Week 8 Soci-Inequalities - The Blackwell Companion to...

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Chapter 6 Conceptualizing a Critical Race Theory in Sociology T ara J. Y osso and D aniel G. S olórzano Discussion of race and racism in the social sciences has a long tradition. W. E. B. DuBois’s often quoted line from The Souls of Black Folk : “the problem of the twen- tieth century is the problem of the color-line” (1989 [1903]: 29) takes the discus- sion of race and racism back to at least the turn of the nineteenth century. Indeed, a century after this great American social scientist predicted that racism would con- tinue to emerge as one of this country’s key social problems, researchers, practi- tioners, and students are still searching for the necessary tools to effectively analyze and challenge the impact of race and racism in US society. Discussions about race and racism have been either pushed to the margins or effectively destabilized. While those on the political right attempt to dismiss the permanence of racism and strate- gically move the discourse toward a colorblind society, some liberal and even left- leaning scholars criticize work that addresses issues of “race,” stating that it is merely a social construction and a byproduct of capitalism. In this context, we argue that we must discuss race because racism continues to have very real consequences on US society at both the institutional (macro) and the individual (micro) levels. Eurocentric versions of US history reveal race to be a socially constructed category, created to differentiate racial groups and to show the superiority or dominance of one race over another (Omi and Winant 1994; Banks 1995). Race can be viewed as an “objective” phenomenon until human beings provide the social meaning. The social meaning applied to race is based upon and justified by an ideology of racial superiority and White privilege. That ideology is called racism and Audre Lorde defines racism as “the belief in the inherent superi- ority of one race over all others and thereby the right to dominance” (1992: 496). Manning Marable defines racism as “a system of ignorance, exploitation, and power used to oppress African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Americans, American Indians, and other people on the basis of ethnicity, culture, mannerisms, and color” (1992: 5). Marable’s definition of racism is important because it shifts the discus- sion of race and racism from a Black/White discourse to one that includes multiple faces, voices, and experiences. Embedded in the Lorde and Marable definitions of The Blackwell Companion to Social Inequalities Edited by Mary Romero, Eric Margolis Copyright © 2005 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd
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racism are at least three important points: (1) one group deems itself superior to all others, (2) the group that is superior has the power to carry out the racist be- havior, and (3) racism benefits the superior group while it negatively impacts the subordinate racial/ethnic groups.
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