This book is about the changing ways race is lived, primarily in the south-
eastern United States and in New York City. It is also about how and why
race cannot be lived. We cannot be what society at large, and the dominant
society in par ticular, tries with some success to make us be. The history of
race— the history of how race is continually made, unmade, and remade—
emerges in good part from the paradox that race simultaneously can and
cannot be lived. The point is not to play with the paradoxes of life but to use
them to get our hands on what is and has been happening, so that we can
help make more livable lives.
More: race thrives on yesterday, while tomorrow intrudes. That pro-
vides a further fundamental tension in our lives. This book is about both
these tensions: between a race making that both must be and cannot be
lived by its victims (who are not just African Americans) and a chang-
ing history that will not either let go of yesterday or fully deny tomorrow.
This book is about the struggles that emerge within and against these
Race can at times, often many times, be lived gladly, as people find joy,
comfort, satisfaction, and much more in their identities. It can also be lived
as a lurking danger, collective and personal, as race gets woven into racism.
And this is a continually changing mixture. The focus here will be from the
1960s to the present— the ways that past and still current struggles against
racism and especially against the surprising consequences both of racism