Race and Ethnicity: Constancy in Change (First Edition)

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Economics, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, Social Science, United States on 2017-07-05 13:37Z by Steven

Race and Ethnicity: Constancy in Change (First Edition)

Cognella Academic Publishing
372 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-63487-489-2

Edited by:

Milton Vickerman, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Virginia

Hephzibah V. Strmic-Pawl, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Manhattanville College, Purchase, New York

Race and Ethnicity: Constancy in Change uses both classic readings and new research on contemporary racial inequality to create a logical progression through the primary issues of race and ethnicity.

The nine sections discuss the history of race and racism, define major concepts, and analyze how and why inequality persists. In addition to the readings, the anthology features introductions that frame each section’s readings, key terms with which students should be familiar, learning objectives for each section, and Reflect and Consider inquiries designed for each reading. Each section ends with a Highlight that showcases a contemporary racial trend in the news. The sections are also supplemented by Read, Listen, Watch, Interact! features, which supply easily accessible links to complementary readings, audio stories, videos, and interactive websites. The book concludes with Investigate Further, a list of readings for those who wish to delve deeper into a particular topic.

Race and Ethnicity enables students to grasp the fundamentals of race and racism and encourages them to engage in conversations about them. Ideal for sociology programs, the anthology is well-suited to courses on race and ethnicity.

Table of Contents

    • HIGHLIGHT: Eugenics are Alive and Well in the United States BY PAUL CAMPOS, TIME
    • READING 2.1 Immigrants and the Changing Categories of Race BY KENNETH PREWITT
    • READING 2.2 The Theory of Racial Formation BY MICHAEL OMI AND HOWARD WINANT
    • HIGHLIGHT: Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood: The History of a Myth BY GREGORY D. SMITHERS, SLATE
    • READING 3.1 The United States: A Nation of Immigrants BY PETER KIVISTO
    • READING 3.2 The Three Phases of US Bound Immigration BY ALEJANDRO PORTES AND RUBEN RUMBAUT
    • READING 3.3 The Ideological Roots of the “Illegal” as Threat and the Boundary as Protector BY JOSEPH NEVINS
    • READING 3.4 Segmented Assimilation Revisited: Types of Acculturation and Socioeconomic Mobility in Young Adulthood BY MARY C. WATERS, VAN C. TRAN, PHILIP KASINITZ, AND JOHN H. MOLLENKOPF
    • READING 3.5 Immigration Patterns, Characteristics, and Identities BY ANNY BAKALIAN & MEHDI BOZORGMEHR
    • READING 3.6 The Reality of Asian American Oppression BY ROSALIND CHOU AND JOE FEAGIN
    • HIGHLIGHT: Future Immigration Will Change the Face of America by 2065 BY D’VERY COHN, PEW RESEARCH CENTER
    • READING 4.1 The Nature of Prejudice BY PETER ROSE
    • READING 4.2 Racism without Racists: “Killing Me Softly” with Color Blindness BY EDUARDO BONILLA-SILVA AND DAVID G. EMBRICK
    • READING 4.3 Colorstruck BY MARGARET HUNTER
    • READING 4.4 The White Supremacy Flower: A Model for Understanding Racism BY HEPHZIBAH V. STRMIC-PAWL
    • READING 4.5 Family Law, Feminist Legal Theory, and the Problem of Racial Hierarchy BY TWILA L. PERRY
    • HIGHLIGHT: Yes, All White People Are Racists— Now Let’s Do Something About It BY TIM DONOVAN, ALTERNET
    • READING 5.1 The American Dream of Meritocracy BY HEATHER BETH JOHNSON
    • READING 5.2 Racial Orders in American Political Development BY DESMOND S. KING AND ROGERS M. SMITH
    • READING 5.3 Migration and Residential Segregation BY JOHN ICELAND
    • READING 5.4 “White, Young, Middle Class”: Aesthetic Labor, Race and Class in the Youth Labor Force BY YASEMIN BESEN-CASSINO
    • READING 5.5 Why Both Social Structure and Culture Matter in a Holistic Analysis of Inner-City Poverty BY WILLIAM JULIUS WILSON
    • HIGHLIGHT: Nine Charts About Wealth Inequality in America BY THE URBAN INSTITUTE
    • READING 6.1 The Revolution Will Not Be Available on iTunes: Racial Perspectives BY DUSTIN KIDD
    • READING 6.2 Racial Exclusion in the Online World BY REBECCA J. WEST AND BHOOMI THAKORE
    • READING 6.3 Fear Of A Black Athlete: Masculinity, Politics and The Body BY BEN CARRINGTON
    • READING 6.4 The Native American Experience: Racism and Mascots in Professional Sports BY KRYSTAL BEAMON
    • HIGHLIGHT: Pop Culture’s Black Lives Matter Moment Couldn’t Come at a Better Time BY STEVEN W. THRASHER, THE GUARDIAN
    • READING 7.1 The State of Our Education BY TERENCE FITZGERALD
    • READING 7.2 The Immigration Industrial Complex BY TANYA GOLASH-BOZA
    • READING 7.3 Evading Responsibility for Green Harm: State Corporate Exploitation of Race, Class, and Gender Inequality BY EMILY GAARDER
    • HIGHLIGHT: 5 Links Between Higher Education and the Prison Industry BY HANNAH K. GOLD, ROLLING STONE
    • READING 8.1 Liminality in the Multiracial Experience: Towards a Concept of Identity Matrix BY DAVID L. BRUNSMA, DANIEL J. DELGADO, AND KERRY ANN ROCKQUEMORE
    • READING 8.2 Race and the New Bio-Citizen BY DOROTHY ROBERTS
    • READING 8.3 A Post-Racial Society? BY KATHLEEN FITZGERALD
    • READING 9.1 The Problem of The Twentieth Century is The Problem of The Color Line BY W.E.B. DU BOIS
    • READING 9.2 The Optimism of Uncertainty BY HOWARD ZINN
    • READING 9.3 Why We Still Need Affirmative Action BY ORLANDO PATTERSON
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Science, Sexuality, and Race in the United States and Australia, 1780–1940 Revised Edition

