Universalism, Humanism and the Discourse of Race



A few weeks after the riot that shook Los Angeles in May 1992, I gave a lecture on racism in America to a group of students at a north London college. The audience was largely young and black. In the discussion that followed, there was a lively debate over my view that the fragmentation of American society into competing ethnic groups — African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Korean-Americans, and so on — was a fatal blow to the struggle for black rights. Almost the entire audience disagreed. ‘African-Americans’, one student explained, ‘are different. Our problems are different, our experiences are different, our history is different and our culture is different. We have to gain respect ourselves before we can unite with other people.’


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© Kenan Malik 1996

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