Determination

Kenny Mostern kennym at uclink2.berkeley.edu
Sun Mar 19 20:13:39 MST 1995


I've been off the list a couple of days, so I'm just getting back to
Andy's question.

The racial system in the U.S., complete with the widest variety of
enforcement mechanisms, insists that Black people are Black not based on
anything in their consciousnesses--certainly you can't tell one "racial
consciousness" from another on any grounds other than stated
articulation, which are of course unrealiable grounds in the extreme--but by
skin color.  A white blues singer is
not Black, but it simply a white blues singer.  Note that "race" and
"culture" are fundamentally different variables.  Inasmuch as it makes
sense to make such a statement, U.S. popular culture in its dominant form is
extremely "African".  That doesn't mean that producing, consuming or in
any way living this culture makes one Black within the white supremacist
system.  Race really is defined as arbitrarily as all that.  And race is
a form of systematic oppression.  For culture one is better off with
"symbolic capital", which has forms that includes people of different
racial groups.

The point is white blues singers still have easier times geting housing
than black blues singers.  In 1995.

The consequences of this, of course, are not that solidarity is
impossible along racial lines--on the contrary--but that one can't stop
reproducing the racial system by pretending its not there.  But this is
obvious to many of the people on this list, I think, however much the
typical white liberal denies it these days.  In the meantime, the
arbitrary system has led to the most absurd kinds of racial arguments in
both white and Black circles.  There is no choice but for radicals to
takes these arguments seriously, not because they are right, but because
they are the dominant *material* conditions through which we work.  (To
understand what I mean by "arguments" being "material" would take us back
to Williams, with whom I started.)

Kenny Mostern
UC-Berkeley Ethnic Studies Graduate Group

Against:  racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, militarism
For:  the truth--and the funk!



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