Updated: Jan 6
“I see no reason why I should be consciously wrong today because I was unconsciously wrong yesterday.” – Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, 1948
“How is it possible that I went through high school and college and was never taught this?!”
“It’s horrifying to think that I’d just live the rest of my life ignorant about this if I weren’t learning about it now?!”
“No wonder the world is so ----ed up! We’ve all been taught nonsense about race!”
I’ve been teaching about social identity for a long time now. In the contexts of courses with names such as “The Psychology of Culture & Identity,” “Race, Class & Gender,” “The Meaning of Race,” and “Power, Privilege & Oppression: Parallels, Intersections & Distinctions, I’ve had the privilege and honor of facilitating awareness-raising in students from middle school through masters programs. The particular kind of awareness-raising that was always most poignant for my students was their encounter with their own ignorance and miseducation about race.
The comments quoted above represent the feelings of frustration, dismay, guilt, and anger felt by students upon learning that race is a myth devoid of empirical substance, new in the minds of human beings, and simultaneously the basis of solidarity for some and racism for others. Over the years, the news that race is empirically impossible has reached more and more people through science, academic studies, and even popular media, yet scholarly texts popular media, and people (including students, teachers, and even scientists) tend to maintain a kind of dissociative disorder relationship with the concept of race. More and more people know that race has no biological, genetic, or any other basis in nature, while still acting as if race is a legitimate, meaningful, and necessary way to think about and regard human beings (i.e., despite its lack of reality, race is such a powerful and central reification that we can’t just ignore or reject it).
Intelligent, open-minded people nod their heads in agreement when introduced to the truth about race and then hold their heads when they suffer the cognitive dissonance associated with trying to think about acting on that truth. Using black racialization as an example, questions like these quite naturally arise:
Are you telling me to stop being black? What would that even mean?
Do I have to stop being black and proud?
What about the heritage and solidarity, and joy derived from black identity?
What about the Black Church, HBCUs, and BET?
What about white-identified supremacists who’d be more than happy to see us give up our identity-focused resistance to oppression and - what? - start wandering around like persons without a people?
These are good and fair questions. I observe, however, that often they are not actually real questions, they are objections in the form of questions. They are rhetorical questions that thinly veil the rejection of the idea that anyone should renounce their racial identity and all that goes with it.
There are lots of reasons for this. One is what this post is all about. If all you’ve been taught about our planetary system is that it is geocentric and your entire sense of how to navigate it is based on that orientation, then if presented with the corrective truth that our planetary system is actually heliocentric, well, we know how that went for poor Galileo. Disorienting truths are likely to be resisted. It can take time for new ideas that represent alternatives to old, familiar ideas to grow from strange and scary to clear and compelling.
I’ve been talking with a friend and colleague who’s engaged in a dialogue with some prominent black-identified voices in the discourse on race. My friend is humble and smart enough to always seek perspectives beyond his own when facing challenging dynamics. In this case, he’s making the case to move away from our habit of racialization, and he’s encountering some resistance, to say the least, from the folks he’s talking with – a couple of super sharp and erudite people who playfully and proudly refer to themselves as “the black guys,” and are skeptical about the idea of resigning from racialization.
In watching a video of a dialogue my friend had recently with these folks, I observed that all the references to material and thinkers/writers on race were strictly within the racial worldview – by which I mean the echo chamber of voices that accept (if even only tacitly) that the social construct of race is powerful, relevant, and must be regarded as “real” enough to persist even if we all know it’s based on a reification of a false notion. If all you have is a hammer… If the only worldview you have is the racial worldview…
I suggested to my paradigm-disrupting friend that maybe this dialogue would benefit from providing some material from the nonracial worldview. What a nice opportunity, I realized, to start to curate what I’m calling the Nonracial Worldview Library – which I will admit sounds a bit grandiose even to me, but the grandiosity is ironic, I promise. I’m gesturing with this title to the David and Goliath dynamic between the entire history of the discourse on race being dominated and almost hermetically sealed within the racial worldview on the one hand, and this slingshot offering of a few sources of insight, perspective, and arguments from beyond the racial worldview. It’s a short list at this point, hardly a library but it will keep growing. We are inexorably arching away from the racial worldview. To paraphrase William Gibson (as best we know), the nonracial worldview is already here, it's not evenly distributed.
So, here's the start of the Nonracial Worldview Library! Insert tiny fanfare here. I’m guessing many, most, and maybe all of the resources here will be new to you. If so, that’s more than OK. Here’s your chance to start shifting from unconsciously being wrong about race yesterday to becoming a conscious seeker of corrective information regarding race and renouncing racialization and the racial worldview.
Finally, I don’t usually request feedback on my posts – mostly because I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up but for this one, I have a specific feedback request. If you know of works that both recognize the illegitimacy of the pseudoscientific concept and social construct of race and point the way to a life lived in resistance to racialization and beyond the racial worldview, please send me the information at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be grateful for help filling the stacks of the Nonracial Worldview Library which I'll update continually here.
Introducing the Nonracial Worldview Library
American Anthropological Association Statement on Race. Position Paper
Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks. Frank M. Snowden Jr. Book
Beyond Black: Biracial Identity in America. Kerry Ann Rockquemore. Book
Charting a Course Beyond Racism – Carlos Hoyt. Video
Deracialization Now. Greg Thomas. Essay
Humanae. Angelica Daas. Photography
Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. Asley Montagu. Book
Mean, Kind or Non: Which Type of Racist Are You? Carlos Hoyt. Essay
Non-Racial Identities and World Views. Carlos Hoyt. Video
Race and Mixed-race: A Personal Tour. Rainier Spencer - Essay
Race Debunked in 3 Minutes. Video
Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview. Audrey Smedley, Brian Smedley. Book
Resisting Race & Racialization. Carlos Hoyt. Video
Spurious Issues; Race and Multiracial Identity Politics in the United States. Rainier Spencer. Book
The Arc of a Bad Idea: Understanding and Transcending Race. Carlos Hoyt. Book Readers particularly interested in what it might actually mean to live without race (i.e., beyond the racial worldview and without racialization) are encouraged to read Chapter 6 - Race Without Reification: Pedagogy, Practice, and Policy from the Nonracial Worldview and Chapter 7 - Beyond the Panopticon: Liberating the Tragic Essentialist and Promoting Racial Disobedience
The Concept of Race is a Lie. Peter G. Prontzos. Essay
The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium. Joseph Graves. Book
The Idea of Race. Robert Bernasconi and Tommy L. Lott, Editors – Book
The Pedagogy of the Meaning of Racism: Reconciling a Discordant Discourse. Carlos Hoyt. Essay
The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America. Joseph Graves. Book
The Racialization Process. Carlos Hoyt. Video
Who Is Black: One Nation’s Definition. F. James Davis. Books