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The Myth of “Race” and the Reality of Racism (Final Part)

14 July 2015 at 10:55 | 1642 views

Since the publication of the first part of Dr. Quist-Adade’s piece, the Confederate flag, which Dylan Roof, the cold-blooded murderer of nine African American worshipers in the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina cherished and adorned himself with in photographs, has been pulled down. But the pulling down of the flag as many have rightly said is mere symbolism. In this last installment, Dr. Quist-Adade asserts that racism is more than individual prejudices and episodic racist acts like that of Roof’s. Racism has metamorphosed into complex, subliminal, insidious, covert, and most crucially, structural and systemic forms.

Taking a cue from the Ghanaian thinker and educator Dr. Kwagyir Aggrey who said it takes both the black and the white keys to produce harmonious music on the piano Dr. Quist-Adade suggests that the fight against racism in the 21st century must be a collective effort involving both victims and victimizers; leaving no one behind, evolving around a rainbow coalition and more. He calls for anti-racist education that must begin in the formative years of children, in the primary schools and be reinforced throughout the school years. Anti-racism education should play an integral part of the educational curriculum if we hope to achieve social justice, Dr. Quist-Adade concludes.

The Myth of Race and the Reality of Racism.

By Charles Quist-Adade, PhD.

Christianity, Eurocentrism and Race.
The Bible was also used to sanctify race bigotry and to justify slavery and social inequality. For example, the Bible’s story of Ham’s curse, it was suggested, told Christians that God had ordained Africans to be slaves of Europeans. According to that Biblical narration (Genesis 9:18-27), Ham, one of Noah’s three sons saw his father’s nakedness when his father was inebriated. Shem and Japeth, however, covered him. When Noah awoke and discovered Ham’s indiscretion, he supposedly cursed Canaan, Ham’s son (but curiously not Ham), saying he would be the servant of servants of his brothers. Noah, however, praised Shem and blessed Japheth. By some absurd logic, Euro-Christians came to believe that Africans are descended from Ham who was ‘Black’ (Allahar, 1995). This colour symbolism in Christianity explains why the image of Jesus Christ, for example, is that of a blue-eyed European (‘White’) male: his Jewish origin obscured through a kind of artistic cosmetic surgery.

Of course, this also explains why Satan is symbolized by the color black. God created man in His image; Europeans created God in their image. Two interrelated processes are at play here: (1) a self-fulfilling prophecy and (2) the social construction of reality. W.I. and Dorothy Thomas, positing what is now known as the Thomas Theorem, declared that: “If men define situations as real, they become real in their consequences” (Thomas, 1928: 572). Thus, the crucial issue is not so much the actual punishment meted out by Noah to Ham, but rather it is the fact that later Christians came to understand such punishment in a specific way and to act on the basis of that understanding (Allahar, 1995).

Thus, the ‘Hamitic curse’ and the color black came to be equated with punishment, evil and sin in Christendom. In the Middle Ages, the tripartite division of the world into Africa, Asia and Europe, as well as the Three Kings or Wise men who came to worship the Christ child, were based on that biblical logic. This quotation from Saint Simon, one of the founders of Western social thought, explains it all: “Know that Europeans are the sons of Abel, .Asia and Africa inhabited by descendants of Cain. See how bloodthirsty Africans are. Note the indolence of Asiatics” (as quoted in Manuel, 1956:408; See Eze, 2001).

The colour symbolism and the imagery of Eurocentrism succeeded the color symbolism and imagery of Christendom and passed over into European colonialism and slavery. The images of Africans and Blacks in the minds of Euro-Americans were built on such phenomena as the European (Trans-Atlantic) slave trade, slave-master relationships in the plantations of the Americas, European colonization of the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America; and White-Anglo-Saxon domination of the social, economic, ideological and political directions of multi-ethnic/multi-racial society (Pieterse 1992).

