Race for reason

December 21, 2007

Greg Garrard (Letters, December 7) accuses us of being passe in terms of our use of "topsy-turvy" Marxist social and educational theory. Although we differ on a number of substantive points connected with "race" and "racialisation" - hence the debate between us (October 19 and November 23) - we consider that Garrard's points are so reactionary that they deserve a joint response.

To state that racism is a "codified form of xenophobic disposition that is innate to the human animal" makes an essential category error in that there is no biological basis for "race" and any negative thoughts or actions that arise from "race" cannot be innate. Moreover, there are substantive differences between xenophobia and xeno-racism. Garrard also states that "for technological, epidemiological and ideological reasons white racism has been especially dominant and pernicious". We are not sure what he means by "epidemiological": surely he does not mean that white racism is biologically hard wired? Racism is a social process that, as thinking humans, we can resist individually or collectively.

Socialism is a project in the here and now, and not one that ended in the 1980s. The "Mandela bar" and "smoking roll-ups" are a dated source of cliche and Garrard is blissfully unaware of the progress made in terms of theorising on "race" and capitalism in the past two decades by Marxists and critical race theorists. Theorising on these topics is at the cutting edge of critical theory. For us, they inform our politics and action. When he has finished his cigars in the Derrida lounge, perhaps Garrard might wish to join us in rational debate.

John Preston. University of East London; Mike Cole, Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln.

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