From the Editors: Issues and Comments
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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 Suggested Readings 47 almost a monetary worth? Suppose that one day you, a white person, receive a phone call from a representative of the government advising you that a terrible mistake had been made: You were supposed to have been born black. It will now be necessary to rectify that mistake-a painless operation will be performed, at no expense to you, that will transform you into an African-American. The government is prepared, however, to compensate you for its mistake. How much would you want? Professor Andrew Hacker reports that he has asked this very question of his classes over the years and that the answers given have remained stable-one million dollars a year. (See Andrew Hacker, Two Nations, cited in full in the selected readings for Part 1.) Suggested Readings Aleinikoff, T. Alexander, A Case for Race-Consciousness, 91 COLUM. L. REV. 1060 (1991). Appiah, Anthony, The Conservation of "Race," 23 BLACK AM. LIT. F. 36 (1989). Bonnett, Alastair, "White Studies ": The Problems and Projects of a New Research Agenda, 13 THEORY, CULTURE AND SOCIETY 145 (1996). Citron, Abraham, THE "RIGHTNESS OF WHITENESS": THE WORLD OF THE WHITE CHILD IN ASEGREGATED SOCIETY (1971). Delgado, Richard, The Imperial Scholar: Reflections on a Review of Civil Rights Literature , 132 U. PA. L. REV. 561 (1984). Dudziak, Mary L., Desegregation as a Cold War Imperative, 41 STAN. L. REV. 61 (1988). Fredrickson, George, WHITE SUPREMACY: A COMPARATIVE STUDY IN AMERICAN AND SOUTH AFRICAN HISTORY (1981). Hacker, Andrew, Two NATIONS: BLACK AND WHITE, SEPARATE, HOSTILE, UNEQUAL (1992). IMPACTS OF RACISM ON WHITE AMERICANS (B. Bowser and R. Hunt, eds., 1981). Stowe, David W., Uncolored People: The Rise of Whiteness Studies, LINGUA FRANCA, Sept.!Oct. 1996: 68-77. Warren, Donald 1., White Americans as a Minority, TELOS, Summer 1995: 127. Copyrighted Material ...