Various Thoughts on Modernity and Race

  • Reading early modern literature really lets you know how firmly rooted some ideas are…and how often we are not even asking right questions.
  • We be talking about solutions when we not even 100% clear about the problem.
  • Others who only talk about problems, not even knowing that their incessant problematizing doesn’t even talk about the right problem.
  • Then there are those who quote Du Bois’s “problem” thinking it’s shorthand for their pedantic considerations of race.
  • The “problem of the color line” was not meant to invoke some sense of there not being enough Black programmers at Google.
  • For those who want to work on those issues, Godspeed. I have no real quarrel with you.
  • But you must admit, there are larger issues. Bigger than those small minded attempts to solve race using the Enlightenment.
  • There’s this notion of radical Enlightenment that scholars assert was also antislavery. And they hold out this example as the reason we might tie humanity’s future to these ideas. Even if it’s that’s true, you’re talking about people who had to  convince people that they shouldn’t reduce other humans to chattel. You had to say it. It wasn’t normative. And even then, it was “radical.” How about that.
  • Lot of traditions of antislavery (see Martin Delany’s critique) are much like neoliberal antiracism. Not this was wrong from outset, but how do we fix something that might destroy us. Hell, neoliberal antiracism doesn’t even go that far.
  • Europe is a constellation of ideas. Not a continent.
  • Hegemony means that there is a natural sense that knowledge in order to be such must pass through this constellation of ideas.
  • And if that be so, then naturally our programs for human amelioration, our resistance, too must past through it.
  • This is was what disciplines train us to think. Except in our hearts we know that’s not true.
  • So there’s this long tradition of non-Westerners problematizing Western-derived knowledge. Too many of them lack imagination to do more than problematize. So we remain stuck. Others give up. Some join the opposition. But some of us are brave.
  • Some of us refuse to concede that idea that we can know on our terms. Cedric Robinson writes about them.
  • All that is preface to this: So when I read about Roland Martin’s “solution” to the violence in Chicago, my mind does not go to some Jamesian notion of pragmatism. It goes to the fact that the very event of “Blackness” in the modern world was a theater of violence. We can’t escape it.
  • Until we decide to.
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