'Whiteness is on its way out'
Although racism is an intense issue at Bowdoin today, according to Manning Marable, it does not have to be in 20 years. In fact, he says it won't even have to be an issue at all.
"What will it take to deconstruct the concept of race?" asked Marable during his Wednesday lecture in Pickard Theater.
A professor of history and political science at Columbia University and founding director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies, Marable believes that the key to overcoming racism in America starts with effective leadership from young black Americans.
In his lecture "Structural Racism and the Challenge of Black Leadership: The Challenge to Youth Leadership," Marable described the "new racial domain" of the 21st century. Whereas for nearly 100 years blacks experienced structural racism by means of Jim Crow laws, the racism he describes now is much less apparent but just as devastating.
"Colorblind racism," as Marable, described it, is "less overt and articulated in race neutral language. The traditional color line has not vanished but has been reconfigured."
According to Marable, one of the most influential historians and authors of the black experience in America, deep structural barriers have been maintained in America, which he described as the three "p's:" prejudice, power, and privilege of white Americans. As an example of colorblind racism, he told the audience of an incident occurring several years ago in which he became very sick with a high fever.
He and his wife tried to hail down a taxi on Broadway in New York City to go to the hospital. As is the story of so many other blacks, he could not get a taxi to stop for him. "They were actually making U-turns on Broadway...on Broadway," says Marable. Finally, after six cabs refused to pick him up, one finally stopped.
This example was used to illustrate the "perniciousness of day to day racism which is just as powerful as apartheid and Jim Crow laws," Marable said.
Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Marable remembers the difficulty his father had while trying to secure a loan for a nursery school he wanted to establish. "I could never forget that I was black," he said. "Despite our relatively middle class status, we lived in a separate but unequal world."
Marable refers to the stratification between the "haves" and "have-nots" as global apartheid, which can, in his belief, be eradicated. "Neo-liberal globalism is on our side," said Marable, "whiteness is on its way out!"
With the growth of the global economy and culture in general, racism can be done away with for everyone, including other discriminated groups such as Latinos, Asians, and women.
Additionally, Marable believes that part of the reason why racism still exists is because white people deny that America has a race problem.
"The only way to move forward is for white Americans to come to terms with the struggles of blacks and to come to terms with the legacy of slavery," Marable said, reminding the audience that "we built this country," referring to the work that slaves and black manual laborers performed in building examples of American power such as the Washington Monument and the White House.
In terms of leadership, Marable called on young black people to work on what Martin Luther King, Jr. believed would change the racial climate in America; to "bend the moral arc toward justice." Democracy for black people will have to be fought and struggled for but it is still attainable, according to Marable.
"People get the leadership they deserve or demand," Marable said. "We must build new leadership among black people so that we can be the last generation to live under colorblind racism."
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