Race-work, Race-love

Introduction to Race-work, Race-love

In Uncategorized on October 12, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I heard the term “race work” for the first time in a book called Race Work: The Rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West by Matthew C. Whitaker. In it, Whitaker describes the lives of Dr. Lincoln Johnson Ragsdale, Sr. and Eleanor Dickey Ragsdale, Black professionals who lived in segregated Arizona. Their work in Phoenix, their commitment to racial justice for descendants of Africans and African Americans between 1945 and 1995, and their love for each other inspired the author to explore the racial subordination and subjugation that existed (and continues to) in Arizona. In this book, Dr. and Mrs. Ragsdale were each identified as a “race man” and “race woman”, respectively, committed to race work. Additionally, Mrs. Eleanor Dickey Ragsdale was known to intersect her race-work with gender. As a Black woman in the 1940’s she understood that being a woman, in addition to being a woman of color, contributed (perhaps complicated, perhaps enhanced) to her race-work.

This race-work, one that has been passed on to me and many of my friends, colleagues, and even agitators, can only come out of what I call “race-love”. Thus, this blog is dedicated to that race-work and race-love that continue to inspire us to perform such work despite indications that we are crazy, threats via email or letters telling us to stop, and even our own racial battle fatigue. Specifically, I am interested in exploring what race-work and race-love means to Brown people, Latino/a individuals from the African and Native diaspora. As a Latina and self-identified race woman, I believe it is important to start documenting this tension between race-work and race-love particularly as it relates to Latinas/os people, but broadly to my Asian and Black and Native and White allies, brothers and sisters in the struggle for racial justice.

Aside from work on racial justice, I wonder about our work on love. For this blog, I explore how is our love affected by our race? And how has our race been affected by love? Inundated with messages about White-love – through movies, books, history – our particular knowledge of race-love is still largely unexplored. Why is this important? Well, to begin, I can think of few movies or books that focus on race and love and its impact on the community of people of color. Many of this work is focused on African-American heterosexual relationships and recently homosexual relationships as well. The Latin@ community has brought forth a largely Chicana lesbian perspective on race and love, but more work still needs to be done! Finally we know virtually nothing about the Asian-American and Native peoples’ experiences with race and love.

While movies like “500 Days of Summer” and series like “Sex and the City” have been executed well and help us begin a conversation on love and sex, many of us racially conscious folks begin to wonder “How is it different for us?” “Why aren’t we represented?” These are valid questions. Now is the time for some answers.

My hope is that you will explore race and love with me.


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