Synopses of Other Important Works
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Synopses of Other Important Works Whiteness as Property: Cheryl Harris In a long, groundbreaking law review article (106 Harvard Law Review 1707), Chicago-Kent law professor Cheryl Harris investigates the relationship between race and property. "Whiteness as Property," published in 1993, examines how whiteness, which began as a form of racial identity, evolved into a property interest for those who were able to bring themselves under its definition. Professor Harris shows how the origins of whiteness as a property interest lie in systems of domination by whites of colored peoples, principally Native Americans and blacks. Then, over time, whiteness became a sort of asset , like a ranch or money in the bank. Whiteness and property have a common quality or premise, namely, the right to exclude. These features enabled white identity to become the basis of a system of privilege that allocates social benefits, one that in turn became legitimated in law as a kind of status property. The law never repudiated this property-like quality of whiteness, but merely transformed it in cases like Plessy and Brown. Moreover, recent affirmative action cases mask the privileging of whiteness in the guise of enshrining the current situation as a neutral baseline. Professor Harris argues that focusing on distortions created by the implicit equation of property and whiteness helps us understand civil rights progress and regression. It also helps us understand what is at stake when we categorize by race. Finally, it opens alternative perspectives on the affirmative action debate. From the Editors: Issues and Comments If you are white, how do you see your own race? Since you are reading this book, presumably you have an interest in what it means to be white. What is your concept of whiteness: A race? An ethnic group? An interest group? If you are white, do you identify more as white, or as a member of a subgroup, such as Italian, Jewish, or Teutonic? Which one of the many views of whiteness set out in this part comes closest to yours? If you are nonwhite (e.g., black or Chicano), how do you see whiteness? Do you think most white people see themselves that way? Do you agree with Cheryl Harris that whiteness is a kind of property, or asset, that has Copyrighted Material ...


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