‘A Dreadful Deceit’ argues against a ‘racial’ past

‘A Dreadful Deceit’ argues against a ‘racial’ past

The Los Angeles Times

Robin D.G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History
University of California, Los Angeles

Jacqueline Jones in ‘A Dreadful Deceit’ aims to debunk the ‘myth of race’ and the ‘American creation story’ but for the most part is unconvincing in her argument.

Jacqueline Jones, A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America (New York: Basic Books, 2013).

Four years ago, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder called us a “nation of cowards” for refusing to confront our racial past. Jacqueline Jones’A Dreadful Deceit” dismisses the very idea that our past is “racial.”

What Holder identifies as our national burden, Jones calls the “American creation story”: the narrative that slavery was born of racial prejudice and that the election of a black president marked a triumph over the long shadow of race. Her objective is to debunk the “myth of race,” to relieve Americans of the specious belief that “race is real and that race matters.”

Jones is not the first. Franz Boas, W.E.B. DuBois and Ashley Montagu are among a veritable sea of scholars who have shown that “race” has no scientific basis. It is a socially created means of classifying and ranking humans based on any number of criteria. It is about power, not biology…

…”A Dreadful Deceit’s” insistence that race is not a factor leads Jones to ignore racism’s role in creating economic inequality. Today’s workforce, she asserts, is “defined less by skin color and history than by shared powerlessness within a global economy.” But if truly “shared,” how do we explain the widening wealth gap between whites and blacks or that the world’s cheap apparel is made in the global South by a non-white, super-exploited labor force?

Jones generally treats “race” (a means of classifying difference) as a proxy for “racism” (a hierarchical system of subjugation based on race). The point is not that race explains everything but that racism is built into the very structure of the economy. Race may be a myth, but racism survives

Read the entire review here.

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