gain no-fault divorce laws. Now at least according to some studies, those laws are working to disadvantage divorced women more than the old laws did. Unable to overturn death penalty statutes, civil liberties lawyers have evolved an endless series of appeal procedures that serve to maintain condemned persons on death row for ten to twenty years - sometimes against their will. One wonders whether such edge - of - death living is not as "cruel and inhuman" as the death penalty itself. Doing good in this racially charged, economically disparate environment is not simply difficult, it may not be possible. As my black laborer Jake's experience teachers, intended confrontations involving race are risky and always fraught with potential disaster . . . evert when individuals are willing to make personal sacrifices in order to do good. Is it any wonder that so many racial and other social reform efforts fail? Civil rights organizations are now floundering in part because they refuse to acknowledge that opposition to their racial equality goals is not the fault of a group of bad white people whose discriminatory propen-sities can be controlled by well-written civil rights laws, vigorously en-forced. Even those blacks who through hard work and good fortune have experienced a measure of success become part of the problem rather than a slice of the solution. Our dilemma is expressed by a working-class black character in my book, one named for Langston Hughes's Semple. I had read him a passage from a book (The Alchemy of Race and Rights) by a former student, Patricia Williams. Semple was impressed: "Maybe she can get beyond so many of our bourgeoisie black folks with all their degrees and fancy titles who still don't understand what we ordinary black folks have known for a very long time." "Which is?" I asked rather defensively_ "Which is that the law works for the Man most of the time, and only works for us in the short run as a way of working for him in the long run." I had to laugh in spite of myself. Semple was a marvel. "You will be happy to know," I told him, "that some middle-class black professionals agree with you. Plus, Mr. Sem-ple," I admonished, "you are too hard on those of us who managed to get degrees and what you call a bourgeois life style. I have to tell you that neither offers real protection from racial discrimination. We are both black—and, for precisely that reason, we are in the same boat." "Not really, brother," Semple said. "I mean no offense, but the fact is you upper-income black folks hurt us everyday blacks simply by being successfuL The white folks see you doing your thing, making money in the high five figures_ latching on to all kinds of fancy titles, some of which even have a little authority behind the name, and generally moving on up. They conclude right off that discrimination is over, and that if the rest of us got up off our dead asces dropped the welfare tit, stopped having illegitimate babies, and found jobs, we would all be just like you. It's not fair, brother, but it's the living truth. You may be committed to black people but, believe me, you have to work very had to do as much good for black people as you do harm simply by being good at whatever you do for a living!" ¶ Even Solomon with all his wisdom would be hard pressed to resolve the racial challenges facing our society. Deep down, most of us working in civil rights know that there is no real salvation in the racial field. Wish more faith in the law than in the lessons of our past experience, we continue to plan our civil right programs to conform to our romantic ideals about an integrated America. And, as with romance, we do so with a wild disregard for either logic or history. It is not that we civil rights advocates do not concede that racism is an enormous obstacle to our efforts to achieve racial justice. We know it exists and assert on every public occasion that no social fact in America is more salient than racial difference. But we underestimate the important connection between the economic subordination of blacks and the social and political stability of whites. We underestimate when we do not entirely ignore the fact that there is a deeply held belief in white superiority that serves as a key, regulative force in an otherwise fragile and dangerously divided society. Indeed, it is difficult to think of another characteristic of societal functioning that has retained its viability and its value to social stability from the very beginning of the American experience down to the present day. Slavery and segregation are gone, but most whites continue to expect society to recognize an unspoken but no less vested property right in their "white-ness." This right is recognized and upheld by courts and society like all property rights under a government created and sustained primarily for that purpose. The result is that it is easy for opponents of social reforms needed by all, white as well as blacks, to build opposition to those re-forms by painting them as somehow giving unfair advantage to blacks. Several years ago, some young white men in Dayton, Ohio, were arrested before they could carry out their plan to blow up the local museum. The men were outraged because the museum had presented an exhibit hon-oring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These young men, likely poor with even poorer prospects for a good life, had plenty of reason for outrage. But not at a museum honoring King's life. They should have looked at what the redistribution of the wealth up-ward will mean to their life chances. Statistics show that U.S. wealth concentration in 1989 was more extreme than that of any time since 1929. Between 1983 and 1989, the share of the wealth held by the top half of one percent of the richest families increased by an almost un-precedented 4.6 percentage points. In dollar terms, of the 2.6 trillion dollars of increase in family wealth in that period, 55 percent accrued to the top half of one percent of families. During the same period, 1983 to 1989, the lower-middle and bottom wealth class collectively (i.e., the bottom 40%) lost 256 billion dollars of wealth. And yet these young men viewed a museum honoring King as the enemy, not the local banks or the corporate headquarters in their area. Why don't whites wake up and see the real source of their disadvantage? Professor Kimberle Crenshaw suggests that: To bring a fundlinental challenge to the way things are, whites would have to question not just their own subordinate status, but also both the economic and the racial myths that justify the status quo. Racism, combined with equal op-portunity mythology, provides a rationalization for racial oppression, making it difficult for whites to see the Black situation as illegitimate or unnecessary. If whites believe that Blacks, because they are unambitious or inferior, get what they deserve, it becomes that much harder to convince whites that something is wrong with the entire system. Similarly, a challenge to the legitimacy of con-tinued racial inequality would force whites to confront myths about equality of opportunity that justify for them whatever measure of economic success they may have attained.' Race consciousness makes it difficult—at least for whites—to imagine the world differently. It also creates the desire for identification with privileged elites. By focusing on a distinct, subordinate "other," whites include themselves in the dominant circle—an arena in which most hold no real power, but only their privileged racial identity. Consider the case of a dirt-poor, Southern white shown participating in a Ku Klux Klan rally in the movie Resurgence, who declared: "Every morning, I wake up and thank God I'm white." For this person, and for others like him. race consciousness—manifested by his refusal even to associate with blacks—provides a powerful explanation of why he fails to challenge the current social order.2 Novelist Toni Morrison provides a more earthy but hardly less accu-rate assessment of how the presence of blacks enables a bonding by whites that occurs across vast socioeconomic divides. Thus, when in a Time magazine interview Ms. Morrison was asked why blacks and whites can't bridge the abyss in race relations, she replied: I feel personally sorrowful about black-white relations a lot of the time becaus black people have always been used as a buffer in this country between power= to prevent class war, to prevent other kinds of real conflagrations.3 If there were no black people here in this country, it would have been Balkanized. The immigrants would have torn each other's throats am as they have done everywhere else. But in becoming an American, from Europe, what one has in common with that other immigrant is contour for me—it's nothing else but color. Wherever they were from, the± would stand together. They could all say, "I am not that." So in dam sense, becoming an American is based on an attitude: an exclusion of ¶ me. It wasn't negative to them—it was unifying.
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