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Oceania, United States on 2017-07-05 12:57Z by Steven

Science, Sexuality, and Race in the United States and Australia, 1780–1940 Revised Edition

University of Nebraska Press
516 pages
7 illustrations, 1 table, index
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8032-9591-9

Gregory D. Smithers, Associate Professor of History
Virginia Commonwealth University

Science, Sexuality, and Race in the United States and Australia, 1780–1940, Revised Edition is a sociohistorical tour de force that examines the entwined formation of racial theory and sexual constructs within settler colonialism in the United States and Australia from the Age of Revolution to the Great Depression. Gregory D. Smithers historicizes the dissemination and application of scientific and social-scientific ideas within the process of nation building in two countries with large Indigenous populations and shows how intellectual constructs of race and sexuality were mobilized to subdue Aboriginal peoples.

Building on the comparative settler-colonial and imperial histories that appeared after the book’s original publication, this completely revised edition includes two new chapters. In this singular contribution to the study of transnational and comparative settler colonialism, Smithers expands on recent scholarship to illuminate both the subject of the scientific study of race and sexuality and the national and interrelated histories of the United States and Australia.

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That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia [Smithers Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Virginia on 2016-12-16 00:50Z by Steven

That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia [Smithers Review]

Journal of American History
Volume 103, Issue 3, December 2016
pages 742-743
DOI: 10.1093/jahist/jaw364

That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia By Arica L. Coleman. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013. xxiv, 300 pp. $45.00.)

Gregory D. Smithers, Associate Professor of History
Virginia Commonwealth University

Few Virginians have negatively affected the Old Dominion more than Walter Ashby Plecker. In his role as registrar of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, a position he held from 1912 to 1946, Plecker oversaw a campaign to preserve the racial “purity” of Virginia’s white population and divide African Americans, Native Americans, and Caucasians along a black-white binary. To that end, Plecker was not only evangelical in his calls for the separation of the races but was also one of the founding members of the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America and, with John Powell and Earnest Sevier Cox, played a pivotal role…

Read or purchase the review here.

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The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity by Gregory D. Smithers (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-08-15 15:35Z by Steven

The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity by Gregory D. Smithers (review)

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Volume 47, Number 2, Autumn 2016
pages 241-242

Tyler Boulware, Associate Professor of History
West Virginia University

The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity. By Gregory D. Smithers (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2015) 368 pp. $40.00

Scholars have studied the Cherokee from many angles, ranging from political, diplomatic, and economic histories to interdisciplinary explorations of race, gender, class, and kinship. Smithers offers a new take on the history of the Cherokee, their experiences as a diasporic people. Focusing on the years between 1756 and 1945, and largely unfolding in linear fashion, The Cherokee Diaspora underscores the importance of migration and settlement. The pressures of settler colonialism prompted many of the Cherokee in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to relocate to different areas of the Southeast, while others moved farther afield beyond the Mississippi River. This vanguard of migration to the West, Smithers argues, occurred on an unprecedented scale, only to be eclipsed by near wholesale displacement during the removal crisis. Migration and resettlement continued thereafter, as individuals, families, and kin groups scattered across the United States during the Civil War—the subsequent period of allotment and assimilation—and later during the termination and relocation era of the twentieth century.

