The Legitimation of Black Subordination: The Impact of Color-Blind Ideology on African American Education

By Williams, Dawn G.; Land, Roderic R. | The Journal of Negro Education, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

The Legitimation of Black Subordination: The Impact of Color-Blind Ideology on African American Education


Williams, Dawn G., Land, Roderic R., The Journal of Negro Education


Through a color-blind discourse and ideology, "race neutral" laws and policies have been effective in sustaining White dominance and legitimating Black subordination, particularly in education. Under a color-blind approach, all students are being held to the normalized White standard, regardless of their cultural background or ethnicity. The objective of this article is to critically assess the intersection of race, color-blind ideology and educational policy and practices from a critical race theorist's (CRT) perspective.

INTRODUCTION

On Commencement Day May 18th visitors were present, [W]hite and [C]olored, but not one of the latter was to be seen on the splendid platform of Virginia Hall. The rudest and most ignorant [W]hite men and women were politely conducted to the platform; respectable and intelligent [C]olored ladies and gentlemen were shown lower seats where they could neither see nor hear the exercises of the day with any pleasure. To speak in general the [CJolored people and students are made to feel that they must forever remain inferior to their [W]hite brethren no matter what their attainment may be. (Cromwell's work, as cited in Anderson, 1988, p. 63)

Some could argue that the sentiments of the aforementioned narrative on Blacks predisposition of being inferior to Whites regardless of the status held by Blacks continues to hold true nearly a century and a half later. Similar to Cromwell's (as cited in Anderson, 1988) controversial thoughts regarding the Hampton Model of Education, which he believed legitimized the subordination of Blacks, contemporary structures, institutions, and ideological impediments such as testing policies and practices and color-blind ideologies, carry on this legacy and diminishes the life chances for Blacks and reinforces racial inequality.

Racial inequality to the United States is what Duke Ellington is to the world of jazz-a natural association, especially to those who choose to hear the reverberation of the racially marginalized or oppressed. Like Ellington, racial inequality in America is very simple and yet, other times, very abstract and complex. As a result of what some scholars have defined White America's race-related ideology as dysconscious, modern, symbolic, laissez-faire, or colorblind-factors that contribute to racial inequality have taken on a more covert form (Bobo, Kluegel, & Smith, 1997; Bonilla-Silva, 2001; Kinder & Sears, 1981; King, 1991; McConahay, Hardee, & Batts, 1981). These contemporary forms of racism are unlike the traditional prejudice or discriminatory acts that typically consisted of more overt expressions of racial antipathy and Jim Crow violence.

Seemingly, obvious and repetitive acts of racism are being overlooked as key contributing factors affecting the achievement gap and pedagogical practices within the classroom. Through a color-blind lens, "race neutral" laws and policies aid in sustaining White dominance and legitimize Black subordination which is argued as an infringement upon African Americans' civil rights. This issue stringently needs to be addressed within the national conservative "color-blind" context of race relations and policy implementation that has had a deleterious effect on African Americans.

The objective of this article is to critically assess the intersection of race, color-blind ideology, and educational policy and practices from a CRTs perspective. Drawing on the main tenets of CRT, this article begins from the standpoint that race and racism are endemic and permeate the fabric of our society. Furthermore, this article seeks to put color-blind ideology on trial for the crime of legitimating the subordination of Blacks under the guise of race neutral policies (Crenshaw, 1995; Delgado & Stefancic, 2000). Given the swift-changing demographics of American society, the time is ripe to reassess the implementations, interpretations, and implications of various race-neutral educational policies and practices, such as high-stakes standardized testing and how they affect the education of Blacks in America.

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