Du Bois Review Issue 12.1

A Troublesome Recurrence

In this moment we observe the re-cycling of crudely racist ideologies in the new garb of genomic science, the tenacious persistence of racial boundaries and identities, and the use of the tools of government to sanction racial oppression. Issue 12.1, “A Troublesome Recurrence” highlights the enduring challenge of racial integration, the politics of school choice, and the racial attitudes affecting political rights for felons, among other themes. Two scholars also offer a close read of Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, and find it troubling indeed.


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“[I]n an era in which the factors driving observed patterns of segregation are more complex and often hidden from view, the meaning and the desirability of integration becomes murkier. Indeed, all three terms related to this struggle—segregation, desegregation, and integration—are contested. This paper...offer[s] an alternative model of integration that would be less vulnerable to the longstanding critiques of Black nationalists, critical race theorists, and some academics in law, political theory, and sociology.” --Sharon Stanley

"School choice advocates contend that giving parents choices empowers them to influence public school curricula and practices since schools must then compete for students in order to survive….Yet only some of the parents experience empowerment, and then only a weak form of it. Strong empowerment was lacking as parents struggled to comprehend the array of school options, strained to fill out applications and visit schools, and confronted the barriers to access erected by the schools themselves. There was evidence of limited personal agency…but no evidence of agentic power, control, or a determinative say as they waited (sometimes in vain) to hear back from schools..." --Mary Pattillo

“[P]erceptions of race-neutral policies, such as those that pertain to criminal justice and poverty, are inextricably connected to perceptions about Blacks. This connection is forged in the minds of Whites by racial stereotypes and perceptions that Blacks are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice and welfare systems. Despite being race neutral, criminal justice statutes, unintentionally or not, become a code for communicating racial information without appearing overtly racist. Attitudes toward policies restoring the political rights of felons are expected to be similar to attitudes toward other race-neutral criminal justice issues and, more generally, to those of race-conscious policies.” --David C. Wilson, Michael Leo Owens, and Darren W. Davis

“For [Nicholas] Wade, it is “instinctual social behaviors” that explain why resource-poor countries like Japan and Iceland are wealthy while more richly endowed countries like Nigeria and Haiti are “beset by persistent poverty and corruption.” Wade is breathtakingly silent about the role of European conquest, slavery, and colonialism in producing these global inequities….He attribute[s] Western achievements to Europeans’ peaceful nature, thus ignoring the extreme violence entailed in enslaving Africans in order to build Western wealth on their exploited labor." --Dorothy E. Roberts

"The racial essentialism that Nicholas Wade lays out, both in A Troublesome Inheritance and in much of his scientific reporting for The New York Times, is simply the latest incarnation of a centuries-old account of the world. In this new version, racial categories originate not in Europeans’ attempts to justify the colonization, exploitation, and oppression of those they considered “Other,” but rather simply in natural patterns of human genetic variation." --Ann Morning

PLUS: Andrew J. Douglas; John Hagan, Gabriele Plickert, Alberto Palloni, and Spencer Headworth; Nicholas Vargas; Timothy Bates; Eve Garrow; and Carla Shedd

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