Regardless of era or destination, the Cherokee in diaspora sought to maintain a distinct sense of themselves. Critical to this endeavor was the rise of the Cherokee nation-state and the multiracial elites who, though often splintered, sought to protect Cherokee peoples and lands. What emerged, Smithers writes, was Cherokee attachment to a new political homeland, the Cherokee Nation in present day Oklahoma, and an ancestral homeland in the southern Appalachians (which also served as a political homeland for the Eastern Band Cherokee). The post-removal political homeland was especially important because it gave the Cherokee across the continent a “political focal point on which to fix their allegiance” (116).

A major sub-theme of the book is how these two homelands became important to Cherokee identity, particularly legal identity, and how Cherokee leaders struggled to define citizenship. This issue assumed greater urgency during and after the Civil War as a shrinking territorial base became threatened by “intruders,” many of whom claimed Cherokee citizenship. Forced “to determine who was and was not Cherokee,” officials enacted laws and erected bureaucratic impediments to inhibit the path to citizenship (175). Smithers notes that race often played a critical factor in deciding the fate of citizenship applications, resulting in many “African Cherokees” being denied both citizenship and a legitimate claim to Cherokee identity (222).

The Cherokee Diaspora covers its extended chronology well, treating removal as only one moment (albeit a traumatic one) of a longer diasporic history and converging the Eastern Band and Cherokee Nation into a singular analysis. Smithers draws upon an array of scholarship and extensive archival research to explore the interconnected concepts of migration, memory, and identity. Interdisciplinary approaches influence the work, but Smithers’ methodology is squarely grounded in the field of history. Scholars from other disciplines will find much to like in this book, but they would also expect more. Anthropologists, for instance, would require such a study to be informed by ethnographic field-work and a consideration of contemporary Cherokee voices, thereby making the work more of an “indigenous history.” They would want to know more the contribution of clan membership and identity to a sense of belonging throughout this long era of migration and resettlement. Nevertheless, Smithers provides a nuanced and convincing analysis of the Cherokee diaspora. His account, at its essence, is “a story of how the Cherokee became a diasporic people, and continued to be Cherokee” (24). It is a story well worth telling…

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Do You Have a Cherokee in Your Family Tree?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2015-10-19 20:14Z by Steven

Do You Have a Cherokee in Your Family Tree?

History News Network
George Mason University

Gregory D. Smithers, Associate Professor of History
Virginia Commonwealth University

Gregory D. Smithers is an Associate Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity (Yale University Press, 2015).

Each fall I teach an undergraduate course titled “Native Americans in the South.” The class is designed for juniors and combines historical narrative with analysis of specific events and/or Native American people in the Southeast. On the first day of class I begin by asking students why they’re taking the course and inquire if any have Native American ancestors. This year proved typical: five of forty students claimed they are descended from a great-great Cherokee grandmother.

I’ve become so use to these declarations that I’ve long ceased questioning students about the specifics of their claims. Their imagined genealogies may simply be a product of family lore, or, as is occasionally the case, a genuine connection to a Cherokee family and community. All of these students – whether their claims are flights of fancy or grounded in written and oral evidence – are part of a growing number of Americans who insist they are descended from one or more Cherokee ancestor(s)…

According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of Americans who self-identify as Cherokee or mixed-race Cherokee has grown substantially over the past two decades. In 2000, the federal Census reported that 729,533 Americans self-identified as Cherokee. By 2010, that number increased, with the Census Bureau reporting that 819,105 Americans claiming at least one Cherokee ancestor. The Census Bureau’s decision to allow Americans to self-identify as belonging to one or more racial/ethnic group(s) has meant that “Cherokee” has become by far the most popular self-ascribed Native American identity. “Navajo” is a distant second…

Read the entire article here.

