Racism Without Racists – The Struggle Continues (My Lessons and Takeaways from the book by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Racism without RacistsShielded by color blindness, whites can express resentment toward minorities; criticize their morality, values, and work ethic; and even claim to be the victims of “reverse racism.” This is the thesis I will defend in this book to explain the curious enigma of “racism without racists.”
Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America (fourth edition)
by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva


Racism really is live and well in modern day America. (You want a current news item? Read this: Black Sisters Endured Relentless Racist Bullying, complete with nