midterm reflections- reflective assignment 3

Posted on March 16, 2008


I’m not sure these are the questions that need to be asked in order to really get to the heart of these issues…

1. How might you respond to someone who may claim that Black people are simply better at sports because of their race? Give 3 short answers, imagining how to best convince a person who may make this claim.

2. Why is the system of racial classification, as presented in the U.S. census, incapable of measuring reliable differences in the U.S. population? (See Naomi Zack’s “American Mixed Race” article in coursepack)– I have been thinking a lot about race and ethnicity, about “choosing whiteness”, about interracial marriage, about mixed race, about the history of poor European immigrants and their ability to “choose whiteness” as ethnicity whereas people of color haven’t had this choice, about race defined as a black/white binary where Black people in America are racialized and other peoples of color (particularly Spanish, Hispanic, and Latino/as) are deemed ethnic groups rather than racial groups by the U.S. census. I’m not sure what this means. I know that social science research often follows the demographics of the U.S. census, which means that this issue has a great impact on “progressives” who claim to be attempting to solve societal problems.

Since social science research often follows the demographics of the U.S. census, this means that you are asked if you are Spanish, Hispanic or Latino/a- as an ethnicity question- and even if you answer yes, you are then asked to choose a racial group- White or Caucasian, Black or African-American, Asian or Asian-Indian, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander, or other/refused. We are still trying to figure out race and ethnicity in this country. But we have such a multiracial history, some argue that we should put other, or mixed race, and that would disprupt the binary. But others believe that would take away power from Black Americans as a racial group which has been historically as well as presently marginalized and disenfranchised socially, economically, and politically. According to Bonilla-Silva, if given the choice of one or more category, many will choose white on the U.S. census. Does this refect “honesty” in the American populations, the belief that most people can trace their race/ethnicity to white people, or is this reflective of the fact that people want to identify with the more powerful group? If this reflected “honestly”, why don’t white people acknowledge their multiracial ancestory- Native American, African-American, Spanish/Hispanic/Latino, etc? If we don’t pick a race on the U.S. census, will this increase or diminish racial inequality? [This is a topic I will write about further in another essay…]

-In chapter 8 of “Racism Without Racists”(177-205), Bonilla-Silva discusses this further.

3. What is the origin of white privilege in U.S. history, as related to human labor?


-White Europeans created the system of slavery, maintained and perpetuated it despite human cost in order to make profit; set up American institutions to protect profit and privilege, as well as creating psychological justifications in order to feel okay about it (racism as pathology, whiteness as pathology); and are now in denial because the historical and present weight of it is so apparent and horrendous (cognitive dissonance, denial, white complicity). In short, slavery connects to institutional/structural white power and privilege connects to racism connects to the “new racism”/colorblindness = racial inequality, denial, isolation, segregation, loneliness, dehumanization, fear, ignorance, sadness, and pain as well as power, priviledge, pathology, desentitization, murder, genocide, violence, hatred, fear, apathy- Racism affects the oppressed as well as the oppressor. It dehumanizes.

-Capitalism perpetuates racism and racial inequality because it relies on inequality for its profits. Globalization is neocolonialism, and militarism/Homeland Security/The Patriot Act/The Real ID Act/criminalization of immigrants and people of color as “illegal” and/or terrorists, as well as police brutality/racial profiling/criminalization of poverty and people of color in the U.S. is the enforcing arm.

4. Define and explain the four frames of “colorblind racism” as outlined by the author of [Eduardo Bonilla-Silva] of “Racism Without Racists”?

-Discussed in great deal in 2 of my other essays- “racism without racists, an analysis” and in “white habitus”…

5. How useful is the distinction between racial prejudice and racism, i.e. can only white be racist be definition?

-Bonilla-Silva answers this one best. He says that the question needs to be redefined, as prejudice and not as racism when asking the question, “are blacks as ‘prejudiced’ as whites.” This is because the concept of “racism” as used by most social scientists and commentators is grounded in methodological individualism and pathology, and this needs be be changed. In contrast, Bonilla-Silva seeks to “conceptualize racism as a sociopolitical concept that refers exclusively to racial ideology that glues a particular racial order”.

In other words, racism is a structure that isn’t just constructed of individual actions but of institutionally-sanctioned advantage and disadvantage. Hence, Black people cannot be racist because they aren’t part of the white privilege system which benefits from Black and Brown people’s oppression. They can be prejudiced against people, but not racist, because they don’t benefit structurally from being racist against white people. White people benefit from racism structurally so they can be racist- the larger institutional dynamics- and prejudiced- individual and personal interactions. White privilege is also the privilege of being blind to racism and the institutional advantage that being white gives you.

Thus, Bonilla-Silva describes color-blind racism as the ideology of the “new racism” era, so the answer to the re-defined question is that anyone can be prejudiced against any other race or races, but only white people can be racist. Yet, Bonilla-Silva’s research indicated that blacks are less likely to be antiwhite than whites are to be antiblack (Bonilla-Silva 172-173).

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