Op-Ed: D.A. Gascón: Yes, I’m ‘with the Blacks’ – but not as a ‘gang’
What do they want with me? What do they want with the Blacks?
We were discussing this very topic at a talk I gave last night at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was discussing the history of civil rights in the U.S., particularly black protest history. It was an off-the-cuff talk, thrown out there after a group of Black students requested a talk on the subject. I gave a talk that was based in part on a conversation I had with a former civil rights leader, and it was a pretty good talk in its way. The one thing that it lacked, though, was any actual substance to it beyond my impressions and observations.
One of the things that I did feel was lacking was a thorough understanding of how race works in America. As soon as you begin talking about the history of black protest in America, you are immediately faced with a problem: what do I mean by “race”? I mean, we have a number of different race categories – what do I mean?
Race is a very difficult concept to articulate and understand in its full complexity. It is also one of the most contested of concepts, with its own internal logic and logic of opposition. It doesn’t just “have” to be about skin color; it is actually at the heart and center of our society, as well as our history. To understand race, you have to understand its inner logic, and how it intersects over time with the politics of race, and how it intersects and intersects with social issues and issues of class.
At the risk of oversimplifying, you could say that race as we know it has emerged from two very distinct and even opposing groups: the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, the dominant group in America, and the African-American, who came to the United States during slavery and are the core of the black population for the rest of history. There’s a whole slew of different races that