Introduction
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Introduction Are you white? (Or, do you have a friend who is?) Ifso, how do you know? Is race real-or is it constructed, an "as-if" concept, something we all agree to bestow on each other? Is it a relational concept, existing only in binary fashion (e.g., black/white), so that if all the people on a tropical island, say, looked pretty much the same, there would be no race or races? Modern-day scientists tell us that whites and blacks have more genes in common than the ones that distinguish them-the variability between the average white and the average black, in genetic makeup and physical appearance, is less than the variability within each group. What then, does it mean to be white-or of any other race, for that matter? This book, a sequel to Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge (Temple University Press, 1995), examines these and related questions, putting whiteness under the lens. It presents the best of an emerging body of scholarship that analyzes what it means to be white, as well as a number of classic works dealing with the white race and its legacy. You will read about upward (and downward) mobility of white and near-white immigrant groups. (The Irish, for example, were at first not considered white, but given a status similar to that of Negroes.) You will also learn about white privilege, the invisible bundle of expectations and courtesies that go along with membership in the dominant race. You will encounter an astonishing argument that law plays a large part in defining who is white, and even in changing the physical features of the American population. You will read about the experience of Judy Scales-Trent, a light-skinned black woman who identifies with the black race but is treated in most daily encounters as a white person, and of a white-looking law school dean who was raised first as a white, then as a black. You will read a deliciously satirical description by Calvin Trillin of racial complainers and "wannabes" who kvetch because others of different hue seem to be getting all the advantages in life. You will encounter the rich, textured analysis of Supreme Court-and public-rhetoric of Thomas Ross, a white Southern writer who shows how such narratives and "stories" as innocence and advantage-taking help us understand the relations between blacks and whites in this country . You will learn about the race-conscious (and the racist) mind, as seen by writers of vastly different persuasions, such as Dinesh D'Souza on the right and Raphael S. Ezekiel on the left. You will come across the ,.one drop" rule, according to which anyone with any trace of black heritage is considered black. Why is there no "one drop" rule for whites, and what does this say about the reality (or lack of it) of race as a concept? What does it say about power? Nobel laureate Toni Morrison tells how whites and blacks systematically misperceive each other. Luther Wright, Jr., asks how we should see multiracial people-those with a black mother and a white father, for example. David Roediger and Noel Ignatiev argue that whiteness has no useful meaning (and sometimes a bad one) and should be abolished. Other writers argue that white consciousness, even white power, is not to be deplored, any more than is consciousness raising and solidarity among women and blacks. Can we get beyond race, and would that be a good idea? A number of our authors imply that it would. One, James W. Gordon, argues that close friendships and even intermarriage may be the way. He suggests that John Marshall Harlan, associate justice of the Supreme Copyrighted Material XVlll Introduction Court and author of the famous dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, may have had a black brother, and that their close relationship while growing up in the antebellum South may have influenced the young justice-to-be to become the passionate race reformer he was in later life. What have science and pseudoscience had to say about race and racial hierarchy? Debates about the supposed superiority of a particular race, prominent in earlier periods of our history, are now being revived. How has the authority of science shaped social and legal attitudes toward whites and nonwhites? Contributors to this book who are both lawyers and social scientists address these questions. Others examine how cultural imagery, language, children's tales (e.g., "Snow White"), songs, and even classical...