According to Pieterse (1992), in each of these relationships, Europeans constructed the images of non-European people in general, and of Africans and blacks in particular, on the basis of selective perception, expedience, and second-hand information mingled with reconstructed biblical notions and folklore, along with a dash of scientific ideas that were popular at the time. European views of Africans and their continent are a crystallization of images distilled from the travelogues and accounts of European explorers, Christian missionaries, and colonial (European) administrators. Added to these was imagery taken from popular scientific literature, particularly fiction and yellow journalism. During the colonial period, H. Rider Haggard’s type of romantic popular tales, coupled with yellow journalism and pseudo-scientific reportage, painted the image of a dark continent inhabited by rude savages and godless heathens. The colonial remedy to this myth was the civilizing and proselytizing mission of the Christian West (Mezler, 1989).

Racism Continues to Thrive
Although we have come a long way from these influences, the mere passage of time is not a proof that things have changed for the better in race relations between people of African descent and their former oppressors, enslavers and exploiters. Time, it is said, heals. However, time has failed to heal racism. Racism, described by Montagu, (1997:1) as ‘man’s most dangerous myth’ and by Nkrumah (1980:114) as ‘the foulest invention by man,’ has over time only managed to mutate into less visible and less reprehensible forms. Contemporary Euro-American society has only temporarily repressed bone-chilling forms of racist evil and aggression. Racism has ceased to be the avowed commitment of Southern white supremacists. It has gone beyond wearing hoods and burning crosses to a more complex, structural, systemic, subtle and insidious idea that has refused to die. In its insidious forms, racism has become an unconscious habit corrupting legions of Whites, including many well-meaning ones. We move on to crucial issues of concern. What then, is racism? Further, what are the new forms of racism?

What is racism?
There are as many definitions of racism as there are scholars studying the subject. According to Fleras and Kunz (2003), the varied definitions of term reflect the following concepts: doctrines, power, structures, prejudice, discrimination, intent, biology and culture. For our purpose, racism is defined as a set of ideas and ideals (ideology) that asserts or implies the superiority of one social group over another on the basis of biological or cultural characteristics, together with the institutionalized power to put these racialized beliefs into practice in a way that has the intent or effect of denying or excluding minority men and women (Flears & Kunz, 2008).

Racism in North America and most of Western Europe today has largely ceased to be the overt racism of the past. The general consensus is that racism today is generally more subtle, subliminal, polite, sophisticated, and covert. It is termed ‘colorblind racism’ (Bonilla-Silva & Forman, 2000; Essed, 1991). In Canada, some scholars even call it ‘democratic racism’ (Henry & Tator, 2006) as if there could be anything democratic about racism.

Social scientists such as Michael Baton (1970) and William Julius Wilson (1978) have for different reasons, declared racism to be dead. In his book, The Idea of Race, Baton contended that since the ideas that formed the bedrock of scientific racism until the middle of the past century are now discredited, racism is dead. Wilson (1978:28) declared that there was a declining significance of race in the United States. The supporting evidence for his triumphant declaration was to be found in the improved living conditions of African Americans and the emergent Black middle class. Of course, both of these declarations were not only overly optimistic, (Satzewitch, 1998:28) they smacked of denial. They seemed to have been misled or pacified by the new, benign form of racism of the immediate post-Civil Rights era.

Baton and Wilson are not alone in this culture of optimism and wishful thinking. The benign, smiling face of racism today has made people of all complexions complacent. They console themselves with the usual refrain: ‘We have come a long way indeed’. They take tokenism (e.g., the hiring of a handful of Blacks for window dressing by some White employers) as improved race relations. They take examples of a number of Black men and women such as Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice ascent to powerful government positions and the emergent success and wealth of African American entertainers and athletes as clear indications of race relations having improved vastly. The election of Barack Obama as the first African American President of the United States is something I would call significant tokenism. It would however be premature to attribute Obama’s ascendancy to the most powerful position in the American government to radically transform race relations. This brings us to the distinction and dialectical nature of “old racism” and “new racism.”

