Racial Culture: A Critique


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White fragility holds racism in place.

How Critical Race and Postcolonial Theory Matter Today

DiAngelo addresses her book mostly to white people, and she reserves her harshest criticism for white liberals like herself and like me , whom she sees as refusing to acknowledge their own participation in racist systems. Whiteness, on the other hand, scans as invisible, default, a form of racelessness.

To be perceived as an individual, to not be associated with anything negative because of your skin color, she notes, is a privilege largely afforded to white people; although most school shooters, domestic terrorists, and rapists in the United States are white, it is rare to see a white man on the street reduced to a stereotype. Likewise, people of color often endure having their views attributed to their racial identities; the luxury of impartiality is denied them. In outlining these discrepancies, DiAngelo draws heavily on the words of black writers and scholars—Ta-Nehisi Coates, Toni Morrison, Ijeoma Oluo, Cheryl Harris—although, perhaps surprisingly, she incorporates few present-day interviews with people of color.

Like a mutating virus, racism shape-shifts in order to stay alive; when its explicit expression becomes taboo, it hides in coded language. Nor does prejudice disappear when people decide that they will no longer tolerate it.

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For Many Latinos, Racial Identity Is More Culture Than Color

It just looks for ways to avoid detection. Pause on that, white reader. You may have subconsciously developed your strong negative feelings about racism in order to escape having to help dismantle it. As an ethical thinker, DiAngelo belongs to the utilitarian school, which places less importance on attitudes than on the ways in which attitudes cause harm.

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DiAngelo sometimes adopts a soothing, conciliatory tone toward white readers, as if she were appeasing a child on the verge of a tantrum. Now breathe. It is a particularly promising resource when it comes to the struggle for racial equity, Mills claims, because racial exploitation, unlike class exploitation, hinges on differential status — a wrong easily identified from a liberal viewpoint p. His deconstruction of white ignorance and his reflections on methodology are invaluable resources to those who are compelled to take up his call for re-founding both liberalism and political philosophy.

I cannot emphasize enough how important this work is, or how well done. But I nonetheless want to raise a few questions and criticisms. Mills justifies this by saying that race needs emphasis at this moment because the racial critique of liberalism is less advanced. But this begs the question — even if the feminist and working-class critiques of liberalism are more advanced as Mills suggests, does this mean that there needs to or should be exclusive focus on the racial critique to achieve parity?

I do not know how much an equal emphasis on race, gender, and class — achieved by, for instance, centering the multiply marginalized in his non-ideal theory — would change the content of his arguments; but his approach raises a pressing question about what a commitment to intersectionality requires in terms of the practice of theory in the contemporary intellectual context.

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Second, there is a significant tension running through the book. Mills spends the first part of the book emphatically arguing that always culturally mediated conceptions of personhood have mattered tremendously for the direction of liberal theory and societies.


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In other words, the meaning attributed to this transfer matters. Mills then goes on to admit the importance of symbolic measures p.


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  8. This devaluation of culture extends into his analysis of periods of racial exploitation in the chapter. He argues that, in the contemporary period, what really matters in the perpetuation of white supremacy is the material legacy of the earlier period in which non-whites were formally disadvantaged.

    Racial Culture: A Critique

    We also see the primacy given to the economic in his argument that the material interests of whites as a group are the primary obstacle to the realization of racial justice p. This ranking of the economic over and above culture in importance is deeply problematic. Regardless of these concerns, this is essential reading for a long list of groups.

    Finally, this is an essential reading for those concerned with the demographic composition of political science and philosophy as well as those wondering why this should be considered a concern. In several places particularly Ch. I started this review by saying that everyone was talking about Mills at APSA, but my experience as a political theorist who works on race and democracy is a particular one.

    The forthcoming publication of a major volume on African American political thought by the University of Chicago Press edited by Melvin Rogers and Jack Turner as well as the choice of Lawrie Balfour as the editor of Political Theory speaks to the growing legitimacy conferred on works that and authors who center race. Skip to main content.

    Racial Culture: A Critique Racial Culture: A Critique
    Racial Culture: A Critique Racial Culture: A Critique
    Racial Culture: A Critique Racial Culture: A Critique
    Racial Culture: A Critique Racial Culture: A Critique
    Racial Culture: A Critique Racial Culture: A Critique
    Racial Culture: A Critique Racial Culture: A Critique
    Racial Culture: A Critique Racial Culture: A Critique
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