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.

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