A poem can be made of anything.
— William Carlos Williams, from Kora in Hell
May my silences become more accurate.
— Theodore Roethke, from “Words for Young Writers,” On Poetry & Craft (Copper Canyon Press, 2001)
Within the United States, scholars and activists have pointed out the perils of basing theories of racism, as well as anti-racist practices, on the black-white paradigm that informed the quest for civil rights and, further, of assuming that the civil rights paradigm is foundational to the very meaning of anti-racism. Neither paradigm can account, for example, for the role colonization and genocide against indigenous people played in shaping U.S. racism. The historical genocide against indigenous people relies precisely on invisibility—on an obstinate refusal to recognize the very existence of native North Americans, or a recognition or misrecognition that only acknowledges them as impediments to the transformation of the landscape—impediments to be destroyed or assimilated. Differently racialized populations in the United States—First Nations, Mexican, Asian, and more recently people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent—have been targets of different modes of racial subjugation. Islamophobia draws on and complicates what we know as racism. Moreover, racism, as it affects people of African descent, is today also more deeply inflected by class, gender, and sexuality than we may have recognized it to be at the middle of the twentieth century.