Divide and Conquer: The Challenges of Multiracial Politics


To begin, I think it is vital that we acknowledge the need for scholarship that elevates a discussion of race as a primary, if not the primary, terrain upon which power, politics, and culture are contested in U.S. society. In these shamelessly colorblind times, we all benefit from scholarship that places race front and center. Here, of course, I am thinking of “race” as shorthand, useful for telling a broader story that spans multiple differences, including gender, immigration status, and sexuality. For example, I am meditating on the ways in which contemporary capitalism compels the sweatshop labor of Asian and Latina women by drawing upon a combination of “difference”; a high-tech, punitive INS police state; centuries-old patriarchal practices; sexual violence (namely rape); and pseudo-science (the nimble finger and interminable patience of Third World women which make tedious sweatshop labor a “perfect fit”). All of this, taken together, is “Race” to me. So while I will explore some questions and offer critiques based on my reading of chapters four and seven of The Miner’s Canary, I want first to underscore the importance of Race writings at this particular moment, despite some. serious differences over how we might theoretically and strategically understand race politics at the dawn of a new century.

American apartheid runs deep, yet there are many powerful forces hell-bent on eliminating “Race” as a concept altogether. By introducing the term “Political Race,” Guinier and Torres fight to keep the discussion alive and kicking; this is an important goal that I share, and I want to acknowledge that from the outset.

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