December 23, 2019
While many on the left now reject gender categories, they seem determined to enshrine racial categories. Let’s do better In 2012, writer Thomas Chatterton Williams – a biracial African American expatriate living in Paris – took to the New York Times op-ed page to declare that not only do “mixed-race blacks have an ethical obligation to identify as black”, but that interracial couples “share a similar moral imperative to inculcate certain ideas of black heritage and racial identity in their mixed-race children, regardless of how they look”.Williams argued that embracing a black identity served as a form of solidarity between biracial African Americans such as himself and those with darker skin. “And so I will teach my children that they, too, are black – regardless of what anyone else may say – so long as they remember and wish to be,” he concluded.Then everything changed: he and his wife, a white French woman, had their daughter Marlow. As Williams held Marlow, he took in her blonde hair and blue eyes and his conception of America’s strict racial dichotomy between black and white started to collapse before him. He began to see racial categories as an obstacle to social progress.Eventually, he came to see himself as an “ex-black man”. What’s more, he suggests that the rest of us may be better off if we shed our racial labels as well.> Must our empowerment be tied to skin or blood?Williams chronicled this journey in his recent book Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, which challenges us to think beyond America’s racial binaries.The reaction to the book from many of the author’s critics has been unfortunate but predictable. While the left has in recent years sought to unsettle gender categories – noting that gender is a spectrum and that the binary does not fit all people – they have circled the wagons even tighter around the sanctity of exclusionary racial categories.While Williams believes it’s a “mistake for any of us to reify something that is as demonstrably harmful as it is fictitious,” Ismail Muhammad, writing in The Nation, argues that “no matter how socially constructed racial identities are, our lived experiences of those identities – the cultures, communities, values, prejudices, policies, and socioeconomic obstacles that follow from inhabiting social constructs – is anything but fictitious and cannot simply be willed out of existence.” Furthermore, Muhammad argues, Chatterton Williams “fails to see how racial identification … can also be an empowering act.”But must our empowerment be tied to skin or blood? As Williams argued at an event I attended in October, when we Americans talk about race, we’re often confusing it for another category, such as culture or social class.Discarding race doesn’t mean discarding the rich cultural achievements or shared values of human beings we have spent centuries labeling “black” or “white”. Culture and values are things that humans create and celebrate together, and there is no reason for these qualities to be defined by the amount of melanin in our skin.> Unlearning race doesn’t mean ignoring racismIn my college years I befriended a professor who was a tall white man with a thick beard who had converted to Islam years ago during a decade-long stay in South Asia. Despite his white skin and European name, he knew more about the religion I practiced (Islam) and the country my parents emigrated from (Pakistan) than just about anyone else I had ever met. The culture we shared, and the experiences we reveled in, were not defined by our race, which became as trivial a quality in our interactions as our differing heights.Unlearning race doesn’t mean ignoring racism. Too many Americans continue to discriminate against each other on the basis of skin color, and persistent inequality is a feature of American life. In response, we can and must adopt social policy approaches aimed at spreading opportunity far and wide to every corner of society, without adopting the fiction that people are defined by their race.Some would argue that while Chatterton Williams is right on the merits, his proposal to discard race is hopelessly naive.But Pew polling shows 85% of whites, 26% of blacks, and around 40% of Asians and Hispanics say their race is not extremely or very important to them. Many of us are already moving in the direction Williams advises.To those who continue to be skeptical we can shed our racial skins, I would just ask them if they could name my tribe, caste, or sect. In India and Pakistan, these categories trapped my ancestors for centuries, defining every aspect of their lives, from the jobs they held to the people they married.But here in the United States, I live freely outside these boxes, something my ancestors would have seen as unimaginable.In a way, I’m living the future Williams describes. And nothing could be more empowering.
A provocative new book argues we must unlearn race. We absolutely should
* Zaid Jilani writes about olarization for UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. He is the co-host of the Extremely Offline podcast
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Kristen Stewart Opens Up on 'Eternals' LGBTQ Inclusion, Ruby Rose Battles with WarnerBros | The Take
October 22, 2021
7d3MFpaP2L8
AT&T Stock Falls Following Q3 Earnings Results
October 21, 2021
LZNkmpoVefA
The 2021 Gotham Awards - Nominations Announcement - Live Stream
October 21, 2021
A3dtwDaWsDI
Inside Kim Kardashian's "Lit" Birthday Party Thrown by Her Kids | E! News
October 22, 2021
bOscNeiII2g
Alec Baldwin Breaks Silence After Deadly On-Set Shooting | E! News
October 22, 2021
HHThGuZCX5U
Kylie Jenner Shows Off Baby Bump in Sizzling Silhouette Pic | E! News
October 22, 2021
-xQO2siBB3Q
Teresa's engagement, Lala's breakup and more Virtual RealiTea drama | Page Six Celebrity News
October 22, 2021
pL6thz9zRWc
Cynthia Bailey wants to protect husband Mike Hill from ‘reality TV curse’ | Page Six Celebrity News
October 22, 2021
TO1ltz90FV0
De Niro’s estranged wife won’t get half of his acting income | Page Six Celebrity News
October 22, 2021
SIQj1AuioZs
Sisqo Has Advice For Drake On Dealing With Impostors, Don't Sue Them | TMZ
October 23, 2021
VkjnwYMtkRo
Snoop Dogg's 50th Birthday Party, Fully Lit Old School Playas Ball | TMZ TV
October 22, 2021
kc62svaZeVo
Leslie Jordan Conflicted Over Dave Chappelle Special and Netflix Controversy | TMZ TV
October 22, 2021
te1ul4AYesM
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
19
Nov
ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group H
Sydney FC - Shanghai SIPG
17
Nov
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A: Group Stage
Spain - Germany
14
Nov
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A: Group Stage
Germany - Ukraine
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Liverpool
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Aston Villa
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Valencia - Real Madrid
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Verona
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Bromwich Albion - Tottenham Hotspur
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Bologna - Napoli
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Roma
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Inter Milan
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - Juventus
08
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Monchengladbach
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Wolves
08
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Wolfsburg - Hoffenheim
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Valladolid - Athletic Bilbao
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Levante - Alaves
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Sociedad - Granada CF
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Torino - Crotone
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Getafe - Villarreal
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund - Bayern Munich
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Manchester United
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Sheffield United
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Cadiz
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Real Betis
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Augsburg - Hertha Berlin
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Stuttgart - Eintracht Frankfurt
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
RB Leipzig - SC Freiburg
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Rotherham - Preston NE
07
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Parma - Fiorentina
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Watford - Coventry
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Norwich City - Swansea City
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Blackburn - QPR
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Derby County - Barnsley
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Huddersfield - Luton
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Nottingham Forest - Wycombe Wanderers
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Fulham
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Sheffield Wednesday - Millwall
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Brentford - Middlesbrough
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Birmingham - Bournemouth
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Sevilla - Osasuna
07
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Benevento - Spezia
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Crystal Palace - Leeds
04
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group G
Ferencvaros - Juventus
04
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group G
Barcelona - Dynamo K.
03
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group A
Salzburg - Bayern Munich
03
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group D
Atalanta - Liverpool
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
zWJ3MxW_HWA L1eLanNeZKg i1XRgbyUtOo -g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.