Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism, and Racial Inequality in Contemporary America

By George, Hermon, Jr. | The Western Journal of Black Studies, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview
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Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism, and Racial Inequality in Contemporary America


George, Hermon, Jr., The Western Journal of Black Studies


Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism, and Racial Inequality in Contemporary America.

AUTHOR: EDUARDO BONILLA-SILVA

ROWMAN & LLTTLEFLELD PUBLISHERS, 2010

PRICE: $28.95

ISBN: 978-1-4422-0218-4

The tome may be divided into six (6) parts or sections, grouping its ten (10) chapters by theme. The first part (consisting of Ch. 1, "The Strange Enigma of Race in Contemporary America," introduces the book's subject. The second part (Chs. 2-4) is dedicated to an explication of the conceptual and ideological system of colorblind racism. The third section (Chs. 5-7) deals with the limits of "the new racism" (of which colorblind racism is the operating system) as concerns black and white communities in the U.S. In the fourth section (Ch. 8, "E Pluribus Unum or the Same Old Perfume in a New Bottle? On the Future of Racial Stratification in the U.S."), the author poses his most provocative idea: that racism in the U.S. is becoming more and more like racism in Latin America, a process Bonilla-Silva dubs "Latin Americanization." The fifth section of the book (Ch. 9, "Will Racism Disappear in Obamerica? The Sweet (but Deadly) Enchantment of Color Blindness in Black Face") renders Bonilla- Silva's critical judgment of the U.S. President, a chapter added especially for this third edition. Finally, the sixth and last section (Ch. 10, "Conclusion: 'The (Color-Blind) Emperor Has No Clothes': Exposing the Whiteness of Color Blindness") offers the author's thoughts about the task of challenging colorblind racism.

The principal virtues of the book are largely contained in its first three parts (i.e., Chs. 1-7). One such noteworthy virtue is Bonilla-Silva's identification of the frames, rhetorical styles, and stories of the new racism as expressed in colorblind racism. As an ideology, colorblind racism, the author maintains, like all ideologies, expresses "ideas in the service of power (25)." There are four (4) basic frames: abstract liberalism; naturalization; cultural racism; and the minimization of racism (26-30). An example of abstract liberalism is a belief in "equal opportunity" at the same time justifying racial inequality and opposing affirmative action as "preferential treatment." Naturalization is a frame which permits the U.S. white majority to reject any consideration of racial phenomena since these phenomena are simply "natural", not man-made, developments. Cultural racism finds expression in observations such as "Mexicans have too many children," and "Afro-Americans don't value education", in order to explain the subordinate position of people of color in American society. And, the minimization frame encourages the belief that racial discrimination is lessening, or has disappeared, in this country and, thus, forms no significant impediment to the social status and mobility of people of color in the U.S. (A brilliant work of exposition on the legal basis for whiteness in the U.S., which anticipates some of these points made by Bonilla-Silva--e.g., naturalization [though defined legally], transparency, identity through negation, the role of language in constructing white racial identity--is Ian Haney Lopez, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race, New York University Press, 1996, 2006.)

Complementing the basic frames of colorblind racism, according to Bonilla-Silva, are its characteristic rhetorical styles. Five (5) styles are prevalent, uncovered by the author's interview research: avoidance of direct language about racial matters; the use of "verbal parachutes" to escape difficult subjects (e.g., affirmative action); psychological projection; the use of diminutives; and, as a last resort when facing an extremely sensitive racial topic (e.g., interracial marriage), the retreat into total verbal incoherence. Woven into the styles of colorblind racism are also its typical stories, which are of two (2) kinds: story lines and testimonies. Story lines revolve around four (4) basic claims: "The past is the past"; "I didn't own any slaves"; "The Jews, Italians, and Irish made it, why not black people?

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