Making racism visible in the world: Achieving racial justice through political resistance /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Lesure, Ainsley N., author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (152 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Robert Gooding-Williams Committee members: Patchen Markell; Linda M. G. Zerilli.
This item is not available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-05(E), Section: A.
Summary:A central puzzle animating the literature on contemporary racial injustice, especially in the wake of the broad social, cultural, and political changes wrought by the Civil Rights Movement, has been the disjunction between our society's express commitment to racial egalitarianism and persistent racial inequality, racial segregation and racial discrimination. Overwhelmingly, scholars have explained this disjunction by suggesting that racism has gone underground, "dwelling in the everyday habits and cultural meanings of which people are for the most part unaware," as Iris Marion Young puts it. In fact, the growing consensus in the literature is that a primary site of racial injustice is the individual's unconscious inner state. What's more, this is even the case when scholars emphasize the objective structural dimensions of the problem. For instance, the institutional account of racism makes an important shift away from grounding claims of racism on knowledge of the private inner states of individuals (their beliefs, intentions and motivations) and toward observable racial outcomes (like persistent racial inequality or colonial-like relations between blacks and whites). Yet, when explaining why the white mainstream fails to acknowledge their claims of racism, it suggests that its opponents' private inner states inhibit their ability to apprehend objective truth.
In this dissertation, I argue that our explanations for the tenacity of racism in the post-Civil Rights era have over emphasized the role played by the inner states of individuals. As a result, we have at best, underplayed, and at worst, simply ignored the role of the intersubjective dimension of our racial problems -- that is, our collectively shared racial relations and social meanings about race. As a consequence, and most significantly, we have neglected theorizing how our intersubjective worldly relations and social meanings can be leveraged politically to effectively resist racism. Ultimately, this dissertation offers an account of political resistance to racism that addresses its intersubjective dimension. On the way to this theory of political resistance, I spend much of the dissertation building an account of the intersubjective problem of racism.
To etch out the intersubjective dimension of racism, first, I explore the significance of an important insight that emerges through the institutional account of racism -- that we cannot only suspect racism by observing worldly phenomena but that we can credibly know that racism exist without knowing something about the inner states of individuals. I argue that by deploying a practice of hermeneutical interpretation to speak to the meaning of our social reality, scholars of institutional racism model a practice of speaking to and disrupting white supremacy as an interpretive frame held in place through our social meanings about race. Next, through an engagement with the political thought of Frantz Fanon and Hannah Arendt, I suggest that racism, from the perspective of the intersubjective, is a problem because it erodes the plurality of perspectives necessary to produce the worldly conditions for political resistance. In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon suggests that racism does this through the power of meaning -- intersubjectively maintained through practices of antiblack racism and white supremacy -- that constitutes a concrete social reality that renders blacks inescapably vulnerable to racism. Through her discussion of the social within the context of anti-Semitic Western Europe in Origins of Totalitarianism and the American Negro question in "Reflection on Little Rock," Arendt makes the case that racism erodes plurality and hence the worldly conditions for political resistance by arranging societal racial relations in accordance to a rule of race. This rule designates the racially marginal as degraded and undeserving, generally. Yet those who manage to achieve social success, do so to the extent that they are perceived as exceptions to the rule.
Though the individual burden born by the victims of these processes are great, I argue that Fanon and Arendt help us see that it is the ways in which these dynamics configure the world and actually restrict the impact of attempted intervention that ought to be our greatest worry. As a result, I conclude that an effective strategy of political resistance should seek to disrupt pernicious social meanings of race by restoring the plurality of perspectives that racism damages through the creation of public political spaces. Moreover, our aim in challenging the contemporary problem of racism should be to make racism visible by raising racial matters in public amongst our peers, calling for response, assigning responsibility for outcomes, and enacting our commitment, not simply declaring it, to racial justice.