Below, we are collecting pieces that we feel reflect Exploring Race's mission. We are constantly looking for recommendations- if you have a suggestion (this can take the form of an article, but also a podcast, video, etc), please email email@example.com.
Jess Row, White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination
In this essay collection published in 2019, Row undertakes a crucial exploration of whiteness. Row argues that America has erased and denied its history, an act that he links to the pervasive idea of whiteness as something that is neutral and harmless, as something that can fall away to allow for deracinated and de-racialized writing. In this vein, Row traces a persistent "language of whiteness" that permeates canonical American works of authors such as Annie Dillard and David Foster Wallace; this "language of whiteness" is an unconscious way of engaging with race, partly through avoiding it altogether. Row believes this is connected to "racial melancholia"- the unfulfilled desire by white Americans to confront their own history and identity. Because America has been unable to reconcile with its history, America doesn't understand its history and so doesn't understand its identity. A few questions to consider while reading the piece: How do we learn to think counter-institutionally? And how do we recognize racial melancholia?
Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations”
Find the article here: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/
This article, written by Coates for the Atlantic in 2014, synthesizes nearly three hundred years of American history to show readers how “historical” institutions such as slavery, Jim Crow, and racist housing policies continue to affect Black people in America today. This history is largely based in Chicago, and is told partly through the experiences of 91-year-old Clyde Ross. In particular, the article’s comprehensive analysis of the relationship between the American economy and Black Americans unearths how capitalism has shaped the country’s racial and economic status quo, and how financial institutions such as Wells Fargo and the Bank of America have propagated America's racist history. The article ends with Coates’ measured call for reparations, placed in light of an unavoidable reality-- the fact that “we cannot escape our history.”
Hua Hsu, “The Stories We Tell, And Don’t Tell About Asian-American Lives”
Hsu’s article, found in the New Yorker, is in fact a book review of “Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans”. This book, written by psychotherapist Shinhee Han and English professor David Eng, unites one of the most economically divided racial groups in America by analysing its shared experiences of racial melancholia and alienation. In his book review, Hsu identifies a shared feeling of “otherness” that Asian Americans often have difficulty articulating -- he suggests that language plays an important role in defining and getting out of this racial state, even if the language used isn’t completely accurate. As Hsu states: “Identity isn’t a prescriptive solution...It’s a step towards imagining lives that we might be the authors of, with endings that we write ourselves.”