Thoughts on Talks about Race in the US

Photographer: G.C. Richards

The color-blind ethos that took hold of US liberal, neo-liberal and progressive camps of Obama era (and if truth be told long before the Obama era), for the most part translated to mean that there would be no real (meaning critical) discussions on Race (with a capital R) beyond a ‘we are family’, and ‘I feel good … you feel good’ philosophy and practice, even while the body count of African-American public deaths escalated to mind-bogglingly war zone numbers. My 2008 article Rubber Meets the Road: The Intersection of Community Arts Activism and Cultural Hegemony provides a small window into the dangers of this mentality.

During this same period of time, the pro-right/White camps (the ones that are anti- Black and anti-non-European immigrants) have been (in the front and back rooms, in churches, schools and conference rooms – in urban, suburban and rural spaces) engaged in deep critical reflection and analysis of Race (personal and institutional), examining what it means in their present lives and strategically making plans for what it could come to mean for their future.  In the moment of progressive head-in-the-sand hand-holding, the pro-right/White sharpened their swords, cultivated language and practices to honor the future they were/are committed to bringing into being,   recruiting relentless  along the way.  In the short time since my return to the US, I know I have taught youths (young adult college students) who have been captured by the well-organized pro-right/White camps.  The higher education institution failed them, providing no safety net or pro-active intervention for these vulnerable participants in organizational cultures that promote hate as the ideal and critical tool for the formation of cohesive and productive social identities.

As an insider-outsider participant observer, it appears to me that the United States wants to have powerful conversations about Race, but the ‘feel good’ movement (propelled by deep apocalyptic denial) has been preventing it at every turn. The current political climate is awash with cynicism while brutalized black and brown bodies continue to be served up as ritual sacrifice for both left and right US non-black/brown to claim identity and belonging as members of The Privileged Group.  What will it take to break through this gridlock of the ‘feel-good’ to get to the difficult and necessary work of doing Good really well?  If not this moment, when?

Published by: Dream Without Borders

Artist| Scientist| Creative Entrepreneur| Activist: working at intersections of arts, health, healing, and activism, my practice focuses on the performance and performative articulations of vulnerable bodies, exploring and examining expressions of identity and belonging. I hold particular interest in the lives and aspirations of the African Diaspora/Black Atlantic in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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