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The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-10-19 19:02Z by Steven

The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity

Yale University Press
368 pages
17 b/w illustrations
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Cloth ISBN: 9780300169607

Gregory D. Smithers, Associate Professor of History
Virginia Commonwealth University

The Cherokee are one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States, with more than three hundred thousand people across the country claiming tribal membership and nearly one million people internationally professing to have at least one Cherokee Indian ancestor. In this revealing history of Cherokee migration and resettlement, Gregory Smithers uncovers the origins of the Cherokee diaspora and explores how communities and individuals have negotiated their Cherokee identities, even when geographically removed from the Cherokee Nation headquartered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the author transports the reader back in time to tell the poignant story of the Cherokee people migrating throughout North America, including their forced exile along the infamous Trail of Tears (1838–39). Smithers tells a remarkable story of courage, cultural innovation, and resilience, exploring the importance of migration and removal, land and tradition, culture and language in defining what it has meant to be Cherokee for a widely scattered people.

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The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880–1930; and Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans [Smithers Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2014-03-08 06:33Z by Steven

The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880–1930; and Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans [Smithers Review]

The Journal of American History
Volume 100, Issue 4 (March 2014)
pages 1222-1224
DOI: 10.1093/jahist/jau065

Gregory D. Smithers, Associate Professor of History
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia

Jolie A. Sheffer, The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2013. xiv, 233 pp. Cloth, $72.00. Paper, $24.95.) Emily Epstein Landau, Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013. xviii, 310 pp. $39.95.)

Since the global financial crisis in 2008 there has been a lot of discussion in newspapers and among historians about the resurgence of economic history. Major university presses have initiated book series devoted to the history of capitalism, while college classrooms across the country reportedly fill with students eager to learn about the past heroics and/or misdeeds of bankers, entrepreneurs, and Wall Street insiders. This turn in historical scholarship has productive potential, for while history is often written about the deceased, it is written for the living so they might better understand the world in which they live. At the same time, the renewed prominence that economic histories now enjoy also has the potential to sideline (and silence) the histories of racial and ethnic minorities, women, and the working classes.

In this context, Jolie A. Sheffer’s The Romance of Race and Emily Epstein Landau’s Spectacular Wickedness are welcome interventions in historical scholarship. Sheffer, whose focus is on the intersecting literary categories of incest and miscegenation, and Landau, who provides a detailed historical examination of the New Orleans vice district of Storyville, demonstrate how understanding the complex and interconnected histories of race, gender, and sexuality remains critical to comprehending the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. In an era dominated by corrupt politicians and…

Read or purchase the review of both books here.

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Challenging a Pan-African Identity: The Autobiographical Writings of Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, and Caryl Phillips

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2014-01-14 01:49Z by Steven

Challenging a Pan-African Identity: The Autobiographical Writings of Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, and Caryl Phillips

Journal of American Studies
Volume 45, Issue 3 (August 2011)
pages 483-502
DOI: 10.1017/S0021875810002410

Gregory D. Smithers, Visiting Associate Professor of History
Virginia Commonwealth University

In her 1986 book All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Maya Angelou reflected on the meaning of identity among the people of the African diaspora. A rich and highly reflective memoir, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes recounted the author’s experiences, relationships, and quest for a sense of individual and collective belonging throughout the African diaspora. At the core of Angelou’s quest for individual and collective identity lay Africa, a continent whose geography and history loomed large in her very personal story, and in her efforts to create a sense of “kinship” among people of African descent throughout the world. Starting with Maya Angelou’s All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, this essay considers the significance of “Africa” as a geographical site, political space, and constantly reimagined history in the formation of black identity in the travel writings of black diaspora authors since the 1980s. I compare Angelou’s work with that of the Hawaiian-born President of the United States Barack Obama, whose Dreams from My Father (1995) offered personal self-reflections and critiques of the African diaspora from a Pacific world perspective. In Obama’s rendering of African diasporic identity, Africa has become “an idea more than an actual place.” Half a decade later, and half a world away, the Caribbean-born Afro-Britain Caryl Phillips published The Atlantic Sound (2000), an account of African diasporic identity that moved between understanding, compassion, and a harsh belief that Africa cannot take on the role of a psychologist’s couch, that “Africa cannot cure.” These three memoirs offer insight into the complex and highly contested nature of identity throughout the African diaspora, and present very personalized reflections on the geography, politics, and history of Africa as a source of identity and diasporic belonging. Taken together, these three personal narratives represent a challenge to the utility of a transnational black identity that Paul Gilroy suggested in his landmark book The Black Atlantic.