Forms of Racism: Yesteryears and Today

Old versus New Racism
It is tempting to divide racism into old-fashioned (Jim Crow racism) and modern or new racism. But expressions of racism whether old or new are more nuanced and dialectical; they can be willful, intentional or conscious; alternately, they can be involuntary, inadvertent and unconscious. However, Fleras and Kunnz (2008) have attempted to distinguish between old fashioned and new racism. Briefly, here are some characteristics of old fashioned racism.

Old fashioned (Jim Crow) racism is characterized by the following: 1) formally prescribed boundaries between groups, 2) opportunities denied because of inherited racial attributes, 3) codification of prejudice and discrimination into openly discriminatory laws against identifiable minorities, 4) deliberate exclusion of others from full participation

New Racism: Racism today is covert, subtle, and hidden. It is usually embedded within institutional and cultural values and intrinsic to normal operations of society, reflective of forces beyond individual control. Racism today is evolving and situational.

Re-thinking Racism: New Racisms in the 21st Century

Canadian sociologists Fleras and Kunz (2008, pp. 36-41) assert that in the recent past, racism in North America was color-coded with red, white, and blue: racism as red-necked in orientation, white folks as carriers, and blue color in composition. Positing that racism today is far more complex, Fleras and Kunz (2008) have identified four major forms of contemporary racism, namely polite, systematic, systemic and subliminal. The four forms of racism are interacting and dialectical. They can be expressed at both individual and institutional levels.

Polite racism refers to thinly veiled and seemingly harmless compliments which are really more like insults. Fleras & Kunz (2008) define polite racism as unobtrusive, often implicit, obliquely phrased and restricted to private domains. It is embedded in codes and hidden behind appeals to higher ideals such as procedural fairness, use of coded or euphemistic language to disguise personal attitudes. For example, when racialized minorities are turned down for jobs, promotions, an employer may claim a job is filled rather than admit “no Blacks need apply.” Or immigrants or refugees are “jumping the queue.” (Fleras & Kunz 2008) Polite racism may also manifest itself in many other places by different people including: educators (in their treatment of students and their grading), managers (by refusing to hire or promote), landlords (stating that there are no vacancies), or businesses (by not treating customers equally). While explicit discrimination is prohibited in any of these situations, there are multiple ways through which wielders of power, even those with minimal power, do exclude and deny opportunities to racialized minorities. (Fleras & Kunz 2008)

Polite racism can be intentional or inadvertent. Polite racism in its deliberate form is usually codified and implicit. This is what is often described as “smiling face racism” or “stab-in-the-back racism.” In its inadvertent form, polite racism may be subliminal or below the level of consciousness and most people who engage in polite racism don’t even realize that they are being racist.

Systematic racism refers to rules and procedures that directly and deliberately prevent racialized minorities from full and equal participation in society. In systemic racism, discriminatory practices are sanctioned and formalized and social institutions preclude minority entry or participation. Rules and procedures are manipulated to deny minority access or participation in society. It occurs when there is deliberate exclusion of members of a group. Example: quotas on the number of individuals of Jewish ancestry in Canadian universities in the 1930s and 1940s. Limit on Jewish enrollment at McGill University – in 1939, there was a 12 per cent limit in medicine and arts, and a 15 per cent limit in law. See Alan Hustak, Montreal Gazette, October 23, 2003 (http://www.cjc.ca/ptemplate.php?Story=468&action=itn). While it is not common to observe this type of racism today, examples emerge periodically.

