The History and Historical Insights of “Racial Counsel”

Francisco Vieyra, University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY)

This paper introduces the concept of “racial counsel,” it explores empirical examples of racial counsel in three periods of U.S. history, and it outlines racial counsel’s potential in elucidating the longue durée of U.S. racism and anti-racism resistance. First, the paper specifies racial counsel as the racialized and racially-inflected information, warnings, and advice that people of color pass on to other people of color to keep them safe, grounded, and positive in racist and unequal times. It also differentiates racial counsel from seemingly similar concepts and from seemingly related components of relevant theories of race and racism. Second, the paper explores and links together examples of blacks employing racial counsel to navigate the slave world from slave narratives, examples of African Americans employing racial counsel to navigate the Jim Crow South from oral histories, and examples of contemporary black New Yorkers employing racial counsel to navigate intensely-policed neighborhoods from in-depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork. Third, the paper considers: 1) the overall prevalence and significance of racial counsel across U.S. history; 2) the specific impacts racial counsel has across various life domains; and 3) the insights racial counsel brings to understanding U.S. racism and anti-racism resistance in cross-historical perspective.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 196. Coping with Racial and Ethnic Inequalities