Postmodern Racism

In the United States, racial segregation was once justified to protect “whites,” now, with California State University as an example, racial segregation is justified to protect “blacks.” This is not to claim that there is something like “reverse racism” going on. On the contrary, what I want to highlight is the way ideological distortion functions to make the same situation – racial segregation – appear entirely different. Let us compare: first, whites have their own safe spaces (washrooms, classrooms, etc) from blacks to protect them from the invasion of decadence. The softening of the effect of this reality was to claim “separate but equal” status; second, today, blacks are said to have their own safe space to protect them from racism, build solidarity, etc.

If, in the first case, whites had the choice of segregation, then, in the second choice, blacks have the choice for segregation. So, what is the difference? The second choice is all the more racist and ruthless precisely because it shifts the choice onto the blacks for the segregation. Let us take the example that Zizek provides of the “modern” versus the “postmodern” father. The “modern” father orders the child to go to his grandmother. The result is that the child goes to his grandmother but retains an object of excuse, an object of hatred, an object of blame: the father. The way toward freedom is simply to overthrow or kill the father. But the “postmodern” father accepts the child’s choice to go to the grandmother. What is the consequence? If the child chooses to go to the grandmother then the same result is effected. But if the child chooses not to go then he has only to blame himself and live with the consequences: guilt. The “postmodern” father is therefore a much more effective and brutal authoritarian.

Is this not exactly what we see now playing out on the field of American racial politics? Here we have racial segregation in either case. If blacks do not freely choose to be segregated into their own “safe spaces” then they are nonetheless subjected to intensified racism. So, truthfully, segregation is here not a choice at all. If they choose to be segregated into safe spaces then the result is that they have participated in precisely the sort of racial segregation that American society has been built upon. The choice is therefore not one between segregation or integration – just as, in politics, the choice is not between revolution or reform. The problem runs much deeper than all of this: we must make a choice toward insurrection, that is, toward the uprooting of the racist ideology which exists deep within the unconscious of American civilization. The only way to do that, unfortunately, is to accept that it happened, that we are responsible for it, and that, finally, it won’t be easy to work through toward a solution.

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One thought on “Postmodern Racism

  1. that doesnt seem to be much of a solution beyond a word. i’ve known many subgroups or cultures who self-segregegate at various times for various reasons (based on ‘race’, religion, interests—eg political subgroups including things like ecology dietary or sexual or artisitic preferences , age groups (kids spaces, senior spaces) , intellectual interests or competency (eg hierarchies of academic courses between pre-k and grad school) etc. ) . i dont think any of these is (say, ‘per se’, whatever that means) better, worse, or more or less justified than any other way of creating borders or categories . i’ve known or heard many black people who say they’d rather know an in your face overt racist/white supremacist than one in the closet who claims racial acceptance. i have no position basically on the issue (tho i admit i might segregate myself in many situations and periods from people like zizek since i don’t get nor really trust his ‘culture’; though this was not thge case for the ‘postmodernist’ types i went to college with in general (tho i was in science so i got it second hand) i would say since then the postmodernists i have come acrosss (one claimed to have been derrida’s favorite student) were amongst the most authoritrain people i have come across —if i mentioned some of the critiques of derrida around they’d go into this whole ‘lynch the heretic’ mode (and also, rather than deal with those ideas start going into the various attack modes like straw man arguments, personal attacks, and every kind of pomo grabage they could come up with—-also, usually from a pc-pomo holier than thou/smarter than you moral/intellectual ground (often proudly ‘working class’ people who come from wealthy families and work in upscale restaruants, and want an insurrection too, so long as it doesn’t upset their exclusive, classist, racist and everything esle restaurant job where their millionaire massuh’s tip them well .

    i looked up dingpolitick—came up with bruno latour. i was explaining basic quantum theory (including the math) to a (black) friend/aquainatance last nite—-he doesnt even have a high school degree, and i told him it was easy—just 4 simple equations (i think anyone who graduates high or middle school can easily know). he told me it was confusing. that was my impression of latour’s definition. i probably get it, but i use more often the dialect of physics.
    .

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