"You Lie": Racism as a Social Form
Joe Wilson’s outburst “You Lie!” has been analyzed and instrumentalized for political purposes on all sides of the aisle. Yet very few of these analyses explore the ahistorical frames which are being used. The problem with ahistoricity is a decontextualized understanding of an event as a social form. When the comment is isolated and individualized as it has been, it is disembedded from the racialized society in which it takes form. As Kenan Malik argues in The Meaning of Race, the problem arises when the relationship between identity and society are denied. (Re)situated within Wilson’s individual history of racialized comments (Strom Thurmond’s grandaughter and confederate flags) and the larger social history of latent racism masked as multiculturalism, the comment transforms. This transformation is the reassertion of history to understand that racism is a social form, that it is brewing beneath the surface and yet, is so often explained away with excuses of anger, opposition to an issue, or a personal decision. As with all forms of oppression, it is crucial to assert these instances into historical context and to see them as social forms rather than instances of individual lapses in judgment.
New York Times