Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
3 December 2007

On race and the black middle class

This morning in the Business Day there is a very interesting article by Eusebius McKaiser, touching on some of the same kind of issues tentatively raised on this blog last week about race, racial essentialism and the like. He bemoans the fact that members of the so called black middle class are criticised for not having a bigger social conscience. Money quote:

But the critique of the black middle class does not stem from these humanist considerations. It is an argument that is explicitly couched in race terms, as if the white middle class is incapable of being moved by mostly black poverty. And therein lies the problem with this attack on the black middle class. It betrays deep-seated race essentialism that is overlaid with latent racism.

The argument is essentialist in that it effectively demands that every member of the black middle class accept special moral duties towards other black people solely by virtue of the fact that they both have black skins. But how, and why, does one’s membership of a group generate duties in respect of that group?

I think we should talk more about race and race essentialism because it remains the elephant in the room in almost any interaction and discussion. This article is an interesting and provocative step in that direction.

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