The Concept of Chronicle
Allied to the importance of voice is the concept of chronicle. Ladson-Billings (2006, pp. viii-xi) gives an excellent example of a CRT ‘chronicle’—a constructed narrative in which evidence and other forms of data are embedded. Her chronicle concerns aggressive urban renewal and explains how city politicians and corporate leaders collude to exploit poor people of color in a US city, and how they connive to justify their actions. First the homeless are forcefully removed; then tax breaks and incentives are introduced to bring business back who will in turn hire people on low incomes and on limited and part-time bases; then the older homes are destroyed, forcing their occupants to move to the next poor community in order to make way for luxury apartments. Finally, a tough law-and- order approach and a zero tolerance policy on discipline and a rigid testing regime is applied to the schools so that segregation appears in individual schools: for example, the privileged white middle class children on the top floor of the school, and poor children of color underneath. The chronicle ends with an excited interjection from the construction firm owner:
Yeah! This could work. And, when these kids can’t pass tests and drop out of school we can hire them into those low-paying jobs we talked about. If they don’t want those jobs and start doing anti-social things like drug dealing or stealing we can make a pitch for more and bigger prisons. I can build state- of-the-art super prisons in the suburbs. That will provide a steady stream of state employment for the White working class.
As I have argued the Marxist concept of racialization is important in establishing how groups of people become racialized at various historical conjunctures. Thus Ladson-Billing’s account above describes a typical example of racialized capitalism in the US in the twenty-first century.6 In this case, it involves people of color, but it could, at other stages in capitalist development (in other countries) those on the receiving end could be Jewish people or Irish people, or Eastern European migrant workers. Chronicles are not the sole preserve of Critical Race Theorists, and in the Appendix to this chapter, I give an example of a Chronicle, grounded not in CRT, but subversive of one of its defining features, ‘white supremacy’.