Is There a Right to Forget? 529
he is still a moderate cosmopolitan, perhaps because he recognizes that forget- ting may not be possible, necessary, or even desirable.
His vacillation on this point stems from his negative evaluation of group identities. Hill wants individuals to reject group-based identities because he sees them as inherently essentialized, static, tribalistic, infantile, and parochial. As such, they constrain individuation and undermine autonomy by locking individ- uals into predened scripts and “lies.” Further, he rightfully wants to reject discredited notions of biological race, predicated on the “one drop” rule in which one drop of “black blood” makes one black in the US. 19
Hill is right to point out the many dangers of essentialized identities. However, the political importance of groups and cultures can be retained without retaining essentialism. Michael Dyson’s anti-essentialist view of black cultural identities is helpful here. For Dyson, “black culture is not static or one-
dimensional. Neither is it drawn forward by a single historical end. Dyson promotes the notion of an “enabling solidarity” that will
appeal to the richly varied meanings of cultural practices, the diversity of authentic roles one may express within the repertoire of black cultural identities, and the ever-expanding context of historical experience in supporting its vision of racial cooperation. An enabling solidarity should not appeal to truncated under- standings of authentic racial identity or place an ideological noose of loyalty around the necks of critical dissenters from received ideas about racial unity … While it is true that our common history of slavery and racial oppression signies a common goal of freedom from oppression for black people, broadened horizons of racial experience and more sophisticated conceptions of racial identity make the articulation of a single, unitary, racial goal highly problematic. Black culture is not simply formed in the response to forces of oppression. Its purposes do not easily reduce to resisting racism. Although black cultural creativity and agency are profoundly inuenced by racist oppression, their rich range of expressions are not exhausted by preoccupation with such oppression.21
Dyson’s approach to group-based identity allows for individuality within groups, and recognizes the internal heterogeneity of groups and cultures. It also allows for solidarity due to shared historical experiences, but this solidarity is neither stiing, reactive, nor essentializing. Further, this approach to cultures and groups allows us to recognize the internal heterogeneity that belies any notion of essentialism. The different experiences and identities of Caribbean (e.g.
19 Ibid., pp. 69–71. Hollinger and Appiah also promote a cosmopolitan identity in which race is treated as a group afliation that one can choose or reject as a theoretical lever to reject biological and essentialized notions of race; in Postethnic America, passim, and “Identity, Authenticity, Survival,” passim. I also reject notions of essentialized and biological racial categories, yet I view “race” as politically important for shaping our experiences, identities, and opportunity structures. For a discussion of the origin and the fallacy of the one-drop rule, see F. James Davis, Who Is Black? One Nation’s Denition (University Park: Pennsylvania S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1 9 9 1 ) . 2 0 Michael Eric Dyson, “Essentialism and the Complexities of Racial Identity,” in David T h e o G o l d b e r g ( e d . ) , M u l t i c u l t u r a l i s m : A C r i t i c a l R e a d e r ( N e w Y o r k : B l a c k w e l l , 1 9 9 4 ) , p . 2 2 1 . 2 1 Ibid., p. 221. Dyson is not the rst to posit multiplicity and individuality within groups. For an earlier statement of such a thesis, which also argues that groups and cultures are shaped through dialogical interaction, see Alain Locke’s essays on cultural pluralism in Leonard Harris (ed.), The Philosophy of Alain Locke: Harlem Renaissance and Beyond (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989).