The Erotic Life of Racism

“The erotic is one particular kind of glue. The attempt here is to cease thinking about that racial order as constitutive of a hierarchy in which whites are on top and blacks are on the bottom – even the more materialist intervention such as Miles and Brown has eschewed such correlation. […] I delve into the extent to which one particular set of discussions of the erotic in feminist circles influenced and altered scholarly approaches to the erotic. I am suggesting that a critical reexamination of that process might yield more evidence for how racist practice became untethered from the erotic as well as the subsequent critical maneuvers to somehow reattach the thing that was removed from the collective queer body. What makes race work for us? Why do we need it? In order to push this quotidian exercise toward the work of queer theorizing, I focus on the erotic. The erotic life of racism is the bridge between theories of race and theories of sexuality in all of their diverse complexity. Moreover, by thinking through the erotic – the personal and political dimension of desire – I differ from Bonilla-Silva in that his reliance upon an ideological ordering for understanding racism still assumes that racism is structured in a particular way. But when in the orbit of racism one cannot help but think about being there at all because race talk always wants to be someplace else: beyond black and white (“Can’t we all get along?”); beyond the self (“I’m not a racist, but”); beyond the situation (“I wanted to say something, but”). By anchoring the erotic to racist practice, I champion an alternative location for grounding racism – in the quotidian and intimate action that brings belonging to one another out into bold relief and perhaps also into question.”

– Sharon Patricia Holland, The Erotic Life of Racism


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