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The Abolition of White Democracy

2004
Author:

Joel Olson

The Abolition of White Democracy

Offers a new way of understanding the tortured relationship between race and democracy in the United States

Joel Olson contends that, given the history of slavery and segregation in the United States, American citizenship is a form of racial privilege in which whites are equal to each other but superior to everyone else. To break this pattern, Olson suggests an “abolitionist-democratic” political theory that makes the fight against racial discrimination a prerequisite for expanding democratic participation.

The Abolition of White Democracy is essential reading for all those seeking to realize the promise of democracy in America.

Noel Ignatiev, author of How the Irish Became White

Racial discrimination embodies inequality, exclusion, and injustice and as such has no place in a democratic society. And yet racial matters pervade nearly every aspect of American life, influencing where we live, what schools we attend, the friends we make, the votes we cast, the opportunities we enjoy, and even the television shows we watch.

Joel Olson contends that, given the history of slavery and segregation in the United States, American citizenship is a form of racial privilege in which whites are equal to each other but superior to everyone else. In Olson’s analysis we see how the tension in this equation produces a passive form of democracy that discourages extensive participation in politics because it treats citizenship as an identity to possess rather than as a source of empowerment. Olson traces this tension and its disenfranchising effects from the colonial era to our own, demonstrating how, after the civil rights movement, whiteness has become less a form of standing and more a norm that cements white advantages in the ordinary operations of modern society.

To break this pattern, Olson suggests an “abolitionist-democratic” political theory that makes the fight against racial discrimination a prerequisite for expanding democratic participation.

The Abolition of White Democracy

Joel Olson (1967-2012) is assistant professor of political science at Northern Arizona University.

The Abolition of White Democracy

The Abolition of White Democracy is essential reading for all those seeking to realize the promise of democracy in America.

Noel Ignatiev, author of How the Irish Became White

Olson’s compelling book packs both a theoretical and a political punch.

Rhetoric and Public Affairs

This book is a required read for anyone wishing to understand the uneasy and misunderstood relationship between race and democracy in the U.S.

Profane Existence

A provocative argument for the elimination of white power in the United States. The Abolition of White Democracy presents a clearly written, well-documented, history-based argument for altering the meaning of democracy.

Perspectives on Politics

The Abolition of White Democracy

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introducing the White Democracy

1. A Political Theory of Race
2. The Problem of the White Citizen
3. The Peculiar Dilemma of Whiteness
4. The Failure of Multiculturalism and Color Blindness
5. The Abolition-Democracy

Notes

Index