Ethnic Studies Review

Ethnic Studies Review


Reiland Rabaka

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Ethnic Studies Review





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Critical Studies in Race and Ethnicity


Traditionally "white supremacy" has been treated in race and racism discourse as white domination of and white discrimination against non-whites, and especially blacks. It is a term that often carries a primarily legal and political connotation, which has been claimed time and time again to be best exemplified by the historic events and contemporary effects of: African holocaust, enslavement and colonization; the "failure" of reconstruction, the ritual of lynching and the rise of Jim Crow segregation in the United States; and, white colonial and racial rule throughout Africa, and especially apartheid in South Africa (Cell, 1982; Fredrickson, 1981; Marx, 1998; Shapiro, 1988). Considering the fact that state-sanctioned segregation and black political disenfranchisement have seemed to come to an end, "white supremacy" is now seen as classical nomenclature which no longer refers to contemporary racial and social conditions. However, instead of being a relic of the past that refers to an odd or embarrassing moment in the United States and South Africa's (among many other racist nations and empires') march toward multicultural democracy, it remains one of the most appropriate ways to characterize current racial national and international conditions. Which, in other words, is to say that white supremacy has been and remains central to modernity (and "postmodernity") because "modernity" (especially in the sense that this term is being used in European and American academic and aesthetic discourse) reeks of racial domination and discrimination (Goldberg, 1990, 1993; Mills, 1998, 2003; Outlaw, 1996, 2005). It is an epoch (or aggregate of eras) which symbolizes not simply the invention of race, but the perfection of a particular species of global racism: white supremacy. Hence, modernity is not merely the moment of the invention of race, but more, as Theodore Allen (1994, 1997) argues in The Invention of the White Race, it served as an incubator for the invention of the white race and a peculiar pan-Europeanism predicated on the racial ruling, cultural degradation and, at times, physical decimation of the life-worlds of people of color.


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