Racialization and Racism Don’t Count!: The Incommensurability of “Time-Use” Data and Racialized Youth

Rahsaan Mahadeo, Georgetown University

As tools for documenting and quantifying time spent on routine activities, time diaries serve important functions within youth time-use research. The time taken by racial violence, however, remains virtually absent in time-use studies. For example, the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) lacks any measures of racialization or racism. What does it mean though to use time that does not belong to you? It means that your “time use” will be read as “time theft,” and thus criminalized. For racialized youth in poor, urbanized space, it means they are more likely to owe than own time. What time diaries and time-use research both lack is any acknowledgement of the temporalities of this dysselected category of youth. Drawing on data from thirty in-person interviews and ethnographic fieldwork conducted over the course of one year with youth at Run-a-Way – a shelter and outreach center for youth in a Midwestern city – I make the case that existing time-use data and the supposed “time use” of racialized of youth are incommensurable. Using whiteness and white life as reference categories, time-use studies ignore the unquantifiable time associated with racialization and racism. Youth at Run-a-Way recounted multiple and often similar instances of racial violence and many viewed the relationship between time and racism as a subtractive one. In other words, the labor involved in processing racial violence takes time. Time-use studies, however, render illegible the inordinate amount of physical, emotional, and psychic labor required to make sense of racialization and racism. This labor consumes a significant amount of time while constituting an incalculable time – “incalculable” because the time required process racial violence literally and figuratively does not count. To racialized persons, however, their experiences with systems of racialized violence will always count, in large part because they are countless.

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 Presented in Session 71. Theorizing Race, Time, and Temporality