Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Comment about Race

posted by Mr. Vidiot @ 11:44 AM Permalink

Recently, there was a shooting of police officers in Oakland by an African American man. Micheal Savage's response to a caller who was discussing the issues of race with regards to that shooting was, "black people should be happy now that they have a black president. What more do they want?"

Let us evaluate the complicated notion of race. Granting race as the primary factor motivating human behavior is a simplistic, and worst, reductionist logic. We must understand human behavior from within a process. Humans do not simply live in a vacuum; they live and act in definite time and space occupying real conditions in the social world. In other words, individuals act within a society and this society is composed of multiple institutions. The main institutions are our political, social, economic, cultural, and religious institutions. They are a product of human activity. We made them and we continue them. Now, each individual occupies a certain position within all of these institutions (Whether they know it or not). Power determines one’s social location within each of these institutions. Power is one form of capital. The power elite command the highest capital within these institutions and the homeless command the least capital. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle occupying uneven positions within and between these institutions.

We must understand motivations for action within these institutions of power. Most folks, especially poor black folk, make decisions based on their marginalized positions within all the power structures of our society. They lack political, social, economic, and cultural capital. They know it. A dominant group has power over them, power to label them, power to define what is deviant, power to frame their story and explain their reasons, and power to shape their behavior. In short, the dominant group forces its logic on the powerless group and when the powerless group does not conform, they are punished. Forcing ones logic on the powerless through social control will always result in resistant behavior. I am not excusing behavior, one must be held responsible for their actions. I claim, on the other hand, that if we can understand better the nature of this process, we can better improve the US and how we go about fighting “crime.” We must better understand human action from observing the individuals structural position, their cultural milieu (socio-spatial location, friends, perceived ethnic group affiliation, family, gang) that responds to this position, and how individuals navigate their biographies from within these structures and cultures.

I have a comment about nation-states and their definitions but I will save that for the next time.

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