Systemic racism is defined as a largely inadvertent/unintentional bias that is built into the institutional framework of society. It is important to note institutional rules and procedures can be racist in practice, even if the actors are themselves free of prejudice. As the old saying goes, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. Thus, even explicitly non-racist policies and practices may be systemically racist if the relevance of difference is ignored as a basis for power-sharing. Institutional standards, rules, and rewards may appear to be universally applicable and color-blind, yet they have the unintended effect of excluding minorities. Systemic racism is beyond our everyday consciousness, often disguised by reference to universal standards, reflecting an appearance of fairness and impartiality, and entrenched within institutional structures, cultures, processes and outcomes

In the United States, systemic racism has resulted in deep gaps in black-white wealth, employment, housing, education, incarceration and child mortality. For example, according to the Race Forward website, “in 2010 Black Americans made up 13% of the population but had only 2.7% of the country’s wealth. The median net worth for a white family was $134,000, but the median net worth for a Hispanic family was $14,000, and for a Black family it was $11,000. The median wealth for a single white woman has been measured at $41,000, while for Hispanic women it was $140, and for Black women, $120. For the last 60 years, Black unemployment is always about twice as high as white unemployment. Black college graduates are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as white college graduates. Out of every 100,000 Americans about 700 are incarcerated, but out of every 100,000 Black men over 4,000 are incarcerated.” (https://www.raceforward.org/videos/systemic-racism).

Subliminal racism: This is the operation of stereotypes, ethnocentrism, and prejudice at a largely unconscious level. One of the ways that such racism has emerged recently is that individuals who consider themselves liberal, accommodating, and democratic, may attack some minority groups for not having these values. It operates at the unconscious levels of individuals. It is often deeply held, yet contradictory values, which reflects a compound of hostility, rejection, denial, and ambivalence towards racialized minorities. It is subtle not deliberate and may be held by seemingly progressive persons. Subliminal racism also reflects double standards by progressive individuals who may profess a commitment to equality as a matter of principle while opposing minority measures that remedy the inequality. Progressives may contend that government initiatives to promote diversity are acceptable, but only if they don’t cost money or impose burdens for those in positions of power and privilege.

The fact that racism has changed its appearance and form makes it more insidious and treacherous. As it is said in Ghana, ‘the snake under the grass is more dangerous than the snake on the tree, for you can see the snake on the tree and know how to handle it (kill it or run away) but you cannot avoid the snake under the grass since it cannot be seen and therefore bites you without your noticing it.’ But that said, it must be stressed that no form of racism around the world is better than any another. In all cases, lives are destroyed. People are harmed physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Racism in any form, quantity, or shape must not be tolerated.

Reference to racism depends on where we stand in society. Most Whites may not deny the existence of racism, but define it as an irrational aberration from the normal functioning of society that can be isolated and eradicated. To them, racists like Dylann Roof and the motely white supremacists who dot the US landscape are a small bunch of “bad apples” in an essentially sound social “barrel.” On the flipside, racialized minorities see this barrel as fundamentally “rotten to the core, with the “bad apples” simply the most obvious manifestation of this rot. This perceptual gap makes it difficult to agree on universal understanding and the enormity of racism and even more difficult to devise a collective strategy to combat it (Fleras & Kunz 2008).

Fighting Racism in the 21st Century
In the aftermath of the Roof murderous rampage, a lot has been said about “healing of racial wounds” largely from the African American communities. But it is wrong for victims of racism to think they can fight this malady alone. As the Ghanaian philosopher and educator Dr. Kwagyir Aggrey once said, it takes both the black and the white keys to produce harmonious music on the piano. The healing process must involve both Whites and Blacks. Like a parasite, racism needs a host to thrive. To heal society of the disease of racism, both the parasite and the host must be treated. Racism is dialectical; it affects the victimized and the victimizer, both of whom must also be conscious of and alert to history and the changing realities of today. Victims and victimizers must acknowledge that all humans harbor and manifest prejudices, and that prejudice whether backed by power (racism) or not (race prejudice) is destructive. It hurts, impacts economically, it offends, destroys and kills (Feagin & McKinney, 2003).

