Racial stereotyping cannot be understood without reference to whiteness, the racially unmarked, normative centre from which it stems. Such reference must be central to the way in which racial stereotyping is conceived as a boundary-maintenance practice, a way of designating and reifying cultural 'difference'. This raises the question of cultural racism and its distinction from biological racism. Following discussion of this question, the chapter examines how racial stereotypes operate in their attempts to give a fixed, absolute definition to their objects. These attempts in turn feed into and reinforce racist discourse and social myth. The chapter emphasises the importance of differentiating between categories and stereotypes before going on to consider changes in 'race' and representation over the past twenty years or so. It concludes with a discussion of the relation between racial stereotypes and the subjectivities of those who are their targets. Racial stereotypes deny the capacity of self-determination upon which subjectivity depends.
In contemporary discourse, 'race' refers to people who are non-white, and denotes cultural 'difference'. 'Race' is used as a way of designating certain categories within our culture, and it does this from an invisible, undesignated position. This is the position of whiteness. As a normative position, whiteness is taken to be a natural fact, existing beyond the bounds of consideration. It is not racially marked as white in the way that black is so marked. Newspapers do not routinely refer to someone as a 'white'lecturer or lawyer, whereas the adjective 'black' is commonly appended to descriptions of someone non-white who occupies these professional posts. The adjective racially marks an aberration from the white norm, drawing attention to their skin colour in a way which doesn't generally happen for people who are white. Whiteness is what is standard, regular and tacitly expected as such. That is why it remains racially unmarked. It signifies sameness, not difference.
When a category becomes racially marked, a first step has been taken towards racial stereotyping. It does not of course apply only to black people. Certain white people, such as Jews or the Irish, have been racially marked in
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Publication information: Book title: Social Identities: Multidisciplinary Approaches. Contributors: Gary Taylor - Editor, Steve Spencer - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 91.
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