Carl Hancock Rux 
Member since Jun 5, 2016



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Re: “Grace Notes is powerful, but doesn’t push the boundaries expected of it

People often want the "how and why" of racism and violence and history explained in simplistic terms. That's exactly what Weems' Grace Notes attempts NOT to do, and for that I was extremely grateful. Audiences (and perhaps students and critics alike) desire something they can digest easily, and as Oscar Wilde suggested, "sit at their ease and gape at the play". As with other “isms” (like capitalism, communism, etc.), racism is both an ideology and a system. As such, I define it in two ways.
As an ideology, racism is the belief that population groups, defined as distinct “races,” generally possess traits, characteristics or abilities, which distinguish them as either superior or inferior to other groups in certain ways. In short, racism is the belief that a particular race is (or certain races are) superior or inferior to another race or races.
As a system, racism is an institutional arrangement, maintained by policies, practices and procedures — both formal and informal — in which some persons typically have more or less opportunity than others, and in which such persons receive better or worse treatment than others, because of their respective racial identities. Additionally, institutional racism involves denying persons opportunities, rewards, or various benefits on the basis of race, to which those individuals are otherwise entitled. In short, racism is a system of inequality, based on race.
2. How is racism different from white supremacy?
White supremacy is the operationalized form of racism in the United States and throughout the Western world. Racism is like the generic product name, while white supremacy is the leading brand, with far and away the greatest market share. While other forms of racism could exist at various times and in various places, none have ever been as effective and widespread in their impact as white supremacy, nor is it likely that any such systems might develop in the foreseeable future.
3. Do you think all whites are racist?
It’s a simplistic question, with a complicated answer. I believe that all people (white or of color) raised in a society where racism has been (and still is) so prevalent, will have internalized elements of racist thinking: certain beliefs, stereotypes, assumptions, and judgments about others and themselves. So in countries where beliefs in European/white superiority and domination have been historically embedded, it is likely that everyone in such places will have ingested some of that conditioning. I think all whites — as the dominant group in the U.S. — have been conditioned to accept white predominance (or what some call hegemony) in the social, political and economic system, and to believe that white predominance is a preferable arrangement for the society in which they live, the neighborhoods in which they live, the places where they work, etc.
However, this doesn’t mean that all whites, having been conditioned in that way, are committed to the maintenance of white supremacy. One can challenge one’s conditioning. One can be counter-conditioned and taught to believe in equality, and to commit oneself to its achievement. These things take work — and they can never completely eradicate all of the conditioning to which one has been subjected — but they are possible.
In other words, we can be racist by conditioning, antiracist by choice. That racism is part of who we are does not mean that it’s all of who we are, or that it must be the controlling or dominant part of who we are. By the same token, just because we choose to be antiracist, does not mean that we no longer carry around some of the racism with which we were raised, or to which we were and are exposed.
4. Do you think people of color can be racist against whites?
At the ideological level, anyone can be racist because anyone can endorse the kinds of thinking that qualifies as racism, as defined above. At the systemic level, people of color can be racist in theory, but typically not in practice, and certainly not very effectively. Although a person of color in an authority position can discriminate against a white person, this kind of thing rarely happens because, a) such persons are still statistically rare relative to whites in authority, b) in virtually all cases, there are authorities above those people of color who are white, and who would not stand for such actions, and c) even in cases where a person of color sits atop a power structure (as with President Obama), he is not truly free to do anything to oppress or marginalize white people (even were he so inclined), given his own need to attract white support in order to win election or pass any of his policy agenda. Ultimately, there are no institutional structures in the U.S. in which people of color exercise final and controlling authority: not in the school systems, labor market, justice system, housing markets, financial markets, or media. As such, the ability of black and brown folks to oppress white people simply does not exist...and a simplistic, direct response to historical racism and violence does not exist either. So sad this reviewer didn't study Weems' work further (and for that matter, study it in context).

3 of 3 people like this.
Posted by Carl Hancock Rux on June 5, 2016 at 5:04 PM
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