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The Kinesiology of Race



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Dr. McAfee's analysis puts forth a new theory - the kinesiology of race - which conceptualizes race as a verb, rather than a noun. As a noun, race has been studied in "belief-centered" frameworks and "structuralist" approaches; but not really as a kinetic phenomenon. As a verb, Dr. McAfee studied race as a kinetic phenomenon in perpetual motion.


Namely, this occurred through sifting, interactions that filter individuals according to racial markers; gridlocking, interactions that create a situation where few in a racial group advance; and advantaging, interactions that bestow unwarranted rank, authority, privileges, immunities, and exemptions on members of a racial group. Students in the study did this by checking their work with same-race peers, even when paired with a different buddy. A teacher in the study did the same, albeit unknowingly, by assigning the least cognitively demanding tasks to Black students and assigning the higher cognitive demanding tasks to White students.


The kinetic motif of this race theory has precedent; the US Census has continually shifted its racial classification of Japanese Americans from "nonwhite" to "Oriental," "ethnic," and recently to "Asian and Pacific Islander." What struck me about the racial kinetics observed in this classroom was that they were enacted in a nearly invisible way. Dr. McAfee didn't observe them in real-time. Rather, she poured over her collective notes to observe the trend.

The racial kinetics are both instantaneous and compounding; weightless in form but heavy in content and impact. They occurred through ordinary, familiar and seemingly nonracial actions. This would make it much harder to observe or quantify compared to racial identity, racial beliefs and outright racism. In the workplace, I bet the sifting, gridlocking and advantaging happens in seemingly invisible or "natural" ways, yet hold lower-status groups from achieving equitable opportunities.

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