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288 pages, Paperback
First published June 5, 2003
How is it possible to have this tremendous degree of racial inequality in a country where most whites claim that race is no longer relevant? More important, how do whites explain the apparent contradiction between their professed color blindness and the United States' color-coded inequality? In this book I attempt to answer both of these questions. I contend that whites have developed powerful explanations which have ultimately become justifications for contemporary racial inequality that exculpate them from any responsibility for the status of people of color. These explanations emanate from a new racial ideology that I label colorblind racism. This ideology, which acquired cohesiveness and dominance in the late 196Os, explains contemporary racial inequality as the outcome of nonracial dynamics. Whereas Jim Crow racism explained blacks' social standing as he result of their biological and moral inferiority, color-blind racism avoids such facile arguments. Instead, whites rationalize minorities' contemporary status as the product of market dynamics, naturally occurring phenomena, and blacks' imputed cultural limitations.
And because the group life of the various racially defined groups is based on hierarchy and domination, the ruling ideology expresses as "common sense" the interests of the dominant race, while oppositional ideologies attempt to challenge that common sense by providing alternative frames, ideas, and stories based on the experiences of subordinated races.
- abstract liberalism - "involves using ideas associated with political liberalism (e.g., "equal opportunity," the idea that force should not be used to achieve social policy) and economic liberalism (e.g., choice, individualism) in an abstract manner to explain racial matters. By framing race-related issues in the language of liberalism, whites can appear "reasonable" and even "moral," while opposing almost all practical approaches to deal with de facto racial inequality."
- "Naturalization is a frame that allows whites to explain away racial phenomena by suggesting they are natural occurrences. For example, whites can claim "segregation" is natural because people from all backgrounds "gravitate toward likeness."
- "Cultural racism is a frame that relies on culturally based arguments such as "Mexicans do not put much emphasis on education" or "blacks have too many babies" to explain the standing of minorities in society."
- "Minimization of racism is a frame that suggests discrimination is no longer a central factor affecting minorities' life chances ('It's better now than in the past' or 'there is discrimination, but there are plenty of jobs out there.
First, I document whites' avoidance of direct racial language to expressing their racial views. Second, I analyze the central "semantic moves" (see below) whites use as verbal parachutes to avoid dangerous discussions or to save face. Third, I examine the role of projection in whites' racial discourse. Fourth, I show the role of diminutives in colorblind race talk. Finally, I show how incursions into forbidden issues produce almost total incoherence in many whites.
1. because color blindness has tainted their views, it is of cardinal importance that activists in the new movement educate the black masses on the nuances of color blindness.
2. we need to nurture a large cohort of antiracist whites to begin challenging color-blind nonsense from within.
3. for researchers and activists alike to provide counter-ideological arguments to each of the frames of color-blind racism.
4. we need to undress whites' claims of color blindness before a huge mirror. That mirror must reflect the myriad facts of contemporary whiteness, such as whites living in white neighborhoods, sending their kids to white schools, associating primarily with whites, and having almost all their primary relationships with whites
5. whiteness must be challenged wherever it exists; regardless of the social organization in which whiteness manifests itself (universities, corporations, schools, neighborhoods, churches), those committed to racial equality must develop a personal practice to challenge it.
6. the most important strategy for fighting "new racism" practices and the ideology of color blindness is to become militant once again. Changes in systems of domination and their accompanying ideologies are never accomplished by racial dialogues-the notion of "Can we all just get along?" or "workshops on racism"-through education, or through "moral reform"23 alone. What is needed to slay modern-day racism is a new, in-your-face, fight-the-power civil rights movement, a new movement to spark change, to challenge not just color-blind whites but also minority folks who have become content with the crumbs they receive
from past struggles. This new civil rights movement, as I have mentioned elsewhere,24 must have at the core of its agenda the struggle for equality of results. Progressives cannot continue fighting for "equality of opportunity" when true equality cannot be achieved that way. It is time to demand equality now
Interviewer: "So what do you think about people who are absolutely against it, you know, who want to keep the races pure or whatever?"Compare that to one of the black interviewees's answer:
Scott: "I mean, I kind of, I feel that way also because I kind of, I don't know, I kinda wanna stay with my nationality in a way, you know. I think once, once you start breaking away, you start losing your own like deep home family values and in away, you get mixed emotions, you know. But then again, it's just like the old times are gone, you know it's all modern-day now. So really you[r] nationality really don't, shouldn't count. But then again, some people don't want to have so much blood within their family, within their name, you know. I know people that will not marry unless they're a hundred percent Italian. I got a couple of people who will not date anyone unless they're hundred percent Italian, so..."
Interviewer: "Did you ever have any white relationships?"Or, to be fair, in the other direction:
Interviewer: "Did you ever have any romantic interest in a white person?"
Interviewer: "And why would you think that is so?"
Joe: "My preference."
Carla: "If you like it, I love it."Bonilla-Silva says that this occurs because black people already know that racism is a real force in society, so they have no need to use the language of color-blindness and thus don't have any cognitive dissonance to overcome.