“Racism is dead” (1964- ), or at least not a big deal any more, also known as the minimization of racism, is a bedrock belief of colour-blind racism, the sort of racism common since the 1970s among White Americans, New Blacks, Rented Negroes and other hangers-on. By racism they mean the anti-Black sort. Many of them think that “reverse racism” (anti-White racism) is still very much alive.
Minimization of racism is one of the four frames of colour-blind racism according to sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva:
- abstract liberalism – say you are for equality but be againt any policy to achieve it, like affirmative action, reparations, etc.
- cultural racism – White is right, Blacks are sunk in pathologies, etc.
- minimization of racism – racism is dead or at least not a big deal any more.
- naturalization of racism – racism is part of human nature.
These beliefs support each other. If racism is dead, no need to fight racism (#1). If racism is dead, there must be something wrong with Black people (#2). But there is also a contradiction: Racism is dead – and yet part of human nature!
Minimization of racism is itself racist because it depends on cultural racism:
For example, Bonilla-Silva found that Whites will often say “I am not Black” and therefore cannot know if there is still racism since they would never experience it directly. Yet these very same Whites will then go on to discount Black statements about racism! White is right even in the face of facts!
Bell hooks says that Whites are so used to lying to themselves that they can no longer tell the difference between wishful thinking and, you know, facts. Their wish for racism to be dead is the same as racism being dead. No facts required.
Whites do want racism to be dead. After all, they want to maintain that shining moral character that they keep telling themselves they have but which only the brainwashed can see. But they want it to be dead without giving up any of the advantages of racism! This leads to moral blindness.
Deep down Whites know that racism is not dead – why else would they be so uncomfortable talking about it?
Racism is very much alive in the US. For those who had any doubts, the pushback against Black Lives Matter and the rise of Donald Trump, whom 44% of Americans now support, show that racism is very much alive, today in 2016, that it goes way beyond David Duke and those who are openly racist.
US society is soaked in racism. Part of why so many Whites do not see that is because they share that racism. It seems “normal” to them. It is like water to a fish. Or refrigerator noises. A hundred years ago they bought postcards of lynchings and alligator bait. Now they watch videos on the Internet of police killings – and seem quite comfortable with it. Deep down what has changed? Their hearts are made of the same stone.
– Abagond, 2016.
- moral blindness
- some facts about racism
- American anti-Black racism
- Voting Rights Act
- Donald Trump
- David Duke
- Black Lives Matter
- bell hooks