Racial Americanization


David Theo Goldberg


Race is commonly assumed in the popular imagination to be an antique notion, a vestige of pre-modern or at least not adequately modernized social assertions and arrangements. I have written extensively against this understanding in earlier work. I want here to extend this frame of analysis by outlining a more or less recent turn in at least one regionally prompted, parametered, and promoted racism linked to its dominant state formation in the case of the United States as well as to its contemporary imperializing expressions beyond the national borders. This is part of a wider concern of mine, aimed at outlining a set of more or less recent typologies of regionally registered racisms linked to their dominant state formations.[1] I am suggesting regional models or mappings, rather than ideal types, broad generalizations as contours of racist configuration, each one with its own material and intellectual history, its prior conditions and typical modes of articulation. They are often interactive historically, overlapping landscapes. But it remains nevertheless revealing to delineate them, to distinguish one kind and style from another in terms of differences in their conditions of possibility, expression, effects, and implication. Identifying these mappings in the name of the social places and spaces of their principal origination, historical manifestation, and regional articulations is not to limit the (partial) influence of their logics and effects on other places, spaces, and regions that might not be readily identified with their coordinates of origination. Racisms have a history of traveling, and transforming in their circulation. What I register here as more or less discrete in order to identify their socio-material and intellectual conditions of emergence, logics, social manifestations, effects, and implications are in practice interactive with each other at various times and places on the ground and across borders and oceans.

In this scheme of things I identify five dominant mappings linked to different, if neither perfectly isomorphic or absolutely discrete, spatio-historical conditions and expressions. These prevailing modalities include americanization, palestinianization, latinamericanization, europeanization, and south africanization of racism, and by extension of race. This order reveals what would otherwise more likely go unnoticed, that each represents a significance that is both historically resonant and politically dominant at specific global conjunctions, but also a logic of their historical interaction one with another. I am concerned here with a detailed focus on the historical logic of “racial americanization,” as much for the way it comes to embody the emergence of “born again racisms” I have elaborated elsewhere, as for its own historical significance. Racial americanization projects itself as the model, the one to be emulated, the failure of which bears more significant costs than in each of the other, if related, instances.

Classic racisms were formed and fashioned in the contexts of European expansion, enslavement, and colonization. They were the racisms of self-proclaimed European superiority in pursuit initially of new sources of wealth, a servile labor supply, exotic goods. Over time, however, this came to include expansive territorialization, settlement, globalizing dominance, and with these processes emerged the possibilities even of new lives for the settlers and new forms of desire, but also dominance, degradation, even death for those thus made servile. The prevailing geographies of early modern racisms then—until at least the later eighteenth century—are projected as Europe’s externality, the colonial outside, provincial extensions vested largely in the rural slaveries of plantation life. Here, the viciousness of the violent structures necessary to uphold the system were hidden just beneath the tranquil facade of settlement: wars, seizures, chains and whippings, deathly ships, disease, human auctions, but also the penning of dehumanizing rationalizations, Sunday sermons, and state edicts. In these classic expressions of racism, race was seen always as a disruption, as the invader, as the outsider asserting itself over, or inserting itself into, local homogeneity.

Racism’s more modernizing modes in the wake of abolition and nineteenth century industrialization, by contrast, are increasingly associated with urbanization and metropolitan life. Modern cities have traditionally been places of migratory attraction and moral repulsion, offering the lure of employment and recreational excitement, consumptive novelties and cultural development, radical possibility and intense anonymity. It is this radical heterogeneity that has served at once as magnet and threat, as appealing, even as transgressive of conserving inhibition, and so at once repulsive. The perceived threats to homogeneity, to the reproduction of sameness and identity, to the expected and the usual, to order and control, with which cities are associated historically, prompted the institution of controls over urban space including formal restrictions on entry, movement and access. Thus it is in cities that the perceived “need,” the demand, for racial segregation was hardened, if not initiated, becoming the principal sites of formalized segregating institutionalization. Late in the nineteenth century, concerns over control of urban space became the summary motivation and purpose of the drive by whites to segregate--namely, to restrict heterogeneity and hybridity, to delimit intercourse, to control interaction and relation. This was seen as especially compelling in the Anglo-settler societies, most notably America and South Africa, but also in Australia.

