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Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society Hardcover – September 6, 2012
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"powell sets forth a powerful argument that... until we expand our sense of self, we will be unable to create the racially egalitarian and democratic society to which many progressives aspire.... A brilliantly original and provocative challenge to the current social order." —Michael Omi, author of Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s(Michael Omi, author of Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s)
"A book that will provoke readers to rethink prevailing notions of race, racial identity, and racism... [and] what prevailing law does and does not consider in tackling persistent forms of racial inequality." —Rachel D. Godsil, Seton Hall University School of Law(Rachel D. Godsil, Seton Hall University School of Law)
"Infused by moral urgency, intellectual precision, sweeping command of history and of critical race theory, and an unequalled ability to situate race in concrete places, these linked essays take us into the mind of one of our greatest legal and social thinkers. They navigate tensions between law and justice with consummate skill and great passion." —David Roediger, coauthor of The Production of Difference(David Roediger, coauthor of The Production of Difference)
"john a. powell is among the most original and important thinkers writing about politics, race and social change in America. He is a genuine genius whose work has been indispensible to thousands of activists and scholars. Finally, his critical work is gathered together in one place. If we succeed in changing in America--and we must do so--it will be in no small part because we have engaged deeply with the ideas, analysis and heart in this book. Racing to Justice is essential reading for everyone implicated by race in America--and that means everyone." —Deepak Bhargava, Center for Community Change(Deepak Bhargava, Center for Community Change)
"Juxtaposing race, spirituality, self, and social justice, john powell reveals the poverty in contemporary policy debates and crafts a road map for building true democratic community. Read this book and tell a friend." —Stephanie M. Wildman, Center for Social Justice and Public Service, Santa Clara University School of Law(Stephanie M. Wildman, Center for Social Justice and Public Service, Santa Clara University School of Law)
"Few scholars today explore racial (in)justice with as much depth and clarity, and with such fresh insight, as john powell. In these enlightening essays, powell challenges those of us who consider ourselves relatively evolved on issues of race and social justice to think far more critically about the basic assumptions and paradigms that frame our perspectives, animate our scholarship, and drive our advocacy. The central question he poses--"Can we stop focusing simply on transactional moves that we see as winnable and start working for the transformation of institutions that perpetuate suffering?"--is, perhaps, the most important and pressing question for racial justice advocates today." —Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness(Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness)
About the Author
john a. powell is Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley, where he holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor's Chair in Equity and Inclusion. He is author (with Gavin Kearney and Vina Kay) of In Pursuit of a Dream Deferred, and (with Laughlin McDonald) of The Rights of Racial Minorities: The Basic ACLU Guide to Racial Minority Rights.
Top customer reviews
What is needed today, and what has been sorely lacking in racial discourse up to this point, are robust examinations of whiteness. Unless we can draw out the many layers of its totalizing character, we will continually discover that as soon as we have dismantled one structural manifestation it has shape-shifted into a fresh evil. The best example powell provides is the distinction between North and South/pre- and post-Civil Rights forms of racism. The South’s Jim Crow apartheid system was the prime target (alongside universal suffrage) of civil right’s reform. This was not, however, the way whiteness had “raced” the North where segregation of metropolitan space through redlining, blockbusting and other tactics was the central tool. As Jim Crow was repealed, the Northern strategy slipped in on its heels (147ff). In the spirit of redirecting the social construction of race in America, Powell offers a slew of penetrating insights into the nature of whiteness: whiteness as anxiety and fear, as isolation, as a property interest, and even as “emptiness” because it is unconstitutable without a discriminatory relation to the non-white other. A beautiful moment of exposure comes through his use of a quote from James Baldwin, “As long as you think you’re white, there’s no hope for you” (150). Whiteness, as it functions in America, is not an ontological fact for anyone. Painful though it may initially be, there is hope for those who identify as “white” to discover that the implicit meanings under this term need not possess any descriptive power over us.
The reconstructive fight for powell lies at two levels: 1) rooting out our unconscious biases, and 2) transformations in our political economy. For him, this is fundamentally spiritual work for it involves both redemptive suffering and profound relational work that must be guided by love.
If there is a lack, it is that his book does not dig back far enough into the substrates of Western civilization to uncover the root causes of racism. For that, I recommend Willie James Jenning's brilliant text *The Christian Imagination.* But no book can do everything, and powell is excellent at what he does.
Powell named the most difficult aspect of anti-racist work for me as a white man in a more honest and accurate way than I have ever heard:
“Beyond these distortions, however, lies a more fundamental fear: self-annihilation. For in the context of this society’s unwillingness to come to terms with its racial organization, to ask people to give up whiteness is to ask them to give up their sense of self. We cannot expect people to expose themselves to ontological death or worse. Instead, we must provide space--institutional space, political space, social space, and conceptual space--for the emergence of new relationships and a new way of being that exists beyond isolation and separation” (xviii). Being able to name the pain whites experience--without comparing or equating it to pain of people of color--is a healthy and constructive step toward progress, something I needed fresh permission to own. Powell helped renew my soul, deepen my resolve, and clarify my mission.
Read his book and be empowered for love's public performance: justice.