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Post-Raciality or a Re-Imagining of Whiteness: an Interview with Clarence E. Walker

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Communications/Media Studies, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-11-28 05:12Z by Steven

Post-Raciality or a Re-Imagining of Whiteness: an Interview with Clarence E. Walker

Platform: Journal of Media and Communication
Volume 3, Issue 1, Media and “Race” (April 2011)
pages 26-34
ISSN: 1836-5132

Sandy Watson, University of Melbourne, Australia

Clarence Walker is recognised as one of the leading historians of American race relations, and is noted for his advocacy of critical historical analysis of race relations and discourses as a way of understanding the present. Walker has written widely on issues relating to black American history, including five books covering variously race and politics (2009), race and the national imaginary (2010); Afrocentrism and discourses of black Africanism (2001, 1999) and the history of nineteenth century black religion (1982).


Walker’s most recent work, with Gregory Smithers, explores the emergence of discourses of post-raciality during the 2008 United States election campaign (Walker and Smithers 2009) where Walker argued that the historical superficiality of journalism exacerbates racial tensions rather than creating greater cultural understanding on racial issues (2009, p. 39). In this interview, he discusses the applicability of what he describes as reactionary discourses (that of post-raciality, colour blindness and colour neutrality) in the context of shifting media usage and tensions arising from perceived challenges to the dominant, white-centred national imaginary.

The critique of white-centred accounts of history has been central to Walker’s recent work, and was the subject of his compelling book Mongrel Nation (2010), in which he argues for the need to recognise the interracial founding of the United States. The book contextualises the controversy surrounding 1990s claims that Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s Founding Fathers, had one or more children in an interracial relationship with a slave girl called Sally Heming. These accounts were refuted heatedly by segments of academia who pointed to Jefferson’s documented concern about the dangers of amalgamation as an indication of the unlikely nature of his having an interracial affair. Walker argues persuasively and with historical force that such refutations need to be contextualised as reactionary discourses within a history of white-centred historicising and imagining of the national identity in the United States…

PLATFORM: The idea that American society is post-racial gained renewed ascendancy with Barack Obama’s election as the first (self-identifying) black President of the United States. However, narratives of post-race have been circulating in the US since the Civil Rights Act (1964). Can you elaborate on the nuances between narratives such as post-raciality, colour-blindness and race neutrality as a basis for informing analysis of their presence in political and media debates over the past two years?

Clarence Walker: In my view these are all reactionary movements. They are constructed around an attempt to efface race as a site of conflict in the American past and present. To say that one is colour-blind rather than colour-conscious is to say that you see something in someone that you don’t want to see, that is their colour. It’s also to say that you think that these issues are somewhat superficial and that if we want to wish them away we can. You can see this in the whole construction of Asians as some kind of model minority here because they’re successful academically and economically, at least in some sectors of the population. You can also see it in the hysteria over immigration with the arrival of large numbers of Spanish-speaking people over recent years.

It is the case in America that most white people do not want to talk about race. They prefer to think that the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has effaced the racial problem, and that if there is a racial problem here it is because black people are basically angry or have refused to accept this new reality in which race is no longer a problem. But if race is no longer a problem, then why are there so many young black men between the ages of 18 and 25 including Mexicans also in American prisons? They constitute approximately one and a half million of two million people in American prisons.

Yet the Obama election was very much a racial election, despite these discourses of post-raciality. It was racial in the sense that it required white people to overcome their historical animosity towards the idea of a successful black candidate. I tend to think that up until the leaking to the media of the sermons of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, as Gregory Smithers and I discuss in The Preacher and The Politician, there was little attention to the fact on the part of many white Americans that Barack Obama was black. In the case of black Americans there was great suspicion of him because he was not associated with the two historically defining moments of black American history, one being of course the question of slavery and Jim Crow, the other being the Civil Rights Movement. It was only when Jeremiah Wright’s comments were leaked and it came out that Obama was associated with this Church which was part of a Christian black nationalist movement, a particular congregation that was Afro-centric and black nationalist, that attention started to be paid to the fact that Obama was black. This led to speculation about whether Obama therefore might have a subtext of black militancy that he wasn’t talking about. This was one of the signature moments in terms of race becoming part of the election debate.

The Obama presidency has if not reignited the other being the issues about race and colour then certainly shown that they haven’t gone away. In many ways the emergence of this black man as the President of the United States is comparable to the emergence of prominent Jews in France and Germany and the political and cultural life of those countries in the nineteenth century. There were elements in those societies who were opposed to Jewish civil and political equality just as there are elements in this country who feared the election of Obama or any black person as the President of the United States.

