Paul Gilroy in the book, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack, provides an alternative sociological approach to the concepts of race, class, and nation, within the context of the discussion on racism in the UK. Before presenting how Gilroy approaches these three concepts, it…
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The main source of the problem seems to be the static, non-historical perception of race, class, and nation. As such, some sort of objectivity and timelessness is ascribed to these terms, such that such fossilization results in the freezing of the very problem of racism. To be blind to this root results in not hitting the spot; no matter how hard one tries to be anti-racist, the only result is to ironically preserve racism. To speak of the Black race, Black class, and /or the Black nation aggravates the situation of the Blacks in the UK. Intuitively, we can already sense how this happens: to speak of these terms and to apply them to the Blacks is to set them apart, in a timeless and hence unchanging manner, distinct from the Whites. With this being said, let us now go to what each term refers to.
The term class is not a “long term” category (Gilroy 1987, 35). As we have already stated above, this term should not be ahistorical, static. It cannot be as ahistorical as Karl Marx’s proletariat and bourgeoisie such that the two seem to be eternally divided, and hence, perennially in some clash. Marxists seem to be comfortable assuming such a distinction such they may simplify social dilemmas as that between capital and labor, proletariat and bourgeoisie, without giving room for fuzzying such a divide between the working class and the bourgeoisie. Though the existence of conflict is undeniable, still, Gilroy rightly points out that some of Marx’s seemingly timeless elements are not as timeless, i.e., through time, there are things in the Das Kapital that is already outmoded, and hence, needs to be modernized. For one, it is obvious that such a dialectical and hard distinction between the working class and the bourgeoisie is challenged by the fact that members of the present-day bourgeoisie may even act as the grassroots intellectuals of the working class. Many times, Black teachers, newspaper
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