Exit Strategy for the Race Paradigm

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This paper analogizes racial trauma to the cycle of violence present in domestic violence contexts. It argues that abandoning ancestry (and other methods of identification) for race, as a system of identification, inhibits people’s escape and recovery from the cycle of racial trauma. The paper proposes a unifying theory for analyzing race that captures most of what has been written about it within a single framework. This theory offers a way of relating race-related concepts under one synthesizing umbrella using examples from law. This synthesis may facilitate discussions about how race defines the terms of an abusive social relationship and how to develop new goals and strategies for identity, human rights, justice, and prosperity. The paper considers the implications of incorporating the identity concept of wholism into legal frameworks promoting equality and diversity. It discusses the legal necessity and vulnerability of anti-racist uses of race and hypothesizes the ramifications of wholism and the interim alternatives of genomically-informed and experience-based identity. Although this article advocates alternatives to the uses of race, it is not a colorblind theory. Colorblindness attempts to create an illusory equality by eliminating race-conscious remedial measures despite the continued effects of white privilege and supremacy. Colorblindness denies any difference between the value of race conscious measures that promote bias and exclusion and those that attempt to cure oppression and promote diversity. This paper, on the other hand, recognizes the importance of anti-racist uses of race conscious measures, but suggests that their use as identity tools may trap people into a cycle of racial trauma. Thus, the paper considers non-race-based identity as part of a process of recovery from racial trauma and a future aspiration, rather than a description of current social dynamics.


Keywords: Identity, Race, Cycle of Violence, Trauma, Wholism
Stream: Race and Racism
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Prof. E. Christi Cunningham

Professor, School of Law, Howard University
Washington, D.C., USA

e. christi cunningham. Currently a Professor and the Director of Legal Reasoning Research and Writing at the Howard University School of Law, she served as a law clerk to the Honorable Constance Baker Motley in the Southern District of New York and practiced in New York prior to entering academia. She received her J.D. from Yale Law School a B.A. and B.S. from Southern Methodist University. As an activist, she organizes an anti-violence project that includes a tutorial program for youth in Southeast Washington, D.C., has worked as the Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator at the D.C. Rape Crisis Center and mediates disputes between consumers and service providers for the D.C. Department of Mental Health. She writes plays with the Black Women Playwrights’ Group. Her short works have been staged in New York and Washington, D.C. She has presented papers at universities internationally. She has several publications, including The Rise of Identity Politics I: The Myth of the Protected Class in Title VII Disparate Treatment Cases, 30 CONN. L. REV. 441 (1998); Identity Markets, 45 HOWARD L. J. 491 (2002); and Universal Sufficiency (2004). http://www.law.howard.edu/faculty/pages/cunningham/

Ref: D08P0158