The Wages of Non-Blackness: Contemporary Immigrant Rights and Discourses of Character, Productivity, and Value
I have an article in the latest issue of InTensions, “(De) Fatalizing the Present and Creating Radical Alternatives,” guest edited by Anna M. Agathangelou and Kyle D. Killian. The special issue also features new articles by Jared Sexton and Frank B. Wilderson, III, as well as others. The full article can be accessed for free here.
Drawing from W.E.B. Du Bois’ concept of the psychological wage of whiteness, this article explores how contemporary rhetoric promoted by immigrant rights advocates in the United States valorizes non-white immigrant workers in relationship to African Americans. Specifically, I examine moralized claims regarding immigrants’ character, productivity, and value as well as their contributions to the U.S. and global economy. I emphasize how this discourse echoes and draws upon managerial and capitalist perspectives of labor as well as anti-Black rhetoric regarding African Americans as lacking a work ethic, militant, xenophobic, and costly to society. Finally, I briefly consider whether the wage of non-Blackness differs from the wage of whiteness as well as the possibility of an ethical immigrant rights discourse.
This is a recent post of mine that ran on the blog Everyday Sociology, sponsored by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Top Chef and the Black/non-Black divide
By Tamara K. Nopper
June 7, 2009
I love the show Top Chef. I watch it religiously and regularly chat about it with fellow fan and friend Kevin Eddington. Although more of a foodie than me—he actually knows what sous vide means—we share concerns about the show’s racial dynamics, some of which I want to discuss here. Specifically, I want to explore how Asian Americans and African Americans are represented on Top Chef and in the process, draw from approaches emphasizing the Black/non-Black divide.The Black/non-Black framework is proposed by George Yancey in his book Who is White?: Latinos, Asians, and the New Black/Nonblack Divide.
According to Yancey, this framework is more helpful for analyzing racism than a white/non-white paradigm because Blacks experience a unique degree of social isolation, as evidenced by how whites, Latinos, and Asian Americans reject them as potential neighbors and marriage partners yet remain open to each other. Yancey’s conclusion bears out on the show.
To continue reading, go here.
December 26, 2008
A political memoir, Incognegro documents Wilderson’s journey as a Black child integrating an all-white neighborhood with his sister and professor parents to South Africa after Nelson Mandela’s election—where Wilderson was part of Umkhonto we Sizwe (an underground wing of the African National Congress (ANC))—back to the U.S.
I read Incognegro this past summer. As an academic, I have the luxury of reading and writing about ideas as part of my profession. However, a lot of academics only read what will help our careers or what we are told we need to know in order to be taken seriously in the profession. Because of the “publish or perish” mentality of many universities—or the opposite approach, which is to assign professors an extremely heavy teaching load every semester—reading to understand the world is not necessarily encouraged among academicians. Indeed, many academics are looked at as naïve or “youthful” if they take the time to read books that are not already heavily cited or featured in highly regarded academic journals (there is generally a correlation between the two). Thus, a lot of us are simply too busy to read work that might take us off-track or not be easily figured into existing projects that generally, we hope will work its way into a publication.
I am not the most disciplined academic reader. Of course I read a lot in my discipline of sociology and within my specific sub-areas. But I also read a lot off-list. Incognegro was one of those books. It was 500 pages off-list.