Submitted] Race and Power Structures The concept of pluralism or the involvement of all sectors ofsociety without regards to class, race, religion, gender and other social factors has become a major trend in the world today. It is now widely recognized that the full participation of all citizens, whether they maybe natives or immigrants, are not only corollaries of the exercise of equality rights, but also factors in economic social and cultural development. Discrimination results to misunderstandings, social rifts and major tensions that disrupt society in general. However, even if we recognize that respect for human rights and the elimination of prejudice and discrimination are the building blocks of democracy, development and sociality, there is still the tendency for people to think that they know what is best for others. With this rationale, they think that they have the right to impinge on the ‘space’ of other people.
In his book entitled Black Corona: Race and the Politics of Place in an Urban Community, Steven Gregory (1998) enlightens the reader on the issue of contested space by using the experiences of the African American community in a New York setting collectively called Black Corona. In Gregory’s work, we are made aware of a consultation conducted by an all-white Neighbourhood Stabilization to address the issues of latchkey kids, drug dealing and the lack of parental guidance. Although this consultation was designed to improve the security and safety of the whole community, the discussion and decision was left mostly to the white participants as the black participants were effectively prevented from participating. The blacks shied away from the discussion because they were implied to be the root of the problem. It was their kids who were menacing the library. It was their coming when the drug problem emerged. It was them who were mostly single parents. They were the problem and the whites had the right to correct them.
The larger picture of what occurred in the consultation was that the black people were discriminated upon and this discrimination provided political powers to the whites. Typical racist views of blacks being inferior, illiterate and menacing made them appear far more capable and credible in formulating measures affecting the whole community. The contest of space or the right to determine what is to be applied to the community was won by implicit, recurring and perceived notions of superiority. However, this does not imply racial considerations are the only reason why the blacks remain powerless and uninvolved in the planning process.
Gregory’s work is significant to the academe because it deviated from the usual discussion and blaming of interracial relationships. It appears that the African Americans themselves are plagued by pessimistic views regarding their role on community affairs. This can be deduced from the conversations of Lopez and Booker who believed that the upward mobility of their kind is doom to fail. This pessimistic attitude could also be pointed out as one of the reasons why the blacks in the consultation did not participate. They were afraid that they were impinging on the established territories of the whites. They would rather relegate planning powers to the whites rather than being reminded of the space they belonged and hated.
Gender differences are known to endow males the power to decide the affairs of the community. Further evidence of this social phenomenon can also be found in African American societies. In Gregory’s ethnographic work, we are made aware of a community activist named Edna Baskin needed to portray more prominently the men who support her cause. Baskin needed to this because she knew quite well that men have more political power than women and that by doing so, she is able to find a means to garner influence and political power.
Gregory’s work shows us that certain social relationships could determine the form of the power structure. Race and ethnicity provides the perceived superior class to govern and the purportedly inferior class to silence their selves even though the matters to be decided directly affect their space. Gender relationships as well provide the people with a ticket to greater influence on planning and governance. It is good that these concepts be realized but it is even better that one try to break this tendencies.
Gregory, S. (1998). Black Corona: Race and the Politics of the Place in an Urban Community. USL Princeton University Press