Lecture Focuses on Colorblindness, Anti-Racism, and Education

March 5, 2014

In partnership with the Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies (LLSS) Graduate Student Association (GSA), and the Student Organization for Latin American Studies, the Latin American & Iberian Institute is pleased to announce "Colorblindness, Anti-Racism, and Education: Lessons from Mexico," a presentation and book signing with Dr. Christina A. Sue, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The presentation will be held Thursday, March 25, 2014, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. in the UNM Student Union Building, Ballroom A. Please see the event flyer for reference. This event is free and open to the public, and dinner is provided. Participants are asked to RSVP to Katrina Dillon (kdillon@unm.edu) for catering purposes.

Sue's research focuses on immigration and comparative race/ethnicity (specifically identity formation, multiracialism, intermarriage, race, relations, and racial ideology), with a focus on the United States and Latin America. In this talk, Sue will discuss findings from her recent book, Land of the Cosmic Race: Race Mixture, Racism, and Blackness in Mexico (Oxford University Press, 2013), to inform the current debate over colorblindness. Colorblindness, which emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century, has become the dominant racial ideology in the United States. Supporters view colorblind ideology and related practices as an important antidote to race-conscious data gathering, affirmative action, and racial identity politics, which they perceive as fueling racism. However, opponents argue that the race-evasiveness of colorblindness is detrimental and has led to the further entrenchment of racism. As this debate continues to rage in the United States, little attention is being paid to its neighbor to the south - Mexico - which has adopted and institutionalized practices of colorblindness for nearly a century. The lack of attention to the Mexican case is unfortunate since the United States could learn a great deal from Mexico's long-standing social experiment with colorblindness.

According to Oxford University Press, "Land of the Cosmic Race is a richly-detailed ethnographic account of the powerful role that race and color play in organizing the lives and thoughts of ordinary Mexicans. It presents a previously untold story of how individuals in contemporary urban Mexico construct their identities, attitudes, and practices in the context of a dominant national belief system. The book centers around Mexicans' engagement with three racialized pillars of Mexican national ideology - the promotion of race mixture, the assertion of an absence of racism in the country, and the marginalization of blackness in Mexico. The subjects of this book are mestizos - the mixed-race people of Mexico who are of Indigenous, African, and European ancestry and the intended consumers of this national ideology. Land of the Cosmic Race illustrates how Mexican mestizos navigate the sea of contradictions that arise when their everyday lived experiences conflict with the national stance and how they manage these paradoxes in a way that upholds, protects, and reproduces the national ideology. Drawing on a year of participant observation, over 110 interviews, and focus-groups from Veracruz, Mexico, Christina A. Sue offers rich insight into the relationship between race-based national ideology and the attitudes and behaviors of mixed-race Mexicans. Most importantly, she theorizes as to why elite-based ideology not only survives but actually thrives within the popular understandings and discourse of those over whom it is designed to govern."

In reviewing the book, Howard Winant, University of California, Santa Barbara, called it "highly recommended!" and wrote "This is an outstanding ethnography of race in Mexico. Christina Sue understands the beauty and depth of everyday Mexican identity and cultural life. She adds to that a profound grasp of the country's unique racial history and social structure. The result is a definitive study that reinterprets mestizaje, that recognizes the blackness that has been hidden for so long, and that reveals the poetic and emotional soul of Mexican society today." Among other reviewers, the London School of Economics and Political Science Review of Books lauded further acclaim on Sue, noting that the book "presents a previously untold story of how individuals in contemporary urban Mexico construct their identities, attitudes, and practices in the context of a dominant national belief system."