Publication Date

1999

Abstract

Discussions about race, class, ethnicity and other identity constructs have long been a part of social discourse in American intellectual society. While these verbal polemics have raised consciousness among a few, the historical legacy of slavery, now called racism, remains alive and well and continues to crush the lives of all Americans in the vice of oppression. Despite a century of emancipation for the African slaves, whose bitter pain built the foundations of this nation, the physical, social, political, economic and mental specter of White supremacy over People of Color still thrives within the "land of the free." For the purposes of this paper the terms "White," "Black" and "People of Color," when referred to in the context of race and racism, are broad categories defined on the sole basis of skin color and not by the complexities of ethnicity. The term "White," when used to identify the oppressor, will refer to a historical, social, political and cultural construct. It is a term used to identify the oppressive system of a dominant ideology that has secured the privileges of freedom for one skin color, while literally and figuratively shackling the lives of the "other." Assumed within this definition is an acknowledgment that many groups who technically fit into the racial category of Whiteness have been physically and psychologically oppressed by the same oppressive system. The distinction that is made between these groups and People of Color lies in the truism that racism is a product of the construct of race as color. Because of this relationship, those having the dominant skin color, despite their present status, have the possibility of assimilation into the power system, while those possessing any other skin color will never be accepted unless racism itself is dismantled.

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