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                                       politics + culture

Monday, September 19, 2005

anti-racism and the global majority

"The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line."

WEB DuBois, 1903, The Souls of Black Folk

It's been pretty clear reading the feedback and commentary of the last few weeks post-Katrina that a large swath of the "liberal blogosphere" views racism as something related to personal morality. ie. Folks embrace the notion that you can be free of racism if you treat "other races" equally, or without a sense of personal prejudice.

Now, I would argue, in agreement with WEB DuBois that the "color line" is still the central issue of our times. In effect, until people come to understand that we are one and act like it...until people understand that we may have different skin tones and backgrounds but that there are, in fact, no other races...that there is no such thing...well, until then, racism and its pervasive historical legacy will be the operative evil of the day, for all of us.

Simply put, the idea that any of us can avoid race and racism, like so much middle class morality, is simply ahistorical wishful thinking. Our society is awash in racism. It is the underpinning of our culture, our economic system, the structure of our cities and suburbs, of where we live...and who we sit to eat with. Racism has shaped the two parties locked in battle to govern this country. It divides us today almost as much as it did forty years ago, when legal segregation was abolished in the United States. It divides our world almost as much as it did two centuries ago...when Europe looked out upon the world and its peoples as one vast colony.

Our start point should be that we are one people, that each of on this planet us are equal and have an equal stake in happiness, and that we all need to bring the force of our efforts, our cooperation and our analysis to bear on understanding and overcoming the legacy of our racist past, and its manifestations in our political present...manifestions that we aren't able to wish away simply by "cleansing our thoughts."

Anti-racism is linked to global justice movements. If child labor is wrong here, it should be wrong in China. If seventy-hour work weeks are wrong in the West, they are just as wrong in Southeast Asia. If HIV medicines and prevention are available here in the States, the should be available in Africa and India as well. And conversely, if neglect of the urban poor and their abandonment to substandard and dangerous housing is wrong in Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro, then it's wrong in the city of New Orleans. Democracy and fair voting practices should be the right of citizens around the world, not just those in nations the United States has chosen to occupy.

There is no logic that justifies the domination and waste of the world's resources by the few...ie. us...while the many are dislocated by the effects of climate change and corporate-driven neglect; there is no logic that says that the many will willingly stay trapped by the status quo policies of the World Bank and the IMF. The fact that Katrina brought that contradiction into the clear light of day inside the U.S. borders is what drove our online discussions of class and race and poverty. What might have been a starting point, turned into a closed door for many. Not me, they said. Not me.

At the end of the day, as it has always been in the United States, discussions of poverty and "racial minorities" were driven by many who never find time to even acknowledge the global majority in their political discussions.

That global majority has a message for all of us...we are one. From New Orleans to Sri Lanka, from Beijing to NYC. One globe, one people...facing, as WEB DuBois might have sorrowfully predicted, another century of addressing the color line and the issues of justice and commonality that underly our existence, whether we acknowledge them or not.


  • NYCO, has an interesting essay up at LSF that intersects this story in fascinating ways.

    It's about environmentalism, sovreignty and the Onandaga people of upstate New York. Worth a read.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 6:50 PM  

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