Editor’s note: Part I of The New Racism can be read here.
The best way to grasp how sociology has managed to make color-blind racism (CBR) seem believable is to study its Newspeak (to continue the Orwell theme).
To many modern sociologists, color blindness is a racist weapon that works, somehow, through whiteness, a scheme of thought invisible to most whites, but revealed by CBR sociology. Whiteness is part of systemic racism: “Exposing the Whiteness of Color Blindness” is a chapter subhead in Bonilla-Silva’s book. Whiteness is as real an identity as blackness. None of these, neither whiteness, nor blackness, nor systemic racism is measurable in an objective way.
Whiteness, “the practices of the ‘new racism’—the post-civil rights set of arrangements that preserves white supremacy” in the words of Bonilla-Silva—is apparently hegemonic: “I contend that ‘color-blind’ ideology plays an important role in the maintenance of white hegemony,” writes Ashley “Woody” Doane, a leading “whiteness studies” advocate who heads the sociology department at the University of Hartford.
“Whiteness” is employed as a method of maintaining control over other groups by the “dominant culture.” Hence, “challenging white hegemony” is a major motif for “whiteness studies.” According to Bonilla-Silva, only race traitors (an odd term, since they seem to be the only non-racist whites)—“whites who do not dance to the tune of color blindness”—can escape from whiteness. Color blindness is part of the whiteness strategy and is therefore racist.
Whiteness, like racism, is also unconscious. A former student of Bonilla-Silva’s raises the obvious question: “How does one test for the unconscious?” but, like Bacon’s Jesting Pilate, Bonilla-Silva stays not for an answer. Others have tried. There is something called the “implicit-bias” test which pretends to measure unconscious processes. But it has little or no scientific basis, despite the existence of a Harvard University website. Such tests have been widely administered for some 20 years nevertheless.
Above all, in the CBR universe, whiteness is a bearer of privilege. The term itself adds nothing new: white privilege is just the same as black un-privilege: to discriminate against blacks is to privilege non-blacks. But the word is another way to make whites feel bad. Books and articles in this area are sprinkled with tendentious phrases like “the manifold wages of whiteness,” “white privilege,” “historically white colleges,” all to emphasize persistent, unjust advantages possessed by whites as opposed to blacks. Again, the injustice of privilege is just assumed not demonstrated empirically. The few demonstrable examples of “black privilege” such as affirmative action and diversity policies, are either ignored or dismissed as “tokenism.”
The CBR aim is to challenge all white advantage, real or imagined. Higher achievement based on competence or effort is not exempt. Bonilla-Silva continues, with remarkable frankness….