Book notes: Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva book summary review and key ideas.

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Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Synopsis:

“Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s acclaimed Racism Without Racists documents how, beneath our contemporary conversation about race, there lies a full-blown arsenal of arguments, phrases, and stories that whites use to account for – and ultimately justify – racial inequalities. The fifth edition of this provocative book makes clear that color-blind racism is as insidious now as ever. It features new material on our current racial climate, including the Black Lives Matter movement; a significantly revised chapter that examines the Obama presidency, the 2016 election, and Trump’s presidency; and a new chapter addressing what listeners can do to confront racism – both personally and on a larger structural level.” -Audible


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Opening thoughts:

I haven’t read a book about race in a while, maybe since last year. I’m excited to see what new perspectives this book will add to what I’ve learned so far about this subject.


Key notes:

  • Not everyone is racist, but for the last 500 years we have been affected by racialization and racial ideology

Chapter 1: the strange enigma of race in contemporary America

  • In a country, where most whites claim race is irrelevant, it’s still clear based on the data that blacks and darker-skinned minorities are lower on the societal totem pole
  • Colorblind racism rationalizes minorities’ contemporary status as the product of market dynamics and cultural limitations
  • Discriminatory economic, workforce, and political discrimination maintain systemic racism in society
  • Symbolic racism is a blend of anti-black effect and the kind of traditional American moral values embodied in the Protestant ethic
    • This has relaxed biological racism as the primary way whites express their racial resentment toward minorities
  • A society’s racial structure is the totality of the social relations and practices that reinforce white privilege
    • Racial structures continue to exist because they benefit members of the dominant race
    • In turn, the dominant races create rationalizations to account for the status of the various races
  • Racial ideology is the racially based frameworks used by actors used to explain and justify the dominant race, or challenge the subordinate race or races in the racial status quo
  • The strength of an ideology lies in its loose-jointed, flexible application
    • An ideology is a political instrument, not an exercise in personal logic. Consistency is rigidity
  • Anti-racism begins with understanding the institutional nature of racial matters and accepting that all actors in a racialized society are affected materially, receive benefits or disadvantages, and ideologically by the racial structure
    • This stand implies taking responsibility for your unwilling participation in these practices and beginning a new life committed to the goal of achieving real racial equality

Chapter 2: the new racism – the US racial structure since the 1960s

  • Racism is a structure, a network of social relations at social, political, economic and ideological levels that shape the life chances of the various races
  • The Great Migration of Blacks from 1940-1970 provided them with expanded opportunities in all realms of life
    • The impact of this migration was enormous on the overall condition of Blacks in America

Reader’s note: In this section, the author mentions how racial structures were still maintained despite progress in capitalism and industrialization. The main reason why industry leaders allowed for more concessions for more minority rights was because of the discontent and protests, which were bad for business

  • Racial micro-aggressions are the new forms of subtle racism that still have a major impact on people’s lives
  • All domination is ultimately maintained through social control strategies
  • The United States has the highest incarceration population per capita in the world
    • Race influences nearly every aspect of incarceration
  • Official state brutality against blacks
  • The level of police force against blacks has always been excessive
    • But this has increased exponentially since the 1960s
  • The mechanisms to keep blacks in their place are rendered invisible
    • The economic life of African Americans has always been influenced by structured racial inequality
  • Although there is some improvement in reducing job discrimination, Blacks are still vastly overrepresented in labor jobs and vastly underrepresented in skilled white-collar jobs
  • The lack of occupational mobility for Blacks shows a distinct racial pattern
    • Jim Crow-type exclusion discrimination has been replaced with a new web of racial practices that limits mobility and affects their everyday performance
  • Through their struggle, Blacks have been able to gain access to the political system, but that access has not translated itself into a significant influence

Chapter 3: the central frames of colorblind racism

  • Some people use the equal opportunity excuse to justify their racial views
  • Another colorblind racist excuse used is the idea of meritocracy, or that “the cream rises to the top”
    • However, they fail to question why all the cream at the top is white
  • Individualism has been recast as a justification for opposing policies to eliminate (ameliorate) racial inequalities because they are group based rather than case by case
  • By universalizing segregation as a natural phenomenon, people are able to justify their own racial preferences
  • People also use the cultural frame as a justification for racial disparities, such as saying blacks are culturally lazy and want shortcuts
  • In studying the data, whites mix and match arguments as they see fit
    • They provide whites with a seemingly nonracial way of stating their racial views without appearing irrational or rapidly racist 

Chapter 4: the style of color blindness – how to talk nasty about minorities without sounding racist 

Reader’s note: Hearing all of these interviews of white people and their racial views is very cringy. Their statements are so ignorant to the perspective of Black people, they seem to make up their own stories about why they are against affirmative action and are so blind to all the systemic racism present. Their short-sidedness makes them believe it genuinely doesn’t think that it exists.

Reader’s note: When I’m listening to these interviews, the white justification is that it is so challenging for them. They’re scared of people taking small remarks out of context, such as racial slurs. However, what it really sounds like is that they are afraid of being held accountable for their words and actions. It’s like they want a lot of room and leeway to still maintain the racial prejudices but not be held accountable for them when they are wrong.

