On Thursday, March 2, I attended the Humanities on the Edge event held at the Sheldon Art Museum. The event is made up of a serious of talks and usually tries to follow a central theme for a whole year, with four speakers in each. Alexandre Da Costa was the speaker of the night and his talk was titled “Toward a Hemispheric Critique of Post-racial”. I found myself lost multiple times throughout the talk, but I was able to jot down some of the notes on his slides and catch a few of his explanations.
He defined post-racial racism as “characterized by various degrees of race and/or colorblindness, coupled with denials and/or minimizations of racism and colonialism. He went on to say that whiteness blocks visibility of racism, which I believe meant that white privilege, settler colonialism, and genocide tie into this idea. He gave us four key logics: 1) notions of racial progress or transcendence 2) non-racialism or colorblind ideology 3) racial exceptionalism (not seen as ongoing) and 4) fixation on possible futures beyond race. This last one he elaborated on by saying that the longer that minorities wait for hope, the more unnecessary violence and shorter lives there will be for them. Da Costa’s parents are Brazilian, but he grew up in the United States and is now teaching at the University of Alberta in Canada so his research has been directly focused on Brazil, Canada, and the United States. He went through examples of how these countries display racism, and afterward, he was able to point out some common threads in each. They all had limited acknowledgment of it, they had an underlying structure based on whiteness, and they demonstrated that race doesn’t matter because of misguided ideologies and the hope that people will eventually overcome.
Da Costa defined post-racial racism as performative because of violent acts like lynching were going on and nobody said anything about it even though people knew. He gave us a list of performativity forms in post-racial racism like white ignorance or feigned ignorance of racism. Also, white fragility and taking up space, the centering of white subjectivity and emotion, and finally discourses that deny or minimalize racism. Along with the lynching example, he mentioned genocide because it has become routine and justified. The United States and Canada were built off of the genocide of Native Americans, claiming that they were savages and had to be assimilated into white settlers “better” way of life. Da Costa explained that even silence and ignorance of racism are acts of genocide themselves and that people need to be more conscious of what is happening around them. His example of this was how he didn’t even think to notice that there wasn’t a wheelchair accessible entry ramp in the auditorium, and how that is one of the small things that he practices to prevent racism around him.
Overall, I enjoyed the talk and it gave me some points to take home and let it stew in my mind for a while. I think it has made me even more aware of my own actions and pushes me to not be silent about racism. It needs to a subject that is out in the open and talked about, not something that makes whites uncomfortable. Instead of hoping that our world will somehow evolve into a diverse and culturally accepting place, then nothing will ever be done and we will continue on this path of demise for a lot of people.