Segregation emerged as the dominant and formalized modality of racism in the United States as freed slaves moved off the plantations and into cities, first southern, and then up the Mississippi and the east coast, and, ultimately, westward. White politicians in the southern Democratic Party machine secured their political power by shielding the white urban working class from competition by newly emancipated blacks in the late nineteenth century just as the National Party came to power in South Africa in 1948 by securing the wellbeing of the white working and poor classes on the promise of apartheid. The ghettoized segregation widely associated with the height of American racism was a thoroughly urbanized post-Reconstruction development, the full effects of which were realized in cities in the 1920s and 1930s, by which time it was being thoroughly contested by black social movements.

If what we have come to recognize as standard American racism took the cruel form of a constitutionalized segregation (accompanied by the cultivating ethnocide of assimilating what was left of American Indians), contemporary racial americanization has informalized apartness, rendering it the effect of privatized preference schemes rather than explicitly institutionalized legalities. Increasingly today, members of different ethno-racially constituted groups – whites, blacks, Latinos, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Indian, and Arab Americans – have come “by choice,” principally the choices of whites, to occupy discrete urban spaces, at first different neighborhoods but now overwhelmingly different municipalities, different cities. The choices have been shaped by policy and law to order social opportunities for some while closing them down for others, streaming access in the former case while plugging it up in the latter. This reveals how preferences are molded even as that discriminate sculpting is obviated, rendered obscure and indiscernible in the name of its claimed obsolescence.

Black migration from the south coincided with European immigration to cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. But it was coterminous as well as with Chinese and Japanese settlement, especially in San Francisco, and Chicano migration to Southern California and later across the Southwest to join those already long settled as a result of earlier American territorial annexations. But just as racial interaction began to increase, African Americans, Latinos, and Asians were becoming progressively segregated within cities. The more black urbanization expanded, the more their racial segregation and restriction within cities was extended. Thus by 1930, the spatial location of segregation already had transformed perceptibly from regional to neighborhood divides. Until the late 1800s nearly ninety percent of black Americans lived in southern rural counties, while almost that proportion of whites lived in northern cities. By 1930 black urban residents tended to live in wards 40 percent black. From 1890 to 1930 black residence in New York surged nearly tenfold from 36,000 to 328,000, in Chicago over twenty fold from 14,000 to 234,000. Chicago neighborhoods, which had been just 10 percent black in 1900, were swept by the cold wind of segregation into neighborhoods which would become 70 percent black just 30 years later.[2] By 1950, a majority of African Americans had become city folk, and by 1960 a greater percentage of blacks than whites lived in cities. Between 1920 and 1980 blacks living on the land and working in agriculture declined 96 percent, and by 1981 this figure had almost disappeared, to one percent.[3] )       

Already in 1940 ethnic white neighborhoods were far from uniform in their ethnic composition. Neighborhoods in which blacks or Latinos lived tended much more to be overwhelmingly black and Latino. Identifiably “Irish” areas of cities included just three percent of the total Irish population, and most of New York’s Italians did not live in Little Italy, for instance. By contrast, 93 percent of blacks lived in neighborhoods that in the categorical formation of race in the United States can be characterized as majority black. The construction and containment of Chinatowns within major metropolitan centers at precisely the same time reinforces the ethnoracial logic at work here. Thus the conditions for the reproduction of European immigrant ghettoes have never existed in the way they did in the twentieth century for African American and Chinese ghettoes. European immigrant segregation ebbed as their migration flow waned, while black segregation within the boundaries of confined black and Chinese space increased and intensified not primarily as a result of black housing preferences, but of conscious white avoidance, as manifested in the use of physical violence, intimidation, and the creation of a dual housing market by way of racial covenants and the like. So white exposure to blacks was still self-determinedly minimized through ensuring black isolation in urban ghettoes. Cities became instruments for European immigrant group advancement, but became sites in which blacks especially were blocked from integrating not only residentially but educationally and economically also. Chinese entrepreneurship was left to flourish within the strict confines of Chinatowns, linked as it was to external sources of capital formation in Asia that had no equivalent for black ghetto dwellers.

