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The Black/White Binary Paradigm of Race: The "Normal Science" of American Racial Thought

Juan F. Perea
California Law Review
Vol. 85, No. 5, LatCrit: Latinas/os and the Law: A Joint Symposium by "California Law Review" and "La Raza Law Journal" (Oct., 1997), pp. 1213-1258
DOI: 10.2307/3481059
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3481059
Page Count: 46
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The Black/White Binary Paradigm of Race: The "Normal Science" of American Racial Thought
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Abstract

The Black/White Binary Paradigm of race has become the subject of increasing interest and scrutiny among some scholars of color. This Article uses Thomas Kuhn's notions of paradigm and the properties of paradigms to explore several leading works on race. The works the author explores demonstrate the Black/White paradigm of race and some of its properties, among them extensive paradigm elaboration over the years. Paradigms have limitations, however. Among them is a tendency to truncate history for the sake of telling a linear story of progress. The author demonstrates how one constitutional law text truncates history, by omitting entirely Mexican-American struggles for desegregation, and presenting a linear story of the Black struggle for civil rights. Omitting important history from the narrative of civil rights history becomes extraordinarily damaging, since it distorts history and contributes to the marginalization of non-Black peoples of color. While recognizing the centrality of slavery and White racism against Blacks at the core of American history and society, this Article seeks to expand our understanding of racism through the use of legal history. The author contends that mutual and particularized understanding of racism as it affects all people of color has the potential to enhance our abilities to understand each other and to join together to fight the common evil of racism.

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