The Rule of Racialization: Class, Identity, Governance

The Rule of Racialization: Class, Identity, Governance

The Rule of Racialization: Class, Identity, Governance

The Rule of Racialization: Class, Identity, Governance

Synopsis

An important history of the way class formed in the US, The Rule of Racialization offers a rich new look at the invention of whiteness and how the inextricable links between race and class were formed in the seventeenth century and consolidated by custom, social relations, and eventually naturalized by the structures that organize our lives and our work. Arguing that, unlike in Europe, where class formed around the nation-state, race deeply informed how class is defined in this country and, conversely, our unique relationship to class in this country helped in some ways to invent race as a distinction in social relations. Martinot begins tracing this development in the slave plantations in 1600s colonial life. He examines how the social structures encoded there lead to a concrete development of racialization. He then takes us up to the present day, where forms of those structures still inhabit our public and economic institutions. Throughout, he engages historical and contemporary thinkers on the nature of race in the US, creating a book that at once synthesizes significant critiques of race while at the same time offers a completely original conception of how race and class have operated in American life throughout the centuries. A uniquely compelling book, The Rule of Racialization offers a rich contribution to the study of class, labor, and American social relations. Author note: Steve Martinot is Instructor at the Center for Interdisciplinary Programs at San Francisco State University. He has edited two previous books, and translated Racism by Albert Memmi.

Excerpt

The dispute over affirmative action is whether there is a history or not. Those in favor of affirmative action want programs to compensate for the effects of past discrimination in hiring, housing, admissions policies, and political involvement until participation patterns roughly equal demographic distribution, overcoming a white-only past that had extremely traumatic effects on those excluded. Those against affirmative action want questions of hiring, admissions, etc., decided on present merits. Or, to put it a different way, the supporters of affirmative action want the stories of those who have suffered discrimination to be heard; those against affirmative action do not want to hear the stories. the latter’s opposition to attempts to rectify the past has been catastrophic in many ways, not the least of which was to halt the effort of the civil rights movement to end institutional racism. One effect was to render discussion difficult if not impossible because the two sides ended up speaking different languages, grounded on different narrativities. This was what the white supremacists within the anti–affirmative action movement wanted, but the absence of a shared discourse highlighted a dilemma that even supportive whites could not get past, an incomprehensibility about racism’s centrality to popular white thinking.

The Paradoxes of Discrimination

After affirmative action laws were implemented in the 1970s, some opponents charged that the policies constituted “reverse discrimination,” since a few white people were not hired or not admitted to schools in some places in order to give people of color employment or participation where they had been previously excluded. When those formerly excluded responded to these charges by trying to explain about past and present racial discrimination, they were accused of being “racist” for having brought up the issue of race. the terms “discrimination” and “racism” lost their meaning, applying both to a structure of oppression and to a resistance and struggle against it. the danger was that in the conceptual vacuum and personal disorientation this created, only raw power would have presence.

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