Color Line As a Volatile Topic in the Nation

March 8, 2022
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Color Line As a Volatile Topic in the Nation

Color Line As a Volatile Topic in the Nation

A hundred years ago, sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois said, “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line—the relation of the darker to the lighter races.”

Question: Why do you think that the color line remains one of the most volatile topics facing the nation?

Be sure to reference theory or research from the text reading (Chapter 12-Race and Ethnicity) to support your answer or opinion.


Your response should be one page (300-350 words, double-spaced, word count does not include your name or references at the bottom of the page)

To support your answer, use examples and information from the text and module reading.

Reminder: You are required to comply to the Academic Honor Code at all times. Facts, quotes, ideas, etc. that are borrowed from a resource or resources other than personal experiences must be cited in proper APA format in your response.

In paper citations: Please note, any sentences with facts you use or paraphrase from the text or course reading must be followed by the last name of the author and the year of publication.

Example of an in-paper citation: People are spending more time online every day than doing anything else (Clement, 2020).

Any in-paper citations must have the APA reference at the bottom of the paper.

Clement, J. 2020. “Internet Usage Worldwide— Statistics and Facts.

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Exactly one hundred years after Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, Indian author and human rights activist Arundhati Roy published War Talk. In it she writes: “Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.”2 The violence of nationalism is built on the logic of belonging. The failures of capitalism and modern liberal democracy stem from their reliance on belonging as the basis for differential valuations of human life. Ruth Wilson Gilmore puts this succinctly: “Capitalism requires inequality and racism enshrines it.”3 Not everyone can be equal in value, so liberalism creates the folklore of race and nation to explain the borders between those who belong and the excluded / oppressed / dispossessed.

Color Line As a Volatile Topic in the NationWe learn to associate modernity with human progress, yet Dunbar-Ortiz situates the violence of North American settler colonialism as a distinctly modern project:4

The form of colonialism that the Indigenous peoples of North America have experienced was modern from the beginning: the expansion of European corporations, backed by government armies, into foreign areas, with subsequent expropriation of lands and resources. Settler colonialism is a genocidal policy.

The modern world rests upon an idea of freedom that requires unfreedom. Grand declarations of equality have always accompanied profound realities of inequality. Critical race scholar Chandan Reddy calls this devil’s bargain of the modern liberal state “freedom with violence.” He explains how in the early part of the twentieth century, state regulation of labor and migration forced categories of humanity that justified state violence:5
By the interwar years, the modern regulation of population as the technique of ruling had made racial and national identity basic to the human person. Belonging to this or that community was now innate to the human subject. Even as modernity intensified the movement of peoples—and perhaps because of this intensification—the immigration state interpreted those movements through a lens that attributed belonging to all migrating bodies. All bodies had national origins, and the Immigration Act of 1924 . . . set numerical quotas by nationality as a way to regulate the arrival of impoverished immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. Using social scientific knowledge as its fulcrum, the newly formed juridicoadministrative state restricted immigration, excluded some groups altogether, and carried out other illiberal practices, such as the sterilization of women, within US society, ironically through citing the forms of belonging that it claimed existed prior to political society: the various national, racial, regional, religious, or linguistic communities that the National Origins Act codified.

Our concepts of liberal democracy are tied to the idea of a differentiated humanity through this state-imposed mythology of race and nation, to our belief that each of us has an innate racial and national identity that defines our humanity. Through practice, we have become blind to our connectedness across and within borders. Realizing the solution will require us to build ourselves anew culturally and politically.

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