All people, whether dominant, majority or minority, are culpable, and do hurt people through their prejudices. Therefore, as Orbe (2003) notes, before we tell others to get out of their boxes, we must be prepared to get out of our boxes first. But, this should not be interpreted as ‘distributive racism.’ It would be incorrect to apportion blame to the victims of racism and the perpetrators of racism equally. Prejudice should not be confused with racism. Prejudice and stereotyping are symptoms: manifestations of an ongoing tug-of-war between groups over economic, political and social resources. While all people harbor prejudices about other human groups and stereotype out-groups, not all people are in a position to discriminate on a systematic basis.

It is a universal human impulse to use stereotypes to rationalize primitive fears and suspicions (Berger, 1999). People, irrespective of race or ethnicity, use stereotypes as mental templates as they navigate the complex world. Stereotypes and prejudice, while universal and cut across racial and ethnic lines, are not the real problem in inter-racial relations. The real issue is the translation of prejudices and stereotypes into acts of discrimination at the personal, state, and systemic levels.

“Reverse Discrimination”/”Black Racism”
Can black people be racist? Yes, but it implies being in circumstances and situations where there is the capacity to take anti-white attitudes and to translate them into systems that thwart and impede the ability of white people to develop. However, that has not been the history in the U.S. That does not mean that you don’t have black people who are prejudiced, who are bigoted and say bigoted things. But that is not to be confused with racism. In fact, in some ways, to do that is to belittle the travail of slavery, the long history of racism and racist violence that has afflicted people of African descent.

Feagin and Vera (1995) rightly insist that racism is more than a matter of individual prejudice and scattered episodes of discrimination. Arguing that there is no black racism in the United States, Feagin and Vera(1995: ix) contend that there is no centuries-old system of racialized subordination and discrimination designed by African Americans to exclude white Americans from full participation in the rights, privileges, and benefits of this society. Thus, while African Americans may harbor anti-White American prejudice and stereotype all Whites and even act out their race prejudice or exhibit race animus from time to time, it is White Americans who are in the position to discriminate systematically against their Black compatriots.

While White racists, generally speaking, have a panoply of supporting institutions and agencies (state, judicial system, law enforcement agencies, media, educational system and general culture) African Americans do not have sufficient resources to act out their race prejudice on a systematic basis. The system simply crushes those who try. Racism transcends stereotypes and individual prejudice; it is systemic, built into the culture, social institutions, and social structures. It is important to stress that not all Whites share the ability, structural power and authority to discriminate against racialized and ethnic minorities).

Combating Racism through Education and Praxis
Swiss philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (2003) said that ‘man is born free and is everywhere in chains.’ Infants tend to freely relate to children across the color line. However, they quickly learn the danger involved in playing and interacting with children beyond their racial pale. All too soon, the children’s innate freedom is constricted with ‘chains’ everywhere.

Thandeka (2000:53) alludes to the Rousseauian chains in her book Learning to be White. Calling the process abuse, she explains the socialization processes that children, particularly Euro-American children, go through to avoid the racial ‘other’. Thandeka begins with the premise that Euro-American children learn to be White and asserts that this process is a form of abuse. White America’s racial victim is its own child, she writes caustically, noting that most very young Euro-American children, for example, have not yet learned to avoid making African American friends or to think of such people as inferior. They learn to think of themselves as White, however, and only play with those from within their own racial community in order to avoid emotional abandonment and even physical abuse from their caretakers.

Thandeka concludes that the internal nonwhite zone was “the killing fields of desire, the place where impulses to community with persons beyond the pale are slaughtered.” The child develops antipathy toward its own forbidden feelings and to the persons who are the objects of these forbidden desires: the “racial other.” The child and then the adult learns how to suppress such risky feelings of camaraderie with persons beyond the community’s racial pale in order to decrease the possibility of being exiled from his or her own community.

From the discussion above, it is clear that any hope of fighting racism must begin with the future parents, workers, chief executive officers, politicians, teachers and journalists. For, as the first victims of racism, they are also the easiest to redeem. It is important to educate them very early on about the social policies and institutional practices that advantage some groups at the expense of others (Feagin & McKinney, 2003).

