Racism is a key term in migration discourses, where it usually takes the form of narratives on racism, including second-order observations of institutional or endemic racism. Notable exceptions are interventions backed up by narratives of personal experience (see, e.g., Eddo-Lodge 2017). Notoriously difficult to define from a theoretical (etic) perspective, racism is easily identified when experienced first-hand (emic perspective).
This programmatic perspective shift from an approach to racism which focuses on in-groups rather than out-groups is in line with the core concern of OPPORTUNITIES, the notion of level telling fields (see the entry on “Level Telling Field”). From this point of view, an out-group-oriented definition challenges both political complacency – i.e., the argument that racism has long been overcome in Western liberal democracies – and the right-wing backlash against anti-racism, which initiates pseudo-debates on cultural appropriation and restitution, designed to re-introducing racism through the back door. OPPORTUNITIES therefore advocates defining racism not merely as an ideology, a mindset or attitude, a set of discriminatory practices (e.g., stereotypes, hate speech, or verbal abuse), or (the threat of) physical violence, but also in terms of the effects of such ideologies and practices on those concerned. This is more than a rhetorical maneuver or an academic exercise in perspective-taking: it is the core of a new strategic anti-racist narrative.
This strategic narrative, which understands racism as a certain type of experience, empowers, first, the ‘experiencers,’ in narratological terms, i.e., those who are confronted with and forced to endure racism. It foregrounds, secondly, the alertness and vigilance as well as anxiety and fear felt by people who experience racism. It uses the concept of terror, thirdly, to describe such effects in a systematic manner. And it draws an analogy between the experience of racist terror and other experiences of terrorism. The implications are clear: if “racism is terrorism” (Diallo and Sommer, forthcoming), it should be taken as seriously as, and be prosecuted like, other kinds of politically, ideologically, ethnically, or religiously motivated terrorism.
⇢ see also Anti-racism, Narratives on migration, Othering, Refugee archetype, Stories of migration, Terrorism
References and further reading:
Diallo, Moustapha M., and Roy Sommer. Forthcoming. Racism Is Terrorism: A Manifesto.
Eddo-Lodge, Reni. 2017. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. London: Bloomsbury.
Titley, Gavan. 2020. Is Free Speech Racist? Cambridge: Polity Press.
Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8