Episode 113: Are We Doing Anti-Racism Wrong? with Dr. Sheena Mason

*Racism* is the social construction that necessitates our continued & (mostly) blind belief in & upholding of “race” ideology & its correlated languages/practices. We just continue to fool ourselves into thinking that “race” is *just* “skin color,” phenotype, DNA, or culture.

Dr. Sheena Mason

With the rise of anti-racist discourse and initiatives, many people are unintentionally promoting racist ideas and missing opportunities to identify and celebrate functional diversity, or diversity of thought over perceived diversity based largely on phenotype and social constructions. Dr. Sheena Mason earned her PhD from Howard University. She is now at SUNY Oneonta in Oneonta, NY, as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in African American literature. Dr. Mason has been thinking about and working on ways to discuss race and racism in a way that she believes can move us in the right direction as a human race. Sheena and I discuss the ways these ideas could be the next evolution of race deconstruction in education and in culture. We also discuss how this can be accomplished WITHOUT ignoring the injustice that has flown from the belief in race.

Dr. Sheena Mason

The core tenets of the Theory of Racelessness are as follows:

  • Race does not exist in nature.
  • Race does not exist as a social construction.
  • Everyone is raceless.
  • Racism includes the belief in race as biological or a construction and the practice of racialization.
  • Racism is not everywhere and is not the cause for every perceived “racial” disparity or negative interaction.
  • Racism can be overcome.
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Episode 113

While not rooted in biology or science, she explains how the concept of race continues to be naturalized and viewed as something “of nature.” The camouflaging of racism as race remains, in large part, why many people and institutions have failed to partially, entirely, or meaningfully address racism even when actively participating in anti-racist efforts. Once liberated from race(ism), you will feel lighter, uplifted, seen, and valued.

Signs that Some Race Activism May be Misguided (If the shoe fits)

  • Does it insist that racial categories are real, useful, or impossible to rid ourselves of? (Making it seem as if the way a person looks is the most important part of their contribution.)
  • Does it seem to shy away from the celebration of progress?
  • Does it treat the world as if it is a fixed pie through the use of reductionist racial category quotas? (Black, White, Brown, Indigenous) or even worse, a racial binary? (white, non-white.)
  • Does it confuse or conflate real phenomena such as culture, class, ethnicity, and ancestry with the fiction of race? (Like co-equal humans, or as “avatars” for a racialized group?)
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Theory of Racelessness educates organizations & institutions on how racism masquerades as race in society.

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Dr. Sheena Mason earned her Ph.D. in English literature “with distinction” in May 2021 from Howard University. She joined the faculty at SUNY Oneonta in Oneonta, NY, in August 2021, as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in African American literature. She has taught at the College of William and Mary, California Lutheran University, and Howard University. Her book titled Theory of Racelessness: A Case for Philosophies of Antirace(ism) is scheduled to be released by Palgrave Macmillan on September 23, 2022. Additionally, she co-authored “Harlem Renaissance: An Interpretation of Racialized Art and Ethics,” a chapter of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Art examining what, if anything, is the proper role of race in the aesthetic productions of or about members of racialized populations.

Dr. Mason works actively to improve and free our language and, therefore, our thoughts. In “No Malcolm X in My History Text” (2018), she examines the iterations of the folklore figure Staggerlee, the figure’s relation to the public sphere, and racism. Ultimately, she concludes that Staggerlee persists in the American imagination and is a simultaneously and paradoxically subversive and stereotypical figure, highlighting the pervasiveness of racism and society’s response to racism. In her scholarship, Dr. Mason consistently and unwaveringly works to promote anti-racism through her publications and teaching.

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