538 Gregory W. Streich
even if they are unaware of it, or do not “choose” it. To combat racism, they argue that white people ought to become aware of, and reject, the political consequences of “whiteness.” Hill would likely applaud this move, since it represents individuals asserting and acting on their right to forget where they came from, as well as a rejection of a biologically and essentially dened “white” race.
However, the folks at Race Traitor go one more step. They do not just reject or forget whiteness and leave it at that, but they become active in trying to undo the inequalities that have been built upon the racial categories. One editorial opens with such a theoretical and political maneuver, stating, “Two points describe the line of Race Traitor: rst, that the ‘white race’ is not a natural but a historical category; second, that what was historically constructed can be un- done.”52 The editorial then goes on to examine ways in which race traitors must not simply withdraw their complicity with racism but must actively disrupt and change it. In so doing, they are practicing the argument that I am making. The
rst step is to defend individual autonomy and freedom (i.e. rejecting essential-
ized identities). The second step is to attack and ameliorate the social inequalities that falsely enlarge or restrict the range of choices, freedoms, and resources available to individuals (i.e. dismantling the structures and practices of racism that have been built upon inherited racial meanings). It is not enough to reject whiteness and the “wages of whiteness”—one must also try to change the institutions that have been built upon socially constructed racial denitions and racism.53
VI. A Possible Way Forward?
The US federal government has issued apologies for some injustices it perpe- trated in the past. In the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the US ofcially apologized and provided monetary compensation to Japanese Americans who were forcibly interned during WWII. In 1993, the US government apologized for its role in overthrowing the sovereign government of Hawaii in 1893. In 1997, President Clinton offered an apology to survivors of the Tuskegee Institute’s 40-year long “bad blood” (syphilis) experiment. In early 2000, the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs apologized for the agency’s role in the Trail of Tears of 1830, which forced Cherokee Indians to march from North Carolina to Oklahoma. On the other hand, the US has refused to offer an ofcial apology to African nations for its part in the transatlantic slave trade, nor has it apologized
52 “When Does the Unreasonable Act Made Sense?,” in Noel Ignatiev and John Garvey (eds), Race Traitor (New York: Routledge, 1996), p. 35. 53 W. E. B. DuBois coined the phrase “wages of whiteness” to contrast with what we might call the “taxes of blackness.” See the discussion of DuBois in David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (New York: Verso, 1991), pp. 12–13, and passim. Another analogy helps clarify this point. To paraphrase Immanuel Kant, laying down arms is not the same thing as peace, it is simply a cessation of armed conict. We must take the next step to actively turn the absence of conict into a lasting and just peace. By analogy, it is not enough to renounce and reject biological and essentialized notions of race; we must also renounce and dismantle racism in its structural manifestations. Such efforts can rely on Dyson’s racial solidarity as a source of mobilization; thus, political mobilization can employ newly dened racial identities in order to ght racism. I thank Jeffrey Tucker and Melvina Young for their insights on this issue.