Monday, April 23, 2007

Opening or obscuring the discussion around race?

by Rajeev Ravisankar, Research Assistant at the Kirwan Institute

Today, I came across an article about the first integrated prom at Turner County High School in Ashburn, Georgia which took place over this past weekend. According to the article, despite the school being integrated, “white students had raised money for their own unofficial prom and black students did the same to throw their own separate party.” However at the beginning of the school year, four senior class officers approached the administration and requested an inclusive prom, which the school decided to sponsor. While the integrated prom is considered by the high school as a landmark event, it did not mark the end of “tradition.” It seems there was a separate party for whites a week earlier that many attended.

When many people think of race and racism, these are the stories that come to mind in addition to the many “slips” by pop culture icons, stereotypical costume parties at college campuses, and other personal experiences. Although these stories are all telling of the different ways in which race operates in society, they are often viewed as individual, isolated incidents.

This raises some interesting questions about how to address race within the current social context. How do we include and incorporate these stories and incidents into a more encompassing racial discourse? Or, do we in fact obscure the depth of racism by focusing energy on countering these examples?

It might be useful to think about these “isolated” incidents as entry points to promote a different understanding of race. It is important to recognize the gap that exists between the conventional, mainstream understanding of racism and an institutional or structural approach. One way to bridge this gap is to draw upon these incidents and connect them to the broader arrangement of society. This can help take the discussion away from a solely individual level analysis which promotes notions of blame and guilt and toward a more inclusive understanding.

On the other hand, maybe it is just a waste of time to get bogged down worrying about these specific cases. Either way, what do you think?

Link to the article:
Ga. School throws first integrated prom;_ylt=AiWLaSpM4320Et_mq7AUL7tvzwcF

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