Maurice Berger’s “Race Stories” essay in the New York Times

Great to see the new piece from Maurice Berger in today's Lens Blog, "Whiteness and Race, Between the Storms" not only for its critical insight, but for its inclusion of Atlanta's John-Q, and this photo by Bo Shell from John Q's performance at Piedmont Park in 2010.


Berger begins by looking at Pete Mauney's installation of photographs ("Between the Storms") from a photo studio in 1940s Oklahoma, and how Mauney, as an artist, is using the lack of diversity in old Oklahoma to examine whiteness:

"Today, the Republican presidential nominee promises to 'make America great again,' which some political analysts see as a code phrase for turning back the clock on the demographic shifts and multiculturalism that are drastically altering the nation. In this context, Mr. Mauney does something unusual for a white artist: He explores the stark reality of race relations, not through the eyes of its victims but rather through the lens of whiteness, establishing it as a race in need of examination. “Between the Storms” subtly asks its white viewers to confront what many typically refuse to even acknowledge: the lack of diversity in their lives, and the ease with which they, then and now, foster myriad forms of de facto segregation and racist attitudes and behavior.

Yet there are people who still believe that discussions about racism must be initiated by people of color. Implicit in many white liberals’ idealization of Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primaries of 2008, for example, was the notion that he could bestow upon white America racial “atonement and redemption,” as the writer and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich concluded at the time.

Those expectations ignore an abiding truth: Only white people can resolve the problem of their own prejudice."

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