Racialization and Racism

Creative extraction: Black towns in white space

This article interrogates the “anomalous” case of Black-founded towns, so-called because of their relative absence from discourse on Black place, their unique struggles for self-determined development, and their externally ascribed narratives of absent or dysfunctional governance, frequently invoked to explain their lack of access to basic infrastructure. We propose illuminating some of these so-called anomalies through Charles Mills’ “racial contract,” which we argue structures space at a deeper level than traditional legal arrangements and allows us to look relationally at Black towns in “white space.” We also rely on Cedric Robinson’s “racial capitalism” to demonstrate how white space develops through extraction of value from places racialized as nonwhite. Through the case of Tamina, Texas, we argue that Black towns specifically, and Black places more generally, experience racially predatory governance and resource extraction, often by nearby white places, under the guise of following mundane rules of legal jurisdiction, standard economic planning, and development. To illustrate this, we focus on three overlapping mechanisms of “creative extraction” that reinforce white spatial, political, and economic power at the expense of Black places: theft, erosion, and exclusion. These mechanisms are tied to the environmental harms inflicted on Black towns, as some of the existential threats they face.

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Volume 39 Issue 1

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