Why Does Racism Persist When Many People Know it’s bad?
Many people know that racism is bad, yet they do nothing to end it. In fact, their inaction contributes to and reinforces racism. Racism persists not just because people are powerless to challenge and end it, but because it is seen as legitimate in the eyes of many. As Myers (2006) notes, in spite of its oppressive nature, oppressive structures, including racism are considered to be legitimate because people see them as unchangeable, a fact of reality that just is. Arguing that racism is hegemonic, Myers (2006) states that many people adopt a colorblind attitude toward racism because they have no viable alternatives, and they do not recognize that North American society as inherently unfair. When a system is hegemonic, it is so pervasive and taken for granted that people are unable to step back, see it for what it is, and challenge it. (Myers 2006); also see Gramsci (1932, 1975).

The theory of positionality sheds further light on how racism persists notwithstanding the fact that most people acknowledge its pernicious effects. The central premise of positionality is that people’s positions affect their identities, access to resources, and range of possible actions. Giddens (1984:3) posits that people carefully negotiate power and privilege in their everyday interactions via reflexivity. Thus, people benefit from acting in ways that insulate rather than threaten their privilege. Myers (2006) points out that, privileges are made possible by one’s position in the structure. Thus, people act rationally when they reinforce structural power differentials, even though such actions help not only to reify but also support and reinforce racism. Racism persists because of real or imagined threats to dominants’ material standing, through competition for jobs, housing, schools, etc. (Doob, 1999; Feagin & Herman, 2001).

Myers (2006) argues that Whites have historically fought to insulate and protect themselves from outsiders. The outcome, she points out, was racist oppression. Racism persists because the sense of threat persists. She argues that racism is dialectical, existing at three levels: structural (hierarchical), interactional and ideological. Structural racism allocates differential opportunities on the basis of race. For a hierarchical structure to persist and affect people, they must buy into and subscribe to its procedures. People act; thus racism operates on the interactional level at which they engage in racist practices, both knowingly and unknowingly. People may not view their racist behavior as problematic even if they recognize it. This lack of antiracist-consciousness is explained by ideological racism, which is a belief system that legitimizes racist structures and practices. People are born into or migrate to this society in which racism has existed and mutated over centuries. Over time, differential treatment of “people of color” becomes normalized, expected, and de rigueur.

Thus, racism, Myers (2006: 40) explains, is hegemonic, in that it is so much part of the fabric of people’s past and present lives that it is often invisible or appears to be inevitable. The hegemony of racism makes it difficult to recognize, discuss, and challenge (Gramsci, 1932/1975); Myers, 2006). Bigotry is learned through the various agents of socialization (e.g., family, peers, the educational system, mass media, etc.). Individuals are products of the socio-cultural systems into which they are born. Marx (1852) reminds us that; “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” The French Philosopher, Denis Diderot suggested that ‘Nature did not make people evil; it’s bad education, bad models, bad legislations that corrupted people.’ Thus, racism is learned in the social context. It is a social construct; it is not innate or biologically predetermined.

But while “bad education” makes people racist, it is important to mention that people are not powerless to resist or unlearn racist teachings. People do possess and often exercise agency or free will (Johnson, 2000). While individuals may be socialized through afore-mentioned areas, they are capable of unlearning racism through the usage of logic. Berger and Luckman (1966) and Giddens (1984) proposed theories of the duality of structure and agency, arguing that while individuals act on things, their actions take place within the context of social structures and that at the same time individuals are not hopelessly disempowered by social structures. They posit a dialectic between individual powerlessness in the face of powerful social forces and human agency; the ability to innovate, create, challenge and resist. Long before Berger, Luckman and Giddens, Marx had astutely noted the dialectic of structure and agency when he wrote: “While men are changed by circumstances, circumstances are changed precisely by men” (as cited in Ebenstein, 1960: 410).

