Seeing Race in Modern America

By Matthew Pratt Guterl | Go to book overview

Acknowledgments

Good ideas come from everywhere. I could trace the conception of this book back to an academic idyll, to an ideal classroom exchange with a student, or to some high-minded kaffeeklatsch with a generous colleague. Its emergence could be rooted in the rich soil of interlocking interdisciplinary fields, as if it were the hybrid by-product of a comingling of American Studies, History, and Ethnic Studies, to name just three. Seeing Race in Modern America could have its origins in a story of abuse at the hands of a policeman or a TSA agent, or a micro-aggressive joke told at the office. It could flow downhill from a childhood memory of some acutely recalled encounter.

But the catalytic, generative truth is more commonplace, more everyday, and perhaps, as a consequence, it creates a stronger foundation for the consideration of “discrimination” as a visual practice with astonishing, awesome reach. I went to Kroger one day with my son and daughter, then about three years and one year old, roughly, and the cashier, a kindly old woman, asked me if they were “Hispanic.” Her words registered at a deeper level, as an eerily too familiar reminder that I’d heard many other people ask that question, or some version of it. In that instant of recognition, it didn’t matter whether my kids were or weren’t Mexican, or Latino, or Hispanic; what mattered was that they were being interpreted—or read, like a text—routinely, regularly, and everywhere. And so, on the short, quotidian drive home from the banal surrounds of my local grocery store, I began to think about how the world was reading my children, and through them my wife, my family, my friends and colleagues, and all of us. At a basic level, the idea for this book emerged from that short trip to Kroger.

The book might have died right at the Kroger exit, though, were it not for five people. Matthew Frye Jacobson, the genius who has fathered a thousand dissertations, made an offhand remark during a long-ago breakfast at EJ’s on the Upper West Side about race and sight, a remark that stuck with me as a great idea for a book. “How would you tell the story,” he asked, “of what people saw?” Editor

-ix-

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Seeing Race in Modern America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Close-UPS the Devil in the Details 15
  • Chapter One - Profiles 19
  • Chapter Two - Silhouettes 46
  • Chapter Three - Bought and Sold 60
  • Part II - Group Portraits Looking for Contrast 81
  • Chapter Four - The Domestic Ensemble 85
  • Chapter Five - Platoon Harmonics 104
  • Part III - Multiple Exposures the Evidence of Things Not Easily Seen 125
  • Chapter Six - Hybridity 129
  • Chapter Seven - Masquerade 148
  • Chapter Eight - Passing 166
  • Chapter Nine - Ambiguity 182
  • Coda 200
  • Notes 211
  • Index 221
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