The Cosmopolitan Canopy : Race and Civility in Everydaylife

Vendredi 17 mai, 16h30, 4e session : Justice et cosmopolitisme en question

Elijah Anderson, professeur à l’université de Yale

The racial incorporation process that began with civil rights revolution of the 1960s has impacted American institutions and has reshaped the urban environment. Although cities remain segmented by race, African Americans and other people of color are increasingly present in diverse public settings that they once viewed as off limits. Under the « cosmopolitan canopy », a virtual island of civility in a sea of otherwise segregated living; urban dwellers display their best « downtown behavior », and manage to keep their ethnocentric side in check. But on occasion, racial incidents arise that threaten and rend the canopy; including scenes of tension involving race, class, sexual preference, and gender. The most troubling of such incidents are characterized by dramatic shows of acute disrespect based on difference – black people enacting social roles in which they may not be expected or accepted may draw derision. At times, they are insulted outright. I these instances, the color line is abruptly drawn. Unlike the old days of the American caste system, when racial borders were understood – and accepted, today’s color line endures in a different, subtle form, but more insidious in every respect. This new color line represents a fundamental fault line of present-day American culture, especially for black people who experience upward mobility. When such moments occur, in an otherwise trusted environment, the effect can be traumatic. These situations get managed, aided by social gloss, allowing the resilience of the canopy to prevail – resulting in a veneer of racial civility that maintains until the canopy is rented yet again.

Anderson rue newyork


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