Surface and Depth (425)

This essay by Paul Street– The Road to Charlottesville— evokes some of the basic oppositions we’ll be discussing at length over the course of the semester: the difference between appearance and essence, surface and depth. Those pairings also relate to the denotation-connotation/ material-ideal/ object-subject binaries that we briefly addressed on the first day of class.

Grasping the nature of this national racism in [the] 21stcentury means looking at the different levels on which race operates here. One level is at the nation’s discursive and symbolic surface. It is about language, imagery, signs, the color of elite personnel, representation, and, well, symbols.

A different and deeper level is institutional and structural.  It’s about how labor markets, the financial sector, the real estate industry, the educational system, the criminal justice complex, the military state, the corporate system, the dominant media, and capitalism more broadly all work to deepen, maintain, and/or reduce racial oppression and inequality.

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