The discourse of post-racialism which emerged in relation to the 2008 campaign was itself really a product of the chattering classes, by that I mean the media commentators and academics who talked about the ‘Obama moment’ as the post-racial moment. For example, I teach a course called the History of Race in America here at the University of California and I have just finished teaching 80 undergraduates. I have talked about this subject in the way I have done for the 37 years of my career in that I don’t mince words and I am very direct about what I want to say. Many of my students find this very disturbing because their views have been shaped by the media and some of them were very resistant to the notion that this in fact was not a post-racial society because we had a black president and that because he was of mixed race nobody talked about the fact that he had a white mother. I said to my students, “How would his history have been different if his mother was black and his father white rather than the other way around?” It had never occurred to them that this would have created a different historical narrative and a different historical actor, and one whom many white people in this country would never have voted for because his cultural experience rather than being that of a white working class family would have been that of a black family…

PLATFORM: I’d like to return to a consistent theme in your work, that of the argument that a critical appraisal of historiography is vital in understanding contemporary debates and discourses on race. In Mongrel Nation you particularly emphasised the resistance of historians and others to the notion of an interracial founding of America rather than the dominant constructions of whiteness that have underpinned renderings of history in the US. This was in relation to claims that Thomas Jefferson fathered one or more children in an interracial relationship with Sally Hemings. How can this historical perspective inform our understanding of the role of discourses such as post-racialism?

CW: In the national imaginary up until recently the United States was historically imagined by historians as purely a white nation. This is changing with the work of the very distinguished historian Annette Gordon Reed and others, as well as in my work, where you see a rethinking of the American past that is more in line with what the country was like in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and what it is like today. The resistance to this arises out of the fact that it is very hard for some people, older people in particular, to think of the United States as anything other than ‘whiteland’ or ‘whitetopia’ and the fact that they refuse to come to grips with this. You see this most clearly in their hostility to Barack Obama. His election is something that is contrary to fact. If this is a white nation then what is it doing with a “coloured” president? And if this is a white nation, then what does it mean for the future? It means that we will have an Asian president, it means that we may even have a Muslim president, we may even have a woman president, and I hope we do. It’s not just that every generation writes history according to its own desires but that there has to be a recognition in the United States that although it was the product of white colonial settlers that the country did not remain white very long…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Preacher and the Politician: Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and Race in America

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2011-10-21 21:43Z by Steven

The Preacher and the Politician: Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and Race in America

University of Virginia Press
October 2009
160 pages
5 1/2x 81/4
Cloth ISBN: 0-8139-2886-9

Clarence E. Walker, Professor of History
University of California, Davis

Gregory D. Smithers, Visiting Associate Professor of History
Virginia Commonwealth University

Barack Obama’s inauguration as the first African American president of the United States has caused many commentators to conclude that America has entered a postracial age. The Preacher and the Politician argues otherwise, reminding us that, far from inevitable, Obama’s nomination was nearly derailed by his relationship with Jeremiah Wright, the outspoken former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago. The media storm surrounding Wright’s sermons, the historians Clarence E. Walker and Gregory D. Smithers suggest, reveals that America’s fraught racial past is very much with us, only slightly less obvious.

With meticulous research and insightful analysis, Walker and Smithers take us back to the Democratic primary season of 2008, viewing the controversy surrounding Wright in the context of key religious, political, and racial dynamics in American history. In the process they expose how the persistence of institutional racism, and racial stereotypes, became a significant hurdle for Obama in his quest for the presidency.

The authors situate Wright’s preaching in African American religious traditions dating back to the eighteenth century, but they also place his sermons in a broader prophetic strain of Protestantism that transcends racial categories. This latter connection was consistently missed or ignored by pundits on the right and the left who sought to paint the story in simplistic, and racially defined, terms. Obama’s connection with Wright gave rise to criticism that, according to Walker and Smithers, sits squarely in the American political tradition, where certain words are meant to incite racial fear, in the case of Obama with charges that the candidate was unpatriotic, a Marxist, a Black Nationalist, or a Muslim.

Once Obama became the Democratic nominee, the day of his election still saw ballot measures rejecting affirmative action and undermining the civil rights of other groups. The Preacher and the Politician is a concise and timely study that reminds us of the need to continue to confront the legacy of racism even as we celebrate advances in racial equality and opportunity.

Table of  Contents

  • “They Didn’t Give Us Our Mule and Our Acre”: Introduction
  • “The “Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost”: Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and the Black Church
  • “I Don’t Want People to Pretend I’m Not Black”: Barack Obama and America’s Racial History
  • “To Choose Our Better History?” Epilogue
  • Text of Barack Obama’s March 18, 2008, Speech on Race
  • Notes
  • Index
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