I have written an article in the latest Theopolis Conversation on the subject of race, in response to Vincent Bacote. Within it I briefly discuss a few of my concerns about the rhetorical shape of current conversations about race in the US.
It has seemed to me that recent years have witnessed a growing essentializing and ideologizing of racial discourse, as a specific set of discourses of American provenance have been conflated and projected into the world more generally in ways that cannot but prove unhelpful. The gains in rhetorical force have frequently come at the expense of clarity and understanding.
It seems to me that this is in no small measure a result of the abstraction of discourse encouraged by the Internet, on which vague ideological concepts can subsume and efface the particularity and variegation of concrete issues and events (which get rendered as de-particularized symbols of the concepts). Master concepts such as ‘white supremacy’, ‘white privilege’, or ‘whiteness’—concepts in which countless disparate tensions, inequities, and frustrations of myriads of individuals’ and communities’ lives can be agglomerated—may be incredibly low resolution for the purposes of analysis, yet are effective rhetorical tools for mass mobilization and offer catharsis in their naming of pervasive yet rather amorphous realities people feel.
Read the whole thing here.