Chapter 5: I didn’t get that job because of a black man – Colorblind racism’s racial stories

  • Recent and overt forms of racism have impeded Black progress up until this day
    • The effects of historic discrimination have limited Blacks’ capacity to accumulate wealth at the same rates as whites
  • Believing discrimination was a thing of the past helps reinforce their stark opposition to race-based compensatory programs
    • This storyline is used to deny the enduring effects of historic discrimination, as well as to deny the significance of contemporary discrimination
  • Whites claiming they didn’t get a position or job because they were reverse-discriminated against allows them to never consider the possibility that they might not be qualified
  • Whites may often use 2nd hand anecdotal references of reverse discrimination without any empirical data to reinforce their beliefs

Chapter 6: peeking inside the White House of color blindness – the significance of whites segregation

  • There is a culture of segregation, a set of behaviors, attitudes, and values that are increasingly at variance with those held in the wider society
    • The social and special isolation of one group from others leads to the differentiation of those groups, as well as the development of group cohesion and identity in the segregated group 
  • A consequence of this white isolation promotes a sense of group belonging, a white culture of solidarity, and negative views of non-whites
    • Blacks are still the racial antithesis of whites in the racial spectrum
  • Whites don’t see or interpret their own racial segregation or isolation as racial at all
    • This blindness is central to understanding their views on a host of racial matters
    • Recognizing whites’ lack of realization that race matters in their lives combined with limited interracial socialization helps decipher the apparent contradiction between their stated preference for a color-blind approach to life, and the white reality of their lives

Chapter 7: Are all whites refined Archie bunkers? – An examination of white racial progressives

  • Racial contact among equals leads to better race relations
  • For whites, working-class women are most likely to be racially progressive
  • Class solidarity will likely be created through race and gender prisms

Chapter 8: are blacks colorblind too?

Chapter 9: e plurbis unim, or the same old perfume in a new bottle – On the future of racial stratification in the United States

  • Researchers agree that a hierarchical racial order continues to shape all aspects of American life

Chapter 10: from Obamerica to Trumpmerica – the continuing significance of colorblind racism

  • Overall, Obama’s policy stance was to be raceless and distance himself from racial issues to seem less Black
  • Obama assumed racism could be overcome through goodwill as it was a moral problem to him
    • However, racism forms a structure, and the struggle against racism must be fundamentally geared toward the removal of the practices, mechanisms, and institutions that maintain systemic white privilege
  • Obama was wrong in his stance that whites and Blacks have beef with each other, because Blacks do not have the institutional power to implement a pro-Black agenda, whereas whites have had this kind of power since the country was born
    • Obama truly does not believe racism is a serious structural problem in America
  • For his white supporters, he’s the first Black leader they feel comfortable supporting because he does not talk about racism
    • Because he reminds them he’s half-white, articulate, and clean
    • He does not make them feel guilty about the state of racial affairs in the country
  • Obama’s policies were more conservative and weren’t as progressive as people thought or assumed
    • Obama was clearly not a stealth progressive but a centrist, pro-market, traditional politician with a quasi-colorblind view about race matters in America
  • The author disagrees with the notion that Trump facilitated the re-emergence of racism
    • He argues that Trump’s rhetoric reflects that colorblind racism has shaped his racial ideology
  • An examination of Trump vs Clinton supporters shows that they are very similar in their racial views, particularly their negative perception of minorities and especially Blacks
    • The study showed that racist elements must be purged from both parties
  • The combination of misguided support from the Democratic establishment, core campaign strategy, and what seems to be a tinge of arrogance likely contributed greatly to Clinton’s ultimate defeat at the hands of Donald trump
  • The Black Lives Matter movement started around the time of the Ferguson protests

Chapter 11: conclusion – what is to be done? 

  • Summing up this book: This book was about exploring the meaning of the slippery and seemingly beyond-race way we talk about race in contemporary America
    • He argues that the views whites hold on racial matters amount to racial ideology, a loosely organized set of ideas, phrases, and stories that help whites justify contemporary white supremacy
  • We know that the ideals of the ruling group in every epic become the ruling ideas of society
    • As such, this ideology cannot simply be eradicated with the facts because racial facts are highly contested
    • In the eyes of most whites, evidence of racial disparity and income, wealth, education, and other relevant matters becomes evidence that there is something wrong with minorities themselves
  • His main goal with this book was to decode the components of colorblindness and explain their functions
    • But ideologies never float on thin air, they are always anchored in social systems with specific practices, policies, and mechanisms to reproduce domination

Closing thoughts:

I enjoyed this book and felt like it really contributed to the discussion of race in America. Even though many of the central points of the book have been addressed in other works, I feel like the anecdotes of the studies with white participants really bring color to how whites have evolved their racial ideology over time.

We see that this racial ideology has adapted to be less overtly racist, but rather subtle. It disguises under the rhetoric of colorblindness and meritocracy, which allows them to push back on progressive agendas to make our societal structure more equal. And this racial dominance of the structure allows them to push for the maintenance of the status quo.

Highly recommend this book, especially if you live in America as race shapes all aspects of our lives. The structure of society in the U.S. was born from the racial ideologies that fueled slavery, so it’s impossible to separate the two.


One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

One of the biggest takeaways I got from this book is:

  • Struggle against racism must be fundamentally geared toward the removal of the practices, mechanisms, and institutions that maintain systemic white privilege

Because racism is a structure deeply embedded in our society and culture, it’s a very difficult task. It’s almost like trying to modify the DNA that fundamentally makes up a person. However, I think it’s possible, and I think that’s what the author is implying. It will be an uphill battle, but it’s a fight that requires patience. Racism is a structure that must be taken apart piece by piece.


Nutshell:

A discussion of color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America.


Similar books:


Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

3/5

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