By: Kevin Michael Gillie
Talking about race and racism can sometimes be seen as taboo. Especially so in this corrupt world we live in. In America we truly lack the right words and sometimes even the mental capacity to discuss such a vast and overbearing topic. We all know that racism is ingrained into the bedrock foundation of these United States of America. How then is it so hard to even talk about race and racism sometimes? Without even knowing it though, Racial Formation helps us link structure and representation. Broad terms, undoubtedly, but let’s dive a little deeper.
According to Omi and Winant, Racial Formation is the process by which racial categories are made – from beginning to end – creation to destruction – and these projects are how people like you and I, and our social structures, are organized and represented. Racial Projects are what make up Racial Formation. These projects range in size, from tiny to massive – and they actually do the work of linking structure and also help justify how resources are allocated to a specific group. It sounds a little confusing – but stay with me.
This linear explanation hopefully makes it easier to understand – but let’s look at a real life example!
During World War II, over 100,000 Japanese-American individuals, most of whom where American citizens, were sent to internment camps. These camps had horrific conditions and those effected had to up and leave everything they had in a matter of days. This was during the time when the American government was convinced that Japanese people in America might be working against them – so the government places a new REPRESENTATION of these Japanese people as the enemy or as spies that were living among us. This was a racial project that was widely accepted by those in America who felt the same way – mostly because the only representation they had was coming from their “trusty” government.
From then, society started to RESTRUCTURE the way they saw these individuals, and began forcing them to these camps. Not because of any specific crime, but more so because of their ancestry, which at the time the government felt was a “threat” to national security. They also made physical structures – these internment camps away from the coast – as a place to send away these underserving people. We know that Japanese people in America during 1941 and on were terribly mistreated – but they also had their resources completely taken away from them – in this case ALL resources were taken, redistributed and reallocated because of this new idea.
This is just ONE example of how a racial project (Japanese Internment Camps) restructured society during the time, and then reallocated their own resources because of this new idea. Racial projects are all around us, and this one specifically outlines a time – just SEVENTY-SIX years ago mind you – where we can clearly see how the government completely and utterly took advantage and mistreated innocent people in America – the “land of the free.”
We must look at the past and recognize what happened. The average person probably doesn’t even know the minute details of this horrific chapter in the history of our county. Most of our grandparents and maybe even parents, were alive and well during this time – and for some, not so well, especially if they were even the slightest bit Japanese. Racism in America, as mentioned before, is part of the foundation this country was founded on. We have an obligation to be aware of past and the relevant issues, like this one (among MANY others) and change the future. 2017 has been a strange year so far for our government – and it is scary to think that just THIRTEEN presidents ago, we had horribly racist internment camps in our own backyard. We now are a society of educated and advanced people – so we must take the initiate to invoke change for the future. Don’t forget – Racial Formation is all around you, both past and even present. You just have to be aware.
For more information Japanese-American Internment Camps, please visit http://bookmice.net/darkchilde/japan/camp.html – where I was able to gather facts to help clarify Racial Projects and Racial Formaiton.