The post World War II period saw the emergence of nationalized desegregating efforts – in the Army, the courts, on the streets, in buses and schools – prompted not only by moral and internal political imperatives, but also by geopolitical Cold War competition and assertive local mass mobilization. The “national interest” and foreign policy demands necessitated public commitment to race neutral governmentality. On the face of it, the federal government also made a huge commitment to producing much needed urban public housing in 1949, when it authorized 810,000 new units over six years[4] which led, in fact, to the federal government becoming engaged in reproducing segregation. With the postwar modernization boom fueling the economy, federal policy initiatives regarding mortgages and taxes promoted the suburban housing explosion for middle and working class whites, while federal property appraisal policies rendered possible bank and mortgage company redlining of inner city property purchase and development. Government, national and local, massively promoted private (re)development and gentrification of CBDs by underwriting loans at the same time when incentives to redevelop inner cities by building housing for the urban poor were almost wholly absent. By 1962 only 320,000 of the public housing units promised in 1949 (roughly 40 percent) had been constructed.[5] Much more inner city housing in fact was bulldozed away in terms of the 1949 federal housing law than was actually built, creating premonitions of “group areas” apartheid South Africa. From the end of World War II until 1960, less than two percent of new housing financed by mortgages guaranteed by federal insurance went to black homeowners.[6] From about 1950 on, then, segregation across and not just within cities began to increase. By the 1980s, this trend had become evident as members of ethnoracially defined and identified groups were increasingly inhabiting not just in different neighborhoods from whites, but different cities.[7] Their children likely attended overwhelmingly segregated schools in different school districts, growing up literally not knowing each other besides through the stilted stereotypical images they gleaned from television .

At the very time of growing desegregation in the public sphere, one could say there was publicly subsidized resegregation in the private sphere. Desegregation never stood a chance. By 1980, Massey and Hajnal have calculated, blacks living in cities found themselves in municipalities on average 35 percent black. If black and white residents were to be evenly distributed across municipalities, 50 percent of blacks in cities would have to switch places of residence with whites.[8] It is revealing to note that such calculations somehow are invariably made on the dislocating assumption that blacks, not whites, should move, Owen Fiss being simply the most recent to promote such a plan.[9] The suburban explosion that pulled whites out of the cities transformed the countryside into sprawling suburbs. These suburbs eventually became small self-governing cities, the effect as much of the desire to be politically and fiscally autonomous from deteriorating old black-identified cities as of some purely administrative rationality.

In 1950 there were no central cities in the US that were overwhelmingly or even largely black, and no city with a population larger than 100,000 had a majority black population. Forty years later there were 14 such cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Gary, New Orleans, and Washington. Eleven more cities had black populations between 40 and 50 percent, including Cleveland, St Louis, and Oakland. Among cities larger than 25,000 in 1950 just two had majority black populations, a number that had exploded to 40 by 1990.[10] Interestingly, the increase in segregation after mid-century is characteristic only of larger cities with large black populations. There was a noticeable decline in segregation in small cities with small black populations. In the latter cases, African Americans found themselves assimilated into dominant white space with little or no noticeable effect on prevailing urban arrangements or culture. By the end of the Civil Rights era, in contrast, geographic isolation of blacks in larger urban settings--the overwhelming majority of black folk--was nearly complete.

In a provocative thought experiment in 1971, Thomas Schelling[11] exemplified the segregating implications effected through personal preference. (Schelling uses a checkerboard with dimes and nickels, although I think the coloring of the chess pieces more provocative.) Take a chess board: Fill 10 percent of its spaces with black pawns; fill 70 percent of its spaces with white pawns. Assume each black pawn wants at least one neighbor to be a black pawn, and each white pawn wants at least one neighbor to be a white pawn. Segregation sets in within a couple of moves (try it). If each wants both neighbors to be like itself, segregation is produced all the more quickly. So, rational choice theorists to the contrary, preferences are not naive, discursively unstructured, simply given, or unchanging. Preferences are ordered by the dominant discursive culture and terms. In the case of the preference for segregated space, segregation is discursively (re)produced and ideologically massaged. White Americans of all class stripes reportedly prefer to live in neighborhoods which are at least 80 percent white; black Americans prefer to live in neighborhoods which are 50 percent white (which is to say 50 percent not white). Given that those classified white make up over 70 percent of the population, that leaves vast areas of possibility for all white areas. The age of late twentieth century deregulation prompted a spreading, expanding segregation, one less formally imposed by law than the old activist segregation but produced via the informalities of private preference schemes.

