Racism Without Racists

Over the years, the face of racism has taken on many forms. In present day America, racism is a very taboo subject. It a common view that racism is not a big issue anymore, given the large strides that we, as a country have made towards equality. However, the inequalities that still exist between races point to a different situation. Instead of the blatantly discriminatory acts that our nation has witnessed in the past, modern racism practices are more covert and seemingly nonracial, making this kind of discrimination seem more acceptable and politically correct.

The Civil Rights Movement forced society to implement a new, subtler way to perpetuate racial inequality. In Racism Without Racists, Bonilla-Silva describes the justification of this new nonracial racial ideology that he calls colorblind racism. Bonilla-Silva posits that this new colorblind ideology was centered on four central themes, “abstract liberalism, naturalization, cultural racism, and minimization of racism. ”(p26). These frameworks provide white America with the false notion of racial equality.

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The first, and most emphasized frame, abstract liberalism, is based on the use of backwards ideas of “equal opportunity” and “economic liberalism” to rationalize racial inequalities (28). By using what Bonilla-Silva describes as the “language of liberalism,” whites can resist any change in the racial status quo, while seeming ethical and reasonable (28). For example, by saying “I am all for equal opportunity, that’s why I oppose affirmative action,” it is possible for whites to avoid giving minorities an advantage to even the playing field, while seeming rational and unequivocally American (47).

The second frame of colorblindness that Bonilla-Silva describes is that of naturalization. This framework allows a “racially motivated” occurrence, such as segregation, to be viewed as a naturally occurring human desire to be in a group with similar attributes (37). Through this framework, racial inequalities can be explained away by phrases such as “that’s just the way it is. ” (37). The third frame, cultural racism, blames the social, political and economic inequalities of a group on their cultural practices.

This explanation of inequality places the blame on the victim, attributing status to a culture’s “lack of effort, loose family organization, and inappropriate values. ” (40). Finally, Bonilla-Silva identifies the minimization of racism as the last framework in the colorblind ideology. This frame posits that minorities aren’t affected by racism anymore; racism is “better now than in the past. ” (29). Bonilla-Silva asserts that whites use these frames both separately and collectively as a way of justifying turning their backs on the realities of racial inequality.

This chapter on the framework of the colorblind ideology seems to be the most concrete and logical chapter in the book. This chapter is very well put together, with examples that cover a wide variety of topics. He also illustrates the concept of the frameworks playing into one another very well. The premise of these four frameworks as an “impregnable yet elastic wall that barricades whites from the United States’ racial reality” makes perfect logical sense as an explanation for the “racism without racists” culture seen in the US (47).

Changing attitudes towards race relations forced a change in the manifestation of racist ideologies. Bonilla-Silva also discusses the style of color-blindness. He asserts that due to the change in post-Civil Rights era thoughts on discrimination, whites had to change their language when talking about racism so as to promote white privilege in a non-racist manner. He argues that color-blind racism has “technical tools that allow users to articulate its frames. (53) This chapter seems more forced, in how Bonilla-Silva explains language as denoting racism. I think that many of the five elements of “race-talk” are not indicative of racism at all. In a lot of his examples, I get the feeling that Bonilla-Silva is trying to make people’s answers seem more racist than the respondent intended. The way in which the questions are asked and worded in the interview, and whether or not the respondent was comfortable truthfully answering the questions they were asked would affect the language used in their answers.

Additionally, I think this chapter is more a commentary on a general uneasiness in society to talk openly about racism, based on fears of being socially ostracized for making a racially insensitive comment. I don’t think the ways in which people respond to oral questions can accurately be analyzed for racial meaning without first controlling for external factors. Every person, based on individual encounters and experiences, understands race and racism differently, making it very difficult to accurately analyze an individual’s comments and consider them racist.

This chapter brings up a question of how racism is supposed to be talked about if the majority of comments on the subject are scrutinized ad nauseam and, in the case of this book, ultimately deemed as racist? I think that racism is a very sensitive subject for many people, and books such as this only partially help in resolving the issue. Bonilla-Silva unfairly places a majority of the blame of this new racial ideology and the continuance of racial inequality on white people.

The harsh way in which Bonilla-Silva portrays most every white person in the book, with the exception of lower class women in Chapter 6, makes him seem incredibly biased in the matter, partially discrediting the conclusions he reaches from this experiment. This book can positively influence race relations in that it sheds light on a subject that is very frequently swept under the rug. If nothing else, Bonilla-Silva has shown that racism may not be completely eradicated from society, but its structure can change based on political and social events.

Racism in the United States today is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. One would be hard pressed to find a self-proclaimed racist, however, upon further inspection, most people harbor more racist beliefs than they are willing to admit. If tolerance and equality are the goals of racial education, book such as this are partially effective. By identifying some of the main ways that colorblind racism is shown, this book can generate discussions on racial inequality, as it exists in America today. However, the biased methodology and result reports do not encourage tolerance of different races.

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