by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
John Staddon writes for the Martin Center about changing attitudes regarding the significance of race.
Like most Americans, I have always assumed that color blindness is our ideal. Not any more: color blindness is now become the new racism. So much for a 70-year struggle to fulfill Martin Luther King Jr.’s wish that his children be “judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” So much for the noble aim to treat people as individuals rather than as representatives of an identity group.
How is color blindness not a virtue? Is it really racist now? Where on earth does such an idea come from? The answer seems to be “race and ethnic studies,” a mushrooming specialization which pops up in in several traditional academic disciplines such as cultural anthropology, political science, social psychology, and sociology. The problems I will describe infect all, but I focus on sociology, where MLK’s idea of color blindness has been turned on its head. …
… Contra Karl Marx, science is about knowledge, not action. But politics is part of sociology, which means that straying from the scientific straight and narrow is all too easy: from scholarship to social justice is but a single, slippery step. For Marxists the point is not understanding the world, but changing it—by politics and, if necessary, by force. Scholarship and science have been subordinated to activism in the branch of sociology I will call CBR (“color-blind racism,” from the subtitle of a book by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, discussed below).
According to CBR doctrine, color blindness is any attempt to explain racial disparities by means other than racist discrimination. “This ideology [color blindness]…explains contemporary racial inequality as the outcome of nonracial dynamics,” writes Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, just elevated to distinguished professor of sociology at Duke University, and currently president of the American Sociological Association, in the fourth edition of his book, Racism without Racists.
In other words, CBR assumes, without proof, that non-racial factors are irrelevant, so that any attempt to draw attention to them is ipso facto racist. This claim makes sense only if one accepts the CBR conceptual framework, which is not easy because, while claims and allegations are many, facts are few.