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Ruth Wilson Gilmore's definition of racism

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Alexis Shotwell

on 5 January 2015

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Transcript of Ruth Wilson Gilmore's definition of racism

"Racism, specifically, is the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death" (Gilmore 2007, 28)
is the state-sanctioned

production and exploitation
of group-
differentiated vulnerability

to premature death
What are our commonsense ideas of what racism is?
prejudice + power
dislike ==> hatred
institutional racism
structural racism
biological determinism
personal/individual ignorance
"state" = a political organization, to which people give (voluntarily or by force) the power to govern, usually through policy, with the backing of law, force, and custom.
"sanction" = the legal rewards or penalties for obeying/disobeying or supporting/
opposing state policy and practice.
things that fall outside the law - e.g.:
vast swathes of activity which only sometimes intersect with the law
things that are against the law
Davis: Slavery => Convict Lease System
legal emancipation and the abolition of slavery under the 13th amendment -- except as punishment for crime
The movement from slavery to imprisonment was effected in part through the "Black Codes," which, when enforced, radically altered the racial make-up of Southern prisons
This is the *production* of a racialized group
Enforcement of these codes also involved the formulation of new ways of expressing how race was made, such as the "one-drop rule"
The case of Albert Kligman's experiments on the prisoners at Holmesburg Prison, which generated profits for companies like Dow Chemicals and Johnson & Johnson (and the "invention" of Retin-A, various poison ivy remedies, etc)
Medical experimentation in prisons and the development of pharmaceuticals
Not every individual member of a group will have the experience in question
(which means that saying "but look, Jane hasn't experienced that" doesn't negate Jane's membership in that group, or the fact that people in that group have that experience demonstrably more than people outside the group)
But being part of that group will make you more likely to have that experience
"Social determinants of health" model:
social and economic conditions
collective, not individual
not about lifestyle choices
Infant mortality:
In Canada, Aboriginal babies die in infancy at more than twice the rate of white babies
Strongly correlated to other racialized indices (living near pollution, in poverty, low birthweight, etc)
Youth mortality is similarly differentiated along racialized lines
(homicide, suicide, and accident)
As is death related to diabetes
Full transcript