What is it about?

In current American cultural discourses, race often brings to mind people who are not white, while whiteness remains unmarked and serves as a benchmark category—as if white is not a race. The second feature in American racial discourses is the alignment of a race-based social group with innate or inner qualities rather than class. Third, the focus on black and white sometimes obscures other groups within the United States, such that Hispanics, Latinos, Chicanos, and Native Americans often fall under the rubric of ethnicities rather than “race.” The construction of race is a process that emphasizes subjection and responsiveness to the demands of others. We study race historically not only to find roots of modern racism, but also to discover other views that may have been obscured by more dominant ideologies such as colonialism. Literary and historical texts contain traces of these alternative perspectives and past debates. Reading histories of race may be a passive act, but if it leads to recognition of one’s self in others, then our job as critical analysts is done.

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Why is it important?

In contemporary American culture, race, has multiple and contradictory meanings.

Perspectives

In current American cultural discourses, race often brings to mind people who are not white, while whiteness remains unmarked and serves as a benchmark category—as if white is not a race. The second feature in American racial discourses is the alignment of a race-based social group with innate or inner qualities rather than class. Third, the focus on black and white sometimes obscures other groups within the United States, such that Hispanics, Latinos, Chicanos, and Native Americans often fall under the rubric of ethnicities rather than “race.” The construction of race is a process that emphasizes subjection and responsiveness to the demands of others. We study race historically not only to find roots of modern racism, but also to discover other views that may have been obscured by more dominant ideologies such as colonialism. Literary and historical texts contain traces of these alternative perspectives and past debates. Reading histories of race may be a passive act, but if it leads to recognition of one’s self in others, then our job as critical analysts is done.

Ms Alexa Alice Joubin
George Washington University

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This page is a summary of: Conclusion, January 2019, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.4324/9781315696232-7.
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