How do people make the systems of social injustice and inequality, such as sexism, racism, and privilege, happen? People perpetuate systems of social injustice by adopting what Johnson (2000: 90-95) calls ‘paths of least resistance,’ one of which is silence. To perpetuate a system of oppression and privilege, we do not have to do something consciously to support it. Our silence is enough to ensure its future. No system of social oppression can continue to exist without most people choosing to remain silent about it. Johnson posits that if most Whites spoke out about racism, it would be the first step toward a revolutionary change. Unfortunately, many individuals simply choose the paths of least resistance and remain silent on racism, and it is easy for ‘ethnic/racial minorities to read their silence as support for the system’, Johnson concludes (2000: 95).

Conclusion
In this article, ‘race’ is argued to be a compelling social construct. While ‘race’ does not exist as a biological fact, racism, the practical manifestation of race exists.

Further, although the idea of race has been discredited, at least in the scientific community, racism continues to be perpetuated. Racism is structural, that is, it is tied to social structures and institutions. Thus, until these structures are reconstituted or replaced, curtailing its spread will be difficult.

Given that social structures and institutions are created by people, it is plausible to posit that change is possible. The UNESCO constitution rightly notes that wars begin in the minds of [men], and that it is in the minds of [men] that the defenses of peace must be constructed. It is humans who create(d) and reinforce racism; it is precisely they who can dismantle it. Education is of paramount importance in combating racism. If the history of multicultural education in the past century is any guide, anti-racist pedagogy in the 21st century must take a radically different direction. Thus, the fight against racism requires multiple and evolving strategies. The ever-changing, elusive nature of racism requires unending, tireless and all-inclusive ant-racist strategies, policies and actions on all fronts: activist, intellectual, religious/spiritual, and the mundane. I do not share the pessimism and fatalism of those who see racism as immutable, and racist society as incorrigible.

The cardinal question that has for a long time exercised the minds of a number of scholars is, if ‘race’ does not exist as a biological and even empirical fact, then why the continued use of the term? Segall (1999:14) has suggested that merely treating the social construct of ‘race’ as if it were a biological reality is itself ‘racist’ and should be resisted vigorously as one resists racial discrimination. This argument misses the point, to say the least. The fact that race is not a biological entity, does not mean it is not real. There are legions of social realities that are real and yet not biological. The context of race has influences on where individuals will live, what schools they will go to, what jobs they may attain, whether or not they will have health insurance (Race, 2003).

To underscore ‘race’ as Segall suggests is not only myopic; it is dangerous, for it leaves intact the structural and systemic bases that nourish racism. His colourblind racism does not only dismiss and downplay race as potent reality, it does a significant disservice to the discourse of justice and offers little to addressing its implications. As Esch and Reodiger (2007) remind us, the way to non-racialism is through race. In other words, racism can only be combated when people acknowledge the powerful and destructive reality of race. The racialized societies of the 21st century have been under construction for more than three centuries. How can we “undo race” without first confronting its reality and its enormous and destructive force?

Racism, as has been amply shown, is a human invention. While combating racism is a daunting task, it can be argued that since society has made it, it can also unmake it. It took more than three centuries and a civil war, millions of lost lives to cure America of its virulent addiction: slavery. One should have no illusion that slaying the beast of racism, the child of slavery, will be even more difficult. Combating racism in the 21st century will requires more than academic discourse and political pontification. Anti-racist education must transcend the moralism of the victim groups and the intellectual elite to include all: victims, victimizers, racialized and the “raceless,” White and Non-Whites, young and old.

The fight against racism must leave no one behind, evolving around a rainbow coalition and more. Even more importantly, anti-racist education must begin in the formative years of children, in the primary schools and be reinforced throughout the school years. Anti-racism education should play an integral part of the educational curriculum if we hope to achieve social justice. Finally, anti-racist education must be creatively and dialectically praxis-oriented, transcending the classrooms and lecture halls to communities and the lifeworlds of all constituent ethno-racial groups, and transforming social and political structures that distribute valued social goods and resources.

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