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Critical Multicultural Perspectives on Whiteness

Views from the Past and Present

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Edited By Virginia Lea, Darren E. Lund and Paul R. Carr

Whiteness is a narrative. It is the privileged dimension of the complex story of "race" that was, and continues to be, seminal in shaping the socio-economic structure and cultural climate of the United States and other Western nations. Without acknowledging this story, it is impossible to understand fully the current political and social contexts in which we live. Critical Multicultural Perspectives on Whiteness explores multiple analyses of whiteness, drawing on both past and current key sources to tell the story in a more comprehensive way. This book features both iconic essays that address the social construction of whiteness and critical resistance as well as excellent new critical perspectives.

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2. Whiteness as Property (Cheryl L. Harris)

Extract

Chapter 2

Whiteness as Property

Cheryl L. Harris

Originally published as: Harris, Cheryl L. (1993). Whiteness as property. Harvard Law Review, 106(8), 1710–1791.

she walked into forbidden worlds

impaled on the weapon of her own pale skin she was a sentinel

at impromptu planning sessions of her own destruction …

—Cheryl I. Harris, poem for alma1

[P]etitioner was a citizen of the United States and a resident of the state of Louisiana of mixed descent, in the proportion of seven eighths Caucasian and one eighth African blood; that the mixture of colored blood was not discernible in him, and that he was entitled to every recognition, right, privilege and immunity secured to the citizens of the United States of the white race by its Constitution and laws … and thereupon entered a passenger train and took possession of a vacant seat in a coach where passengers of the white race were accommodated.

Plessy v. Ferguson2

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