Dreaming in colour

December 7, 2007

Welcome (back) to the topsy-turvy world of Marxist social and educational theory. Mike Cole ("'Racism' is about more than colour", November 23) and John Preston's argument about the relationship between capitalism and racism ("All shades of a wide white world", October 19) takes me back to the Mandela Bar, 1989.

"Racialisation" is, as Cole says, about identifying arbitrary marks of difference as a basis for vilification or valorisation, but his own analysis shows that such "racism" easily moves beyond skin colour. Would it not be more economical and cross-culturally perceptive to say that racism is a codified form of a xenophobic disposition that is innate to the human animal?

For technological, epidemiological and ideological reasons, white racism has been especially dominant and pernicious, but it is not distinctive. Seeing how far it reaches beyond "white", Western or capitalist societies, we should ask how the worst effects of xenophobia might be mitigated rather than smoking roll-ups and dreaming of abolition.

Greg Garrard, Senior teaching fellow Department of English Bath Spa University.

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