Blind to colour – or just blind?

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by Achille Mbembe

The utopian ideal of a world free of the burden of race has powered the struggles of the oppressed since the advent of the modern age. It gave meaning and purpose to the campaigns for the abolition of slavery in the 19th century. It was central to the decolonisation struggle, the Civil Rights movement in the United States, and some of the radical attempts to change the world in the 20th century.

As racism has kept mutating, though, so have forms of intersections between race, class and gender. Although local in its manifestations, racism has always been a global phenomenon and part of its persistence is a result of its globalisation. Furthermore, the force of racism in our world stems from its capacity to mutate and to reappear constantly in ever-changing forms in the most unexpected sites of everyday life.

The weakness of most antiracist struggles is the result of our inability to keep up with the mutating structures of racism and their virulence. As racism worldwide takes on a genomic turn and is now propelled by the war on terror, various anti-migratory policies, the resurgence of compensatory forms of nationalism and mass incarceration, South Africa is caught between various contradictory processes. […]