Conceptually Speaking

Dr. Sheena Mason Talks Raceless Antiracism & Literary Studies

January 25, 2024 Trevor Aleo
Conceptually Speaking
Dr. Sheena Mason Talks Raceless Antiracism & Literary Studies
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Show Notes

For anyone who’s been tuned into Conceptually Speaking for a while, you know I love finding new approaches, perspectives, and frames to tackle complex issues. Despite the fact that’s a staple on the show, my guest for this episode, Dr. Sheena Mason, takes things to the next level. Dr. Mason is an author, professor, and creator of the theory of racelenss. A theory that, in her words, is a creative and forward-thinking approach that helps people stop the underlying causes and effects of racism—the existence of race itself. Unlike naturalists, who see race as biological, or constructionists, who regard race as a social construction, Dr. Mason invites readers to become race skeptics—in other words—to understand that what traits we attribute to race, can be more accurately described by terms like ethnicity, culture, social class, and economic class. For, as she argues in her upcoming book, The Raceless Antiracist, fighting racism by reifying the idea of race is like trying to stop a flood by dousing it with water. In short, Dr. Mason envisions a future that transcends race in ways that allow us to celebrate our shared humanity AND value our many differences. Building on sociologists like Karen and Barba Fields, authors like Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, as well as a bevy of literary scholars and critics, Dr. Mason’s work is paradigm-shifting work. So! Hold onto your brains, listen with an open mind, and brace yourself for a very different look at antiracism work.

Note: The introduction contains some direct verbiage from the "Racelessness: The Final Frontier" graphic essay.

The core rules of the theory of racelessness or raceless antiracism are as follows: 

  1. Our belief in “race” and practice of racialization are not meaningless, because racism and valuable aspects of humanity hide behind what we call “race.” 
  2. “Race” does not exist in nature for humans or as a social construction. Although we are all racialized by ourselves and others, we are raceless. 
  3. Race/ism (i.e., racism) is a system of economic and social oppression that requires the belief in “race” and the practice of racialization to subsequently reinforce various power imbalances.
  4.  Racialization is the process of applying an inescapable social hierarchy—race/ism—along with its attendant power imbalances. 
  5. Racism does not exist everywhere in the same way and can be overcome.

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