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4 Reasons You Need to Read the House that Race Built

Race matters. That’s the central theme to the collection of essays that makes up The House that Race Built. Each essay covers a different topic related to race in America, ranging from law and politics to sexuality and divinity. Although the essays are extraordinary to read, not everyone has free time to sit down and read these works of art, so I’ll lay out the key points!

Race Needs to Matter because White Privilege Exists.

Even though many of these authors focus on how race should not matter, there is no possible way to that without turning a blind eye to the struggles of Black Americans. Toni Morrison explains in her essay, ‘Home’, how home is different from a house. At home, she belongs. She’s meant to be there and will never be shut out from it. Black Americans can’t see America as their home because we have the constant history and prevalence of shutting doors on them.

We Can’t Diminish the History of Racism in America

In Stephen Steinberg’s essay, “The Liberal Retreat From Race During the Post-Civil Rights Era,” he walks us through over thirty pages of race history in the United States, explaining the consequences this has had on present day America. Even though we’ve had some programs in the US like Affirmative Action to counter the history of racism, Steinberg argues that this isn’t going far enough. Even Affirmative Action, which many people view as helping people of color receive jobs and places in universities, actually benefits white women most. Steinberg shows that even though we have this obvious history of racism in America, no one is willing to call it like it is. Racism. Not interracial relations or a simple economic issue- it’s an unfair treatment against many members of the same race.

The American Justice System is F*cked Up 

the racism behind the justice system is exposed in incredible essays by Angela Davis and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. The institutionalization of racism has long been ignored and considered only a social problem. It’s impossible to ignore the pattern of racism in the criminal justice system especially when you look at the rate Black Americans are incarcerated at. Not to mention, prisons are exempt from the thirteenth amendment, which abolishes slavery for all citizens except prisoners. Since this amendment was added to the constitution, Black Americans have been a part of the school to prison pipeline as to maintain free labor for the government. As if this wasn’t bad enough, only three states currently allow prisoners to vote, meaning those who are being taken advantage of don’t even have a voice.  

Homophobia and Racism are Intertwined

Kendall Thomas in “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing,” explains that the homophobia and need for masculinity shown in the Black community is a form of internalized racism. Thomas further explains that it’s harder for a Black person to show their true sexuality out of the fear of being attacked for their sexuality as well as their race. The internalized racism leads to the chance that any Black member of the LGBTQ+ community could be ousted for not being “black enough”. In her essay, “Living at the Crossroads,” Rhonda Williams states that she’s been considered a ‘race traitor’ because of her sexuality.

Colorblindness is Racism

While everyone would love to agree that race doesn’t matter, the fact is our history has created a wide division in social classes and forced itself into our minds. Neil Gotanda covers this topic in his essay, “Tales of Two Judges,” stating how court cases could most turn out completely differently if judges recognized the role that race plays in society. The sister to colorblindness is reverse racism, the claim by white people that they are disadvantaged because of their skin tone as well. In his essay, “Racial Dualism at Century’s End,” Howard Winant points out that there are almost no precedents in the United States for a white disadvantage.


Kismet Kohn is an 18 year old psychology major at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. She is passionate about photography, writing, and travel. Kismet was on her high school's yearbook staff as a photographer and worked as the editor of the Literary Magazine.
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