Juan F. Perea, Richard Delgado
Angela Harris, Stephanie M.Wildman
At the beginning of the new millennium, the United States is, in
important ways, a different country from the one the Framers envisioned.
The principal racial issues confronting the Framers were the conquest of
Indian nations and the perpetuation of black slavery. Our historical and
cultural inheritance includes the unresolved legacy of those early
racial dilemmas as well as additional, complex racial issues that we
confront today as a result of our demographics. For example, are African
Americans and Mexican Americans due reparations, as the government
decided were due to Japanese American families imprisoned during World
War II? Should members of these groups receive a formal apology for the
treatment suffered by their ancestors, as Congress expressed in a recent
joint resolution apologizing for the colonization of Native Hawaiians?
Should African Americans and members of other racial minority groups
receive affirmative action in hiring, government contracting, and
admissions to higher education? What, if anything, should be done to
improve the legislative representation of minority groups, who may
otherwise be outvoted consistently? What happens when one group uses a
constitutional right, such as free speech, to demean and hector another?
How can tensions between racial groups be eased? In the end, how can we
do more justice in our racially diverse society?
As of 1997, persons of color constituted nearly one-third of the U.S.
population: African Americans (12.7%); Latinos/as (11%); Asian Americans
(3.7%); and American Indians (.9%) Because these groups are growing more
rapidly than Whites, persons of color will likely outnumber Whites in
the United States sometime near the middle of the next century. The
demographics of our future will become ever more complex, more
multiracial, as members of different racial groups intermarry, adding to
the racial complexity already evident today.
Each of us has taught and written about race for most of our careers.
We have all confronted the need for and the difficulty of assembling
varied interdisciplinary and historical materials to cover race and
racism comprehensively, in a manner that accounted for each of the
principal racial groups in the United States—African Americans,
Indians, Latinos/as, Asian Americans, and Whites.
This [website] . . . present race and racism in a manner that
corresponds to the racial complexity of United States society. [Persons]
. . . committed to understanding our multiracial society require ready
access to historical, legal, and interdisciplinary materials that shed
light on our continuing and changing problems of race. To ease and
amplify understanding of the increasing complexity of American racial
dynamics, [I present this website]. .. .
[This website] . . . explore[s] the cutting edges of theory with
respect to race, giving central attention both to the continuity across
history of certain under-standings of race and the evolution of
those understandings, a process which continues today. Thus this . . .
[website] . .. includes materials on the difficulties in defining and
understanding the meanings of "race;" the nature of
"racism," and "oppression;" . . . theory of racial
formation; the differing implications of colonization and immigration;
the formation of stereotypes; unconscious racism; the gendered and
sexualized nature of race; and the situation of biracial and multiracial
This [website]. . . also provides a rich historical introduction to
the particular histories of four major racial groups in the United
States, African Americans, Indians, Latinos/as, and Asian Americans, and
their encounters with white Europeans and their descendants. Each of
these minority groups has a long legal history documenting its presence
and its attempts to use the courts and other means to fight racial
discrimination in the United States. This legal history, much of which
is often ignored in discussions of race, seems to us essential in
understanding the situation faced by each of these groups today. This
history also enables comparisons among the experiences of these
different racialized groups.
Many discussions of race and racism in the United States focus solely
on the experiences of racial minorities. It is just as important, in our
view, to focus on the development of "Whiteness" and the white
race. Demonstrating the evolution of racial categories, membership in
the white race has changed over time for complex reasons. For example,
Irish immigrants during the nineteenth century and European immigrants
of the early twentieth century used to be considered nonwhite. Today,
persons with such ancestry are considered White. How did this happen?
Whiteness, the unstated norm of racial identity in the United States,
requires close examination and study just as other racial identities do.
Readers will notice that much seemingly unrelated law fits together
when race and racism are used as organizing principles. The law of
slavery and the ceaseless African—American struggle for civil rights
are essential to understanding the development of doctrines of equality
under the Constitution and statutory law. A different process—conquest,
and its legal ratification by Congress and justification by the Supreme
Court—is essential to understanding the racialization of Indians,
Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans. Immigration law also plays a
crucial role in the law of race. Supreme Court decisions upholding
Chinese exclusion and Alien Land Laws are central in producing the
racialization of Asian Americans. And the Supreme Court*s
many determinations of who was "White" and who was not for
purposes of naturalized citizenship were of crucial importance in
defining the legal bounds of Whiteness.