Nancy Denton has demonstrated the debilitating effects of such segregation thus.[12] Take a city, not unrealistically, that is 25 percent black or Latino with a white poverty rate of 10 percent and a black or Latino poverty rate of 20 percent. Absent segregation, the neighborhood poverty rate is 12.5 percent (whites make up three-quarters of the population). Where segregation is complete, the neighborhood poverty rate for blacks or Latinos becomes 20 percent. Where class segregation intersects, the multiplier effect on the neighborhood poverty rate of poor blacks or Latinos doubles it to 40 percent. In the face of economic downturns, the black or Latino poverty rate jumps from 20 to 30 percent. The black or Latino neighborhood poverty rate then would double to 60 percent. That means almost two-thirds of the people in the black or Latino neighborhood would live in poverty. The same logic applies to predominantly segregated towns or cities. This perhaps is a major underlying reason why, according to a Los Angeles Times report,[13] two-thirds of new immigrants to the United States claim to be “white” on the U.S. census no matter ethnoracial background. White, it turns out, is thought to identify what it means to be American, with the assimilative logic of “fitting in,” that is, with opportunity and access, with getting ahead and succeeding. If California is the leading edge of trends in the US, the desert communities stretching from east of Los Angeles to the Arizona border exemplifies these divides. The areas west of Palm Springs are home to retired whites living in gated communities on artificial lakes spending their days on golf courses kept green by water piped in from the Colorado River dividing California from Arizona. East of Palm Springs the terrain dries quickly into dusty desert sand, garbage dumps, toxic sewage cesspools. They are home to a population overwhelmingly of Mexican immigrants not yet citizens, barely out of their teens and speaking little if any English whose drastically devalued labor makes possible the lifestyle of those to the west.

Prompted by a mix of fear, restricting potential competition, and cementing power, whites could enthusiastically embrace the ideological shift at the middle of the last century from assimilation to pluralism. Pluralism is experienced as the commitment not only to different histories, cultural values and practices but also to the ideological cliché of “live and let live.” This legitimated contrasting urban conditions, and, by the same token, set the stage for the abandonment of certain city spaces. The libertarian license to “live and let live” is stressed so long as one doesn’t get in the way of institutionalized americanization, at home or abroad. Racial americanization in this context includes nominal commitment to liberty, individualism, market economies, private property and profit, but also historical denial of or disregard for others’ suffering and concerns, of one’s own privilege and self-assertion.

            Old segregationist racism, from post-Reconstruction to Brown v. Board of Education (1954)[14], thus was an activist segregation produced for the most part by an active intervention in politics, economics, law, and culture self-consciously designed to produce segregated city, town, and neighborhood spaces. To combat this activism, the Civil Rights Movement likewise found itself called to action in every dimension. The period from post-World War II to the 1970s, by contrast, was one of tension and contradiction, promise and projection, expectation and elevation, denial and dashed hope. It was a period of desegregating commitment and the seeds of a resegregating mobilization. The logic of the old segregation supposedly was swept aside, only to be replaced by the whisper of the new, the subtle and silent, the informal and insidious. This newly expressed segregation, the newly privatized segregation at the heart of what I am characterizing as the model of racial americanization, is one no longer activist (at least at home) but conservative, a segregation in the literal sense conservationist.

Racial americanization thus proceeds not simply by reducing the social to the preferential, the state to (in)civil society. Preferences are not expressed, enacted, and experienced in a political and institutional vacuum. Rather, public spheres – and the state especially – structure the conditions of possibility in which choices are to be made, preferences pushed and indeed in some cases punished. State structures channel, shape, and mould both the boundaries and terrain of choice making and implication, and preferences expressed and enacted reinforce existing state formation even as inflecting and coloring them.

This conservationist segregation, the model of racial americanization, proceeds by undoing the laws, rules, and norms of expectation the Civil Rights movement was able to effect, attacking them as unconstitutional, as the only sort of racial discrimination with which we should be concerned today! Racial americanization embraces race neutrality even as it licenses “limited” racial profiling for purposes of security maintenance, targeted policing, and medical research as legitimate for combating the moral panics of terror, socially or naturally initiated. In the absence of the Civil Rights spirit, and now in its active dissipation, accordingly, the present period conserves (and deepens) the hold of racial preference schemes historically produced as if they were the nature of things. So racial americanization is produced by a mix of doing nothing special, nothing beyond being guided by the presumptive laws of the market, the determinations of the majority’s personal preferences, and the silencing of all racial reference, with the exception of racial profiling for purported purposes of crime and terror control. This silencing fails to distinguish between exclusionary racist designs and practices, on the one hand, and redressive or ameliorative racial interventions, on the other, reducing the latter to the former as the only contemporary racist expressions worth worrying about. The libertarian pluralist motto of “live and let live” at once licenses a surplus of possibility and opportunity for the affording few at the expense of the impoverished many. It might more accurately be replaced with the New Hampshire state motto, “live free or die,” implying that those who cannot afford the freedom will be left to perish. Histories forgotten, activist interventions restricted (save for pointed exceptions), the racial status quo (re)fixed in place, at home and now increasingly abroad.

In this mode, the current commitment by fundamentalist fiscal radicals to de-fund social programs such as education, health care, popular culture and the arts through extreme forms of tax reduction, while increasing military and prison budgets brings public funding to the point of bankruptcy. And as with personal or corporate bankruptcy, it forces a radical restructuring of public programming and state-fashioned governmentality. The immediate implication is that wealth is redistributed upwards even as “social” spending is redirected into private hands in such a fashion as to serve the social and political interests of those with capital. So private (toll) roads, the recent emergence of private electrical grids in the face of blackouts, privatization of funding for radio stations, policing functions (at least supplementally), certainly schools and in some instances such as Philadelphia entire school districts, hospitals, and universities (even public ones) are thrown increasingly into the hands—and so at the discretion of—those who can afford and choose to support them. The effect is not that all funding support for public programming ends, but that funding for almost anything other than explicit behavioral control programs (policing, militarization) becomes pointedly privatized, thus directed by the hidden hand and so serving the supposed interests of the wealthy with disposable income or investment capital.

Now the elevated factions of social class in a racial state like the U.S. have traditionally been white, or, more precisely, have represented the interests of those occupying the structural class position of (male) whiteness. The US Census Bureau reports that in 2000 the top five per cent of white wage earners received wages almost double those of the top five percent of black wage earners. Unsurprisingly, the largest contributors by far to political campaigns are white men. Under this mandate of radical privatization, funded institutions, programs, and activities accordingly become dramatically less diverse in their programming, scope, commitments and, moreover, in their employment patterns. Hence the fundamentalist conservative outrage expressed by the likes of Abigail Thernstrom, Ward Connoly, Linda Chavez, and the Center for Individual Rights regarding the Supreme Court’s recent upholding in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)[15] of law schools’ limited affirmative action programs for the sake of maintaining a diverse student body. Neo-conservative critics committed to a “race-free” America (note, not racist free) have blasted the diversity commitments of the Court’s majority as “tortured” (Ward Connerly), as “diversity drivel” (Michael Greve), and discriminatory (Linda Chavez), indeed, even “racist” (Abigail Thernstrom).[16] If it is no longer possible to restrict demographic diversity, the culture wars can be won by defunding progressive cultural commitments, by shrinking the cultural horizons of heterogeneity.

Implicit in this model of racial americanization, therefore, is a set of barely stated assumptions and presuppositions. First, homogenized apartness is taken as the deracialized norm, the assumed, the natural, the given. Integration, or at least desegregation, comes over as unnatural, literally absurd and irrational in the prevailing order of things, requiring intervention by the state at the cost of liberty (the freedom to choose where one lives or is educated, who one hires or works with, where one hangs out, worships or may be laid to rest). Second, standards are represented mainly as white, that is, those associated with the structure of whiteness, which are assumed as the norm, as the criteria of judgment, as representing excellence – as what everyone else should aspire to. Third, whites are projected as the real victims of antiracist excess (of leftist antiracist racism, of political correctness, of liberal soft-headedness, of the ideology of egalitarianism). And finally, those committed to affirmative action, those against the undoing of antiracist protections and for vigorously heterogeneous public culture, are chided by the agents of rational choice and unfettered individual preference – by racial americanists, in other words – as the cultural elites (the very terms Bob Dole used to knock Democrats in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination in the 1998 Presidential election), out of touch with the “real” concerns and interests of “real,” everyday, working – that is, street wary and weary white people.

But racial americanization is not simply a movement looking to local conditions. Where it is self-conscious, racial americanization has come to combine domestic with foreign design. In the wake of 9/11, americanization became exportable to those ethnoracially conceived countries or (sub-)continents deemed to threaten its security. The conservationism of domestic racial americanization has been supplemented by an activist agenda regarding externalities, one that has redounded on the fragilities of the domestic mandate in unsettling ways. Domestically, as we have seen, the commitment is supposed to be to homogenizing racelessness as the rejection of “diversity drivel,” where the civilizing standards are those of heteronormative, homogenizing whiteness. By extension, ethnoracial rationalization as civilizational superiority is readily invoked in the war on terror and exported as the neo-libertarian imposition of “living free,” which means buying (into) the American dream of privatizing (i.e. corporatizing) national industries, promoting cutthroat competitiveness, reproducing a culture of possessive individualism, allowing for the freedom to choose (ultimately to starve), and of unsettling the status quo in favor of US-friendly puppets. The foreign extension of racial americanization returns racial configuration to externalities internalized, to race as the outside threat of heterogeneous diversity, as the perceived activist need to reinvent a segregationist logic on an ethnonationalized global scale. Rogue states, those pre-modern avatars of repressive unfreedom or chaotic anarchy, are the new targets of opportunity. Until the American Dream of “living free” is internalized in those civilizational places most resistant to it—notably societies seen to be ordered by the terrors of assertive Islam—they need to be quarantined, segregated into containable and controllable cantons, movement of human and economic capital to and from them constrained and conditioned, filtered and sterilized lest they infect the land of modern liberty.

Muslims are the new niggers of this globalizing racial americanization. And given that transnational flows are less readily containable and conditioned than they were a century ago, this newly necessitated activism has redounded back on the American “homeland” (how much more an ironically inverted historical invocation of racially conceived place can one get?). The circulation of terror today knows no borders or boundaries. The dictates of national security have been internalized in the form of “homeland security,” at once identifying the transnational uncontainability of an ethnoracially conceived people elsewhere (Muslims everywhere, all two billion, worldwide) into a more strategically manageable grouping (Arabs) geo-graphically locatable in a single, if extended, region (the Middle East). The transmutations of geo-strategic national and localized homeland securities into each other have a double dictate: On one hand, wherever they might be, the terrorists must be eradicated, no matter the collateral damage, or failing that at least kept at bay (though given the need to protect global interests, American presence in any bay has become a vulnerable target). Collateral damage, as Mahmood Mamdani has pointed out[17], is “not an unfortunate byproduct of war; it was the very point . .” of terrorizing the general population into submission, a logic destined to bite back the hand that feeds it, as the Iraqi debacle of “Operation Enduring Freedom” is illustrating on a daily basis. That freedom is to be “endured” reveals something of the ironies at work here. It reveals, on the other hand, that the uncivil must be civilized, educated where at all possible in the virtues of the American way, all the while keeping them at arm’s length least they bite back, which they invariably do. The logic of domination, of enduring freedom, dictates it.

This ambivalence between embracing and distancing, between paternalistic rule and the segregative security state, is mirrored by the ambivalence towards racial profiling. Prior to 9/11, racial profiling in the U.S. especially by the police was being rolled back in the face of widespread public consensus that it was unworkable and unjust. Post 9/11, public opinion had swung dramatically, seventy percent supporting profiling as a means to effect security in the homeland. One third of people polled in the U.S. responded that all Arab Americans ought to be interned as a bulwark against potential terrorism. Think of it: sixty years after World War II, every third non-Arab American one might come across in a random public place in America was ready to round up their Arab American compatriots in a concentration camp. Paul Gilroy is right at least in this: the resonances of fascism die hard.[18] President Bush’s executive order clarifying his administration’s policy on racial profiling seeks to capitalize on these tensions. Banning profiling by federal law enforcement agents for “routine law enforcement investigations,” the order nevertheless enables the use of race and ethnicity in “national security” (including all border) considerations as well as in cases where “trustworthy information” exists identifying specific criminal activity or membership of a criminal organization. So while police cannot target a neighborhood because of its racial composition, border patrol can stop a person on the basis of a racial profile, race can be used to “identify terrorist threats, and stop potential catastrophic attacks,”[19] and federal agents can stop racially identified suspects in a particular crime where they claim to have clear evidence that the perpetrator fits the racial profile. Clearly, this executive order on racial profiling will have no diminishing effect on the racially driven rates of incarceration in America where people of color, barely totaling 30 percent of the general population, make up more than 70 percent of the spiraling prison population.[20] Racially driven incarceration, in fact, is a cornerstone of the logic of born-again segregation. The almost random rounding up of Arabs is a predictable extension of this logic. President Bush’s profiling policy thus exemplifies the logic of racial americanization perfectly well: appear to strike racial reference from formal public dictate while endorsing its covert extension, in private and public interactions, especially in cases of national security.

In terms of the institutionalization and reproduction of racial americanization, these new forms of segregation have managed to informalize what used to be formally produced, both to realize and virtualize segregative exclusions. Race continues to define, globally as domestically, where one can go, what one can do, how one is seen and treated, one’s social, economic, political, legal and cultural, in short, one’s everyday experience. Global circulation, like local city space, is increasingly contradictory: As there is greater heterogeneity and multiplicity so segregation is refined; as visible openness and accessibility are enlarged exclusionary totalization is extended; as interaction is increased access is monitored, traversal policed, intercourse surveilled. As boundaries and borders become more permeable, they are re-fixed in the imaginary, shifting from the visible to the virtual, from the formalized to the experiential, from the legal to the cultural at a time when the cultural, economically and socially, has become dominant.

National security has become the abiding insomnia of American paranoia. Where segregation has been privatized along with much else in American life, its logic has come to dominate U.S. foreign policy. Segregation was never about the complete dislocation of one racially conceived group from another, a final solution of another sort, so much as it was conceived as a logic of ongoing control. Blacks were to be externalized from the social life of whiteness for all purposes other than menial services, demeaning labor, and sometime sexual experimentation or satisfaction. The logic in the case of the Middle East, and indeed now Africa, is of the same order. We will interact with you only in so far and for as long as you service national interests. But the history of segregating others reveals that it necessarily entails more or less extensively isolating oneself. Hence the lure to whites of Harlem at the heights of segregating America or of Sophiatown or District Six in apartheid South Africa. Racial americanization is about unilateral Americanism, a new global politics of going it alone because, in elevating oneself above all others, one is reduced to the paranoidly assertive insecurity of rendering oneself too sensitive to touch, thus literally untouchable. Targets of opportunity turn on their paternalists, once they figure out there are no free opportunities. This shriveling of possibility reduces the plaintive cry of freedom to turning the self-proclaimed father figure of America into targets. Racial americanization externalized is the fuel—and fear--of terrorism internalized.









[1] David Theo Goldberg, The Death of Race (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, forthcoming 2005).


[2]Douglas Massey and Zoltan Hajnal, "The Changing Geographic Structure of Black-White Segregation in the United States," Social Science Quarterly 76. 3 (September 1995): 533-34; Arnold Hirsch, "With or Without Jim Crow: Black Residential Segregation in the United States," in Urban Policy in Twentieth Century America, ed. Arnold Hirsch and Raymond Mohl (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1993), 65-99.


[3] Hirsch, 67.


[4]Nancy Denton, "Residential Segregation: Challenge to White America," Journal of Intergroup Relations 11. 2 (Summer 1994): 24.


[5]Raymond A. Mohl, "Shifting Patterns of American Urban Policy Since 1900," in Urban Policy in Twentieth Century America, ed. Arnold Hirsch and Raymond Mohl (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1993), 15.


[6]Hirsch, 91.


[7]Massey and Hajnal, 527.


[8] Massey and Hajnal, 536-37.


[9] See Owen Fiss, A Way Out: America’s Ghettos and the Legacy of Racism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).


[10] Massey and Hajnal, op. cit., p 537.


[11] Thomas Schelling, "On the Ecology of Micromotives," The Public Interest 25 (Fall 1971): 61-98.


[12] Denton, 48.


[13] Los Angeles Times, “The Great White Influx,” July 31, 2002, 1.


[14] Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 347 US 483 (1954).


[15] Grutter v. Bollinger, (0 732, 20032-241) 288 F. 3d (2003).


[16] The Chronicle Review, “The Michigan Decisions,” July 4, 2003, 10-12.


[17] Mahmood Mamdani, “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: Apolitical Perspective on Culture and Terrorism,” American Anthropologist 104.3 (2002): 766-75.


[18]See Paul Gilroy, Against Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002).


[19] US Dept of Justice, Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies (June 2003).


[20] Human Rights Watch, “Incarceration and Race,” 2000. http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/usa/Rcedrg00-01.htm (accessed October 28, 2004).