There is an important difference between identity and identification… …Mistaken identification can put an end to one’s identity by terminating the human being it’s attached to.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-07-10 18:34Z by Steven

“There is an important difference between identity and identification, which Karen and I have talked about in our book Racecraft. Rachel Dolezal was able to define her identity well enough to become what she said she was in her environment, in Spokane. And that’s something available to her partly because of the way that we as a society define who is black and who is not.

Anybody can be black — black is defined as any known or visible ancestry — or “one drop of blood.” So it’s really not based on what you look like, even if you go to the trouble of tanning and wearing a wig and whatnot.

Most Afro Americans don’t have any control over identification. Their identity, how they define themselves, how they perceive themselves, can be overruled by that identification. That’s what happens when we see Afro-American police officers killed by their comrades by mistake. Their identity as a police officer is overruled instantly and fatally because the identification takes precedence.

That’s what happens to people who are visibly Afro American or who are identified that way in our racist society, if not always in so dramatic and terminal a way. Mistaken identification can put an end to one’s identity by terminating the human being it’s attached to.” —Barbara J. Fields

Jason Farbman, “How Race Is Conjured,” Jacobin, (June 29, 2015).

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How Race Is Conjured

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-06-29 22:20Z by Steven

How Race Is Conjured


Karen E. Fields, Independent Scholar

Barbara J. Fields, Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York

Cabs in Albany, GA (1962). Warren K. Leffler / Library of Congress

The fiction of race hides the real source of racism and inequity in America today.

In the three years since Trayvon Martin was killed, the realities of police racism and violence, of segregation from schools to swimming pools, and of the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow have returned to mainstream discussions. And now as Confederate flags disappear in the wake of the murders in Charleston, racism is once again at the center of the popular consciousness.

There is a window, then, for the US left to push a deeper and broader conversation about the implications of racism and to build working-class organizations that fight for social justice for all.

But that opportunity will only be open to the degree we can overcome the ideological legacy of the last three decades. Since the 1980s, structural inequality has been increasingly replaced by personal responsibility as the main explanation for gross inequality. At the same time, attention to persistent and structural racism faded, supplanted by a focus on race and “race relations.”

This could not have been possible without the enshrinement of race as a natural category, the spread of the fiction that certain traits define members of one “race” and differentiate them from members of other races.

No one has better articulated why race cannot serve as the starting point for discussions about inequality in the United States — and what we miss when they are — than Barbara and Karen Fields, authors of the 2012 book Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life.

Barbara and Karen were interviewed for Jacobin last week by Jason Farbman, a member of the International Socialist Organization in New York…

Read the entire interview here.

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