Kenan Malik in Pandaemonium:
We live in an age in which in most societies there is a moral abhorrence of racism, albeit that in most, bigotry and discrimination still disfigure the lives of many. We also live in an age saturated with identitarian thinking and obsessed with placing people into racial boxes. The more we despise racial thinking, the more we seem to cling to it.
This paradox is at the heart of my new book. Not So Black and White is a retelling of the history both of the idea of race and of the struggles to confront racism and to transcend racial categorisation, a retelling that challenges many of the ways in which we think both of race and of antiracism.
Most people assume that racism emerges when members of one race begin discriminating against members of another. In fact, the opposite is the case: intellectuals and elites began dividing the world into distinct races to explain and justify the differential treatment of certain peoples. The ancestors of today’s African Americans were not enslaved because they were black. They were deemed to be racially distinct, as black people, to justify their enslavement.