Thursday, June 18, 2015

"We can do better than serve up these sad little cliches from the 1970s like the one that says that natural characteristics are involuntary, cultural ones a matter of choice." - Paisley Currah

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Equality of opportunity is key here. In its minimal form, it requires an end to all forms of discrimination – racism, sexism, heterosexism etc. More robustly, it would also require that people not be victimised because of their class. Legally, of course, only race matters, which is what the Fieldses mean when they say that ‘once racecraft takes over the imagination, it shrinks well-founded criticism of inequality to fit crabbed moral limits, leaving the social grievances of white Americans without a language in which to frame them.’ Thus, even though the poor are by far the most under-represented group in American four-year colleges and universities, when Jennifer Gratz (the lower-middle-class daughter of a man who never went to college) won her case against the University of Michigan in 2003, her complaint was of discrimination against white people. Abigail Fisher, the upper-middle-class daughter of a man who attended the very college that refused to admit her, and who thus belongs to a group that has no problem getting access to good colleges, has lodged exactly the same complaint, and her case is currently before the Supreme Court. In Racecraft’s terms, what we have is a situation in which poor white people can assert what is really a grievance against rich white people only by fighting a policy designed to benefit a few black people. And rich white people, by turn, can assert their class privilege over poor white people by fighting that same policy. The policy meanwhile is of no help to the black poor: ‘On highly selective campuses,’ according Richard Kahlenberg, a prominent proponent of class-based affirmative action, ‘86 per cent of African American students are middle or upper class.’ So while the true injustice of American higher education has been its increasing stratification by wealth, the debate about class that ought to have taken place has been almost entirely effaced by the debate about race." - Walter Benn Michaels, "Believing in Unicorns"

Monday, June 15, 2015

a notion of social justice that hinges on claims to entitlement based on extra-societal, ascriptive identities is neoliberalism’s critical self-consciousness

"The fundamental contradiction that has impelled the debate and required the flight into often idiotic sophistry is that racial identitarians assume, even if they give catechistic lip service – a requirement of being taken seriously outside Charles Murray’s world – to the catchphrase that 'race is a social construction,' that race is a thing, an essence that lives within us. If pushed, they will offer any of a range of more or less mystical, formulaic, breezy, or neo-Lamarckian faux explanations of how it can be both an essential ground of our being and a social construct, and most people are willing not to pay close attention to the justificatory patter. Nevertheless, for identitarians, to paraphrase Michaels, we aren’t, for instance, black because we do black things; that seems to have been Dolezal’s mistaken wish. We do black things because we are black. Doing black things does not make us black; being black makes us do black things. That is how it’s possible to talk about having lost or needing to retrieve one’s culture or define 'cultural appropriation' as the equivalent, if not the prosaic reality, of a property crime. That, indeed, is also the essence of essentialism." - Adolph Reed, Jr. "From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much"

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"There is a funny way that groups are reified as individuals and that individuals who are held to embody group classifications can stand in for a group. All of the folderol over what Obama’s being the first black president means is, I think, embedded in vague and internally contradictory ideology. That is to say, the success of a putatively representative individual can be taken through synecdoche, basically, as a triumph for an entire group. That works only if the understanding of the group is such that it’s reduced to one characteristic, which is its group-ness...

"The phrase ['have a conversation' about race] betrays a couple of things: one of them is this facile notion that the group-ness of these totally artificial groups confers a discrete consciousness and perspective onto any one of the members. The other is that it’s only the really smart people, who go off to Martha’s Vineyard or wherever, who get to have a sustained conversation about what to do with the rest of us. I think those are the only frameworks in which the conversation idea makes sense; that or some dumb stuff you see on television.

"I think the notion has absolutely no coherent or clear meaning … I’ve been baffled over what it is about the phrase that seems to give so many people a sense of meaning and significance when there’s clearly nothing there. I think there’s a discursive tendency that seems almost militantly focused on establishing and policing public discussions about inequality to keep them away from notions of economic justice and to funnel them into these essentialized groupist discourses. [...]

"I often compare the inflation of the notion of politics to the inflation of the Deutschmark in the Weimar Republic. If it can be everything, it’s not anything, right? It doesn’t give you purchase on anything.The notion of collective action has just vanished; the notion of politics as a strategic activity directed towards influencing power has vanished; the lines between self-expression and purposive action in and on the world has just vanished." - Adolph Reed, Jr.