Race and Decolonization: Whiteness as Property in the American Settler Colonial Project

43 Pages Posted: 3 May 2015 Last revised: 17 Jul 2015

See all articles by Natsu Taylor Saito

Natsu Taylor Saito

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: February 26, 2015


Challenges to institutionalized racism have been largely framed in terms of equitable access to, and redistribution of, the wealth and power accumulated and controlled by those who define themselves as White. If, however, that wealth and power owes its existence to the ongoing colonization of Indigenous lands and peoples, can non-Indigenous peoples of color assert equal rights to the spoils of conquest without tacitly legitimizing and thereby reinforcing the subordination and exploitation of American Indians, as well as Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives?

This essay begins with a brief overview of how constitutional rights have been constrained by race, focusing first on the limits imposed upon the guarantee of equal protection and then reviewing ways in which Indigenous nations have been excluded from constitutional protection. It proposes that settler colonial theory may better account for contemporary racial realities because it frames the subordination of both Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous Others not in terms of abstract rights, but in terms of the functions served by their land and labor.

Building on the insights provided by Cheryl I. Harris in her groundbreaking work, Whiteness as Property, this essay considers the integral role Whiteness has played in the construction of both land and personhood as property, concluding that racialization is inherent to property as we know it. Finally, it considers some of the liberatory options that could emerge for all peoples of color from the reconceptualization and reconstruction of property in this society.

Keywords: indigenous, native peoples, whiteness, race, property, race, discrimination, colonization, settler, settler colonial theory

JEL Classification: K00, K30, K39, Z00

Suggested Citation

Saito, Natsu Taylor, Race and Decolonization: Whiteness as Property in the American Settler Colonial Project (February 26, 2015). Harvard Journal on Racial & Ethnic Justice, Forthcoming, Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-23, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2593121

Natsu Taylor Saito (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

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