To begin on a positive note, for those who do not understand what people mean by systemic or color-blind racism, this book does a good job illustrating what is meant by these terms. The author acknowledges that overt racists and racism still continue to some extent but are...
To begin on a positive note, for those who do not understand what people mean by systemic or color-blind racism, this book does a good job illustrating what is meant by these terms. The author acknowledges that overt racists and racism still continue to some extent but are not the main threat to the advancement of African Americans. Since the 1960s and the rise of political correctness, the greater threat to African Americans is smiling, covert, implicit racism whereby whites will say things like “I’m not racist”, “I have black friends”, and “blacks and whites should be treated equally”, while at the same time retaining views regarding blacks that are considered negative and possibly discriminatory. The author carefully quotes and analyzes conversations with whites and blacks to illustrate what color-blind racism is and how it expresses itself.
In analyzing the interview responses, it is hard not to think of Jeff Foxworthy saying, “You might be a racist if…” According to the author, examples of color-blind racism in whites include saying, “I''m not racist, but.." or “I have friends that are black” in a defensive manner. You also have color-blind racist views if you disagree with affirmative action under the guise of equal opportunity, say that people shouldn’t be forced to integrate but should be able to live where they want, indicate you have to look at the details of hiring decisions before just assuming that when a black person doesn’t get the job that it is due to racism, or if you wonder why blacks are not more successful on average when other minorities have become successful (which is blaming the victim). If, regarding reparations, a white person says that slavery was a long time ago, that they didn’t personally own slaves, etc., such a white person also has color-blind racist views. White people also have color-blind racist views if they are not romantically attracted to black people or if they have an insufficient number of black friends.
Essentially, the only way to not be identified with color-blind racist views towards blacks is to believe that all of the problems in the black community are the result of historical oppression and discrimination, you must be romantically attracted to blacks, have many black friends but not use that fact to claim that your aren’t racist, and you must support reparations unequivocally. Whites interviewed for this book provided many thoughtful responses to various questions but any answer that was not “correct” according to the author was dismissed as racist without examining them or demonstrating while they were incorrect. In one interesting case, a girl said she opposed busing because she was bused to a school that had a higher number of African Americans and she witnessed a group of black girls stealing money from her locker. The author said that this was a “convenient” story used to support the color-blind racist views of the story teller, rather than acknowledging that some people have certain views because of the experiences they have had rather than using such experiences as a “convenient tool” to justify per-existing biases. The author seems to believe that only historical and persistent oppression and discrimination are to blame for black-white achievement gaps and there are no cultural nor internal factors that are relevant. Furthermore, suggesting that some internal or cultural factors are relevant is merely to blame the victim.
Interestingly, when whites who were interviewed suggested that some blacks aren’t successful because they are lazy and don’t work hard, the author says they have color-blind racist ideas. However, when the author points out that a large percentage of blacks in a survey also said laziness and poor work ethic were responsible for many blacks failing to succeed, the author says such blacks were “affected by color-blindness”. If a black person agrees with a white person on cultural or internal problems that hold blacks back, blacks are “impacted by” color blindness while the whites are practicing color-blind racism. The author does not at all examine whether or not blacks and whites believe that many blacks are held back due to such factors because these internal factors might actually be a problem, or that blacks or whites may be commenting on what they have observed and experienced rather than passing off uninformed biases.
In one section, the author expands his focus beyond white and black to discuss other minorities, but in a framework that he identifies as “white, honorary white, and non-white or categorically black.” He does this to address the fact that there are many ethnic groups in America and some ethnic groups are more successful than others. “Honorary whites”, of course, are non-white ethnicities like Indians or East Asians who are more successful than blacks on average. The author claims that since we (according to him) live in a white supremacist society, whites make sure that honorary whites never get ahead of themselves. He further discusses this in the context of a “pigmentocracy”, insinuating that racial groups will be sorted out based on how dark is their skin tone. What the author fails to discuss is how the successful non-whites became successful. Why are they more successful than blacks or other non-whites? Unsurprisingly, the author also totally avoids acknowledging that some blacks (Nigerians, Ghanaians, etc.) are more successful in American on average than white Americans. If black skin will prevent you from being as successful as whites due to white bias against those with black skin, and if our supposedly white supremacist society will ensure that non-whites stay less successful than themselves, why are some with black skin from other cultures able to be more successful on average than those with white skin? This is the million $ question that the author, and those with similar views, won’t touch, because it inevitably points to culture and values rather than racism as primary factors.
The author also dedicates quite a few pages to criticisms of Obama, who apparently wasn’t “black enough” according to how the author thinks “real blacks” should think and act. Radical progressivism and overt anti-racist positions with a firm position that discrimination is the main cause of gaps in black-white statistics is the only permissible position for real African Americans, according to him.
At the end, the author advises white people to deeply examine their lives and ask themselves if they are romantically attracted to blacks, and if not why not? Why don’t you have more black friends? Why aren’t you joining a movement to oppose racism? Of course, from his view, all self-examination must be done by whites. Blacks do not need to examine themselves since all of their problems are caused by white racism, overt or covert.
The author finally challenges whites to get involved in Black Lives Matter or similar movements, saying there is no excuse for not getting involved. He does not discuss BLM, what it stands for, or how BLM will ultimately help blacks succeed. They may be entirely misguided, or they may be fanning the flames of racial polarization and antagonism, but to the author all that matters is taking a strong stance against racism and insisting that discrimination is the main reason why more blacks aren’t successful.
Overall, while a good effort to illustrate and build up the claim that color-blind racism is the biggest threat to the success of blacks today, the author fails to demonstrate that any of the color-blind racist views he identifies are in any way related to black-white achievement gaps. Of course, the author doesn’t use such words as “achievement”, since the world view to which he ascribes seemingly consists of only “privileged” and “oppressed”. There are many African American authors that seem to have a much greater grasp of the many cultural, societal, and other challenges aside from racism that limit black achievement. I would recommend Thomas Sowell’s “Black Rednecks and White Liberals”, “Discrimination and Disparities” by the same author, “Losing the Race” by John McWhorter, “Please Stop Helping Us” by Jason Riley, or even “What’s Race Got to do with it” by Larry Elder. All of these authors are African American and express a much greater understanding of the many factors that influence success and lack thereof in the African American community. While real cases of discrimination no doubt occur and should be opposed when there is clear evidence (not just assumption), I think insisting that covert racism is the major limiting factor in African American success without evidence connecting implicit biases to unequal outcomes, and failing to address the cultural and other factors that also lead to unequal outcomes, is a great disservice which will only lead to further racial polarization and antagonism but will fail to produce beneficial results for the African American community.