Monday, July 15, 2013

"Obama and a handful of other economically and politically successful Black individuals are often held up as a vindication of American democracy. In his last run for president, Obama was fond of saying, 'My story is only possible here in America--the belief that here in America, if you try, you can make it.'

"This narrative about the American Dream and the wonders of U.S. democracy isn't some folksy tale about self-empowerment and the rise of a Black president. It's a legend designed to redirect attention from structural inequality, racism, imperialism, genocide and all of the other ingredients that constitute the real story of America. Obama is held up as a prime example of how it's possible to advance under American democracy--and those who fail to rise and become successful are therefore told it's their own fault.

"The Zimmerman trial confirmed this when Trayvon Martin was systematically blamed for his own death. That ugly scapegoating is connected to the way African Americans are regularly blamed for all sorts of things--their unemployment, or disproportionate levels of poverty, or higher levels of imprisonment, or harassment at the hands of police, or higher levels of foreclosures and evictions, or the mass closures of the schools they send their children to. It's always the individual's fault--and never the system that creates and perpetuates inequality." - Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor, "The verdict on American racism"

"Underclass constructions revise the old nature/culture dichotomy, in which 'culture' stood for the principle of human plasticity and adaptation - in the old, Enlightenment view, the agency of progress. Instead, the power of the underclass idea derives from its naturalization of 'culture' as an independent force that undermines adaptability and retards progress.

"Culture-of-poverty ideology resuscitates the idea of cultural lag, itself a vestige of antique notions of racial temperament.

"The underclass image proceeds from a view of class in general that strikingly resembles Victorian convention. Victorians often used 'class' and 'race' interchangeably; each category was seen as innate. Class and race essences generally were thought to include - in addition to distinctive physiognomy - values, attitudes, and behavior. Thus, Victorian fiction fiction commonly featured characters in humble circumstances who, though unaware of their true, genteel natal origins, always felt ill at ease or out of place among their coarse fellows, as well as other characters whose base derivations, unknown even to themselves, nonetheless brought them low in polite society." - Adolph Reed, Jr., "The Underclass Myth"

" 'Race' is purely a social construction; it has no core reality outside a specific social and historical context. That is not to say that it doesn't exist or that it is therefore meaningless, but its material force derives from state power, not some ahistorical 'nature' or any sort of primordial group affinities - the nineteenth-century racist mush that has never lost its appeal as a simpleminded journalistic frame. Racial difference is not merely reflected in enforced patterns of social relations; it emerges exclusively from them." - Adolph Reed, Jr., "Skin Deep"

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