The False Consciousness of Race – Part 1

  Introduction Over the last five years, this nation has witnessed the escalation of efforts to promote and defend white nationalism and white supremacy. We have seen demonstrations, street marches and rallies that decry inequality and brutality, and we’ve seen expressions of grievance in the form of violence and destruction of property. In terms of health, healthcare, and economic status, communities of color have been disproportionally affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The tectonic plates of our socioeconomic and cultural lithosphere are under extraordinary stress, and already the tremors are evident along the racial fault lines. And yet, so many persons who identify as “white” remain naïve and blind to the racial inequality, discrimination, and violence still visited on persons of color. The white majority (which shall not be so in but a few years) for the most part is oblivious to the reality of racism. In 2002, a book on race and racism that I wrote was published by  InterVars

The False Consciousness of Race – Part 4

  Dissociation and Colorblindness 5. Dissociation. Finally, consciousness is false when its mode is dissociation. When mental health professionals use this term to describe an individual, they generally mean that his behavior gives evidence that some psychological activities have been disconnected from others in such a way that more than one autonomous psychic core is operative. It is a kind of psychological segregation of painful or even hostile ideas and feelings; an individual can function from one segregated core or the other because they are psychologically independent of each other. James Newton Poling describes dissociation as “an unconscious defense mechanism where threatening attitudes, ideas, and feelings become distinctly separated from the rest of the psyche. This ‘splitting’ of mental processes may result in the display of wandering behavior, multiple personalities, and memory loss.” 51 Thus in the behavioral sciences dissociation is indicative of cognitive and emotional d

The False Consciousness of Race – Part 3

  Detachment and Denial 3. Detachment. A false consciousness is manifest as cognitive and emotional detachment. Over the course of their lives, people discover ways to remove themselves from situations. Sometimes this means physical removal, as when we walk out of a room. Other times it means cognitive or emotional removal, as when we cease to be involved in a discussion and begin to think of something else, or we choose not to feel or become emotionally engaged in what is happening. More often than not, these kinds of removal are an expression of our lack of interest in or inability to connect with someone or the situation. Attention wanders, emotions shut down, and our indifference turns into remoteness; for whatever reason, we just cannot or will not relate to what is going on. This is not necessarily false consciousness in its mode of detachment, but if the participants and situation involve race and racism at any level, it quite likely is. False consciousness as detachment is in

The False Consciousness of Race – Part 2

  Dualism and Deception The modes of false consciousness are many, and while it may not always be possible to characterize it at any given moment, there are several distinctive modes that demand our attention. Five of the most commonly expressed forms of false consciousness will be discussed. Keep in mind that one is not necessarily exclusive of the others, but one or more may be constitutive of the peculiar consciousness of race and racism.   The modes of false consciousness. 1. Dualism. With the earlier discussion of the myth of race as a background, it is appropriate to designate the first mode as consciousness of a dualism that posits two oppositional and irreconcilable entities, or two mutually exclusive realms to which are attributed different value and significance. A dualist consciousness not only distinguishes between two things but polarizes them, placing them antagonistically over against one another. As noted earlier, the fundamental duality that has shaped the dualism of r