No Race Talk for a Month

Race Cardologists (those pundits who disparage others for unscrupulously leading with “the race card” whenever they play the game of American cultural politics) have been howling extra loudly these days, declaiming Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration and Obama himself and the liberal media (and ostensibly anybody else who deigns to see race/racism at all, ever) for crying (racial) wolf.

Obama was supposed to move us beyond race, the argument goes, but he’s only made us more racially polarized. If minorities (and the guilt-ridden white liberals who indulge them) would just stop trafficking in race-based victimization, they might be able to see that racism is the least of anybody’s problems.

There are many versions of this kind of would-be post-racialism, versions to be found on both ends of the political spectrum.

I remember when a group of graduate students, myself included, brought literary critic Walter Benn Michaels to Columbia University in the mid-1990s (for a conference on “passing”), and he made a similar (though differently motivated) request that students disavow their commitments to “race” as an effective way of analyzing and organizing social life. For WBM, it is all about “class,” and he is particularly skeptical of “anti-essentialist” scholars who challenge race’s biological/genetic legitimacy while holding onto its social and political significance (under the guise of “social constructionism”). Once we stop being duped by identity politicians, we can start mobilizing around the objective material interests that unite and divide us.

The right wing’s current anti-racialism is indebted to a comparable position. If people would stop pandering to the rhetorics of race/racism, we could all organize ourselves as patriotic Americans around our common interest in attacking the Communist/Socialist/Islamicist anti-Americanism of President Obama. Nevermind that the Glenn Becks and the Rush Limbaughs seem to be talking their race talk more than just about anyone else on the planet, albeit under the guise of an anti-race critique. Or that Dr. Laura appears to have a race fetish like nobody’s business. (Apt here, Michel Foucault’s take on the ironic efflorescences of sex talk that flow directly from purported attempts at suppression.)

Still, I’ll take the bait.

For the next 40 days, until October rolls around, I will try my hand at not talking about race or racism at all. In fact, I will try my best not to see race/racism anywhere. It’ll take discipline, but I won’t even think about it (if I can help it).

With Reality TV as inspiration, I’ll make a public display of my efforts. In the spirit of something like Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary Super Size Me, where he spends a month eating nothing but McDonald’s fast food, I will spend a month (and a few more days) not seeing race/racism under any circumstances, no matter what.

Of course, given my pledge, I can’t directly blog about this quest. I’ll just have to show my progress by writing about anything but race. The weather. Bad TV. Non-racial readings of the Tea Party. You name it.

When I hear other people discussing race/racism, I’ll try to change the topic, or excuse myself from the conversation. When I read about race in a magazine or newspaper, I’ll focus on a sub-theme from the article, or simply stop reading. Whenever racism comes into my own head, I’ll banish it immediately.

Who will join me? And what will we prove? What might we learn? Will it edify us as enlightened post-racial gurus? Let’s see. Super Size me! I mean, eracefy me!

No more race talk for a month. Join the movement!

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