Contemporary Political Theory 20 (1):1-22 (2021)

Mark B. Brown
California State University, Sacramento
Efforts to develop a coherent role for white people in racial justice initiatives in the USA are often stymied by the defensiveness, paternalism, and guilt of many white liberals. Such efforts are also undermined by critiques of whiteness that conflate white identity and white supremacy. I address this dilemma by developing an account of antiracist white identity politics, conceived of here as taking responsibility for the effects of being socially defined as white. I locate conceptual resources for this project in James Baldwin’s reflections on tragedy, love, and identity. In contrast to those who invoke Baldwin to argue for abolishing white identity, I make a case for politicizing it. I draw on Baldwin’s articulation of a tragic sensibility to argue that white antiracism requires accepting a morally compromised identity one has not chosen. It also requires accepting that serious efforts to end white supremacy inevitably lead to mistakes, misunderstandings, and counterproductive outcomes. By adopting a tragic perspective on these aspects of white antiracism, white people would become more capable of forging antiracist white identities through robust engagement in struggles for racial justice.
Keywords James Baldwin  identity politics  white identity  antiracism  racial justice
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DOI 10.1057/s41296-020-00401-9
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References found in this work BETA

Inclusion and Democracy.Iris Marion Young - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
[Book Review] the Racial Contract. [REVIEW]Charles W. Mills - 1997 - Social Theory and Practice 25 (1):155-160.
Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections.Kwame Anthony Appiah - 1996 - The Tanner Lectures on Human Values 17:51-136.

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Racial Responsibility Revisited.Robert S. Taylor - 2021 - Public Affairs Quarterly 35 (3):161-177.

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