This [website] . . . . . . also explores the themes of race and
racism in a variety of doctrinal contexts. What is the meaning of racial
equality? What understanding of racial equality finds expression in the
crucial realms education and voting rights? How do racial themes find
expression in doctrines of freedom of speech? What are the popular
images and stereotypes of people of color and Whites that pervade the
media? How does race influence our understanding of sexuality and the
family? And how does race intersect with crime?
This [website] . . . makes it possible for readers to make these and
other connections among race, history and legal doctrine. Yet the task
is not easy—reading about race and races requires us to think
critically about the powerful and ingrained modes of thinking about and
expressing racial ideas. Here are some critical questions that should
guide your study of race:
1. MAKE THE IMPLICIT EXPLICIT. Look for the assumptions
underlying discussions about race and state them. Many implicit
assumptions, when articulated to the world, demonstrate their own
inadequacy. Is one racial group being privileged over another? What
unstated assumptions about gender, sexual orientation, wealth, or
physical ability are part of discussions about race?
2. LOOK FOR THE HIDDEN NORM. What perspective is being
universalized as the perspective for all people? Is that view really
representative and objective? Is "the way things are" being
used to perpetuate oppression?
3. AVOID WE/THEY THINKING. In a country based on the
ideal of democratic inclusion, consider whether race is being used to
foster that inclusion. We/they thinking is usually designed to render
some group outside the polis. Who is defining the included
"we" and for what purpose?
REMEMBER CONTEXT. People do not live in the
abstract; they live situated lives. Examining the context in which a
problem arises may reveal levels of unsuspected complexity, but will
also avoid facile solutions that fall into the traps listed above.
5. SEEK JUSTICE. Be skeptical of traditional ..
arguments to avoid change such as "the slippery slope," the
intent of the framers (who excluded from voting representation Indians,
women of all colors, and only counted African Americans as 3/5 persons),
or reliance on discriminatory precedent. Ask the question, "What is
a just result that fosters democratic inclusion?"
6. CONSIDER THE NATURE OF THE HARM Is it minimal or
serious? Whose characterization is being given credibility? Be sure to
listen to the voices of those most harmed.
TRUST YOUR INTUITION. Trina Grillo wrote:
"[Wie must believe what our bodies tell us. They teach us to check
for the deep, internal discomfort we feel when something is being stated
as gospel but does not match our truth. Then they teach us how to spin
that feeling out, to analyze it, to accept that it is true but to be
able to show why that is so. They also teach us to be brave." Trina
Grillo,anti-essentialism Anti—Essentialism and Intersectionality:
Tools to Dismantle the Master*s
House, 10 Berkeley Women*s
L.J. 16, 22 (1995)
8. ASK, WHO BENEFITS? Practices, rules, and
legal doctrines often benefit one group (usually the majority) at the
expense of another. Ask yourself, why was this rule adopted and who
benefits from its observance? If a rule turns out to be unfair, what
prevents us from changing it?
This [website] offers tools, histories, and analysis for the study of
race. No single [website]. . . however, can begin to capture the full
richness and varied experiences of race in a large, multiracial society
like ours. Readers may wish to pioneer new forms and subjects of
critical analysis to examine further themes we explore or mention. For
example, how does race intersect with territorial status? How do race
and racism play out in the history of insular peoples? With gays and
lesbians? What is the intersection of race with issues of class? Readers
may want to examine issues of comparative and international law. How
have other western, industrialized societies dealt with race and status
questions, or with hate speech? What about non-European or
non-industrialized societies? What do different world religions have to
say about racial justice and social reform?
Much, then, remains to be done. In the hope that a comparative,
historical, and politically engaged discussion of race can begin to
illume what has been called—and what seems to remain—America*s
most intractable problem, we offer this . . .. [Website].