Delgado and Going Back to Class

When CRT was originally envisioned, it was to be an intersection of ‘racial theory’ and activism against racism. However, a number of CRT theorists today are frustrated at the turn CRT has made from activism to academic discourse, and this has led to a reappraisal of the significance of social class.

As we saw in chapter 2 of this volume, Delgado (2003) has put forward a materialist critique of the discourse-focused trend of recent CRT writings which focus more on text and symbol and less on the economic determinants of Latino/a and black racial fortunes. Delgado’s paper was the subject of a symposium in 2005, run by The Michigan Journal of Race and Law, entitled, Going Back to Class: The Re-emergence of Class in Critical Race Theory. Somewhat surprisingly, given Mills’ published comments on Marxism above (see also Pateman and Mills 2007), Mills said he favoured the combination of Marxism and CRT, which forms a kind of ‘racial capitalism.’14 He said he agreed with Delgado on the belief, central to CRT, that class structure keeps racial hierarchy intact. The working class is divided by ‘race’, Mills said, to the advantage of the upper class, which is mainly composed of white elites (Hare 2006), a position very familiar to Marxist analysts.15

At the same symposium, Angela Harris said CRT is essential in exposing how interconnected class, ‘race’ and sex can be: ‘We need to pay attention to the intersections and understand how complicated these issues are,’ (cited in Hare 2006). As an example, she referenced the affirmative action disputes in higher education. The often-cited argument that working-class whites are being rejected in favor of middle-class blacks and Latinos— who, the argument goes have a better chance of acceptance regardless of ‘race’—is looking at class based solely on income (cited in Ibid.). ‘What CRT exposes is that class also needs to be looked at in terms of access to wealth and the racialization of class’ (cited in Ibid.).

As for the future of CRT, Delgado envisions a new movement of CRT theorists to recombine discourse and political activism. ‘I’m worried that the younger crop of CRT theorists are enamored by the easy arm-chair task of writing about race the word and not race in the world’, Delgado concluded. ‘A new movement is needed’. For Marxists, these are promising developments and point towards a possible alignment between CRT and Marxism. However, any future alignment would need to have at its core a structural analysis of capitalism and capitalist social relations, combined with a critique thereof (I return to this in the Conclusion to this volume). I now turn to a consideration of racism and Marxism before relating racism to the Marxist concept of racialization.

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