Du Bois and the 1897 post-racial

After Obama’s election in 2008, we got to hear a lot about this term “post-racial.” I’ve never been sure exactly who believed in such a thing, except those people for whom race is such an anxiety that they now flat out deny its presence in everyday life and always have. Opportunists. In that sense, I…

Race, racism, and thinking with philosophy

by Tommy J. Curry and John Drabinski Jason Stanley and Vesla Weaver lay out some critically important ideas in their “Is the United States a ‘Racial Democracy’?” essay in The Stone at the New York Times website. The information is frightening, if not entirely surprising: the criminal justice system penalizes African-Americans in ways that reveals both institutional racism…

Baldwin, language, spirituals

The function of the spirituals in the African-American intellectual tradition is well-known, especially in the work of W.E.B. Du Bois and Alain Locke – for both, the spirituals work as a foundation to the tradition. The spirituals are an enigma. They represent content as both lyric and sound; indeed, the distinction between those two forms…

Memory and abject labor

I’ve been starting and re-starting an essay that takes up the dispute between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois concerning the shape and meaning of racial uplift. The topic isn’t new, of course, but I’m hoping I have something new or interesting to say. And the topic came from a short, but really interesting conversation…