Local author publishes ‘Black Bodies, White Gazes’

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Racism is still alive in America, despite the abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and other significant changes in society, according to George Yancy, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy at Duquesne University.

Yancy, an award-winning author and one of only a few African-American philosophy professors in the nation, tackles the topics of “Whiteness, Blackness and the difference between the two,” in his latest book, “Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significant of Race.”

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GEORGE YANCY

“Many argue that we live in a post-racial society, that we have somehow gone beyond race,” Yancy says. “OK, fine—we are not living in the context of ‘Jim Crow South’ anymore, but that doesn’t mean that our work is done. In many ways, my book is saying, ‘Look at the elephant in the room.’ There is something about these Black bodies, White gazes, I think, that needs to be taken more seriously.”

The reason why, argues Yancy in his book, is mainly because Whiteness in America or the “transcendental norm,” as he refers to it, often goes unnamed or unmarked. “Unlike Blackness, which is often marked and named, and often defined as different or deviant, Whiteness is simply the norm,” he says.

Examples in Yancy’s book depict what it means to experience racism. The author himself shares one of his own that happens when he walks near a car that has White people in it. “I’ll hear that door lock, and it’s not just one or two times, it’s a whole lot of times,” says Yancy. “We want to talk about racism in grander terms, but in its everyday way of living, we experience that kind of thing.”

The motivation for writing the book, Yancy says, is to penetrate a polite way of talking about race and racism and picking examples that allowed him to ascertain what is really going on when people say that racism is still alive in America.

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