Anthropological Perspectives on Race, Nation and for Whom Is America Great?

The resurgence of racial antipathy and policy surfaces at historical periods in the U.S. when there is a perceived threat to white male elite power structures, and to poor and working class “whiteness.” The contemporary rise of essentialist racial, homophobic and misogynist thinking and actors that want to “make America great again” are not new; witness Reconstruction after the civil war, exclusionist immigration policies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the rise of Jim Crow laws throughout the country in the early twentieth century; including the suppression of voting rights. What is new circa 2021 is that white racist ( white supremacist groups) have moved from the margins to the mainstream: witness the right wing media universe, Donald Trump, and his multitude of enablers. The deep-seated paradox of race and identity at the birth of this nation over 300 years ago is still being played out today. The basic questions then as now, are those of power, control and influence. Who is an American, and who gets to decide? Who decides how that is implemented is the story of structural racism within all our institutions in the U.S.? What does the present xenophobia and overt racism say about the state of marginalized populations of color in the United States? About government sanctioned racialized immigration and migration policies and practices? Do current anthropological theories of race, space, and intersectionality help tell those stories? Can anthropologists document and illuminate the historical story of the embeddedness of structural racism for a wider U.S. audience, and make the intersection of race, power, and hegemony more transparent? This presentation will challenge anthropologists through their research and practice to frame the “Disruption” that must challenge the growing national re-energizing of racial hatred and dehumanization of the “other.” Our survival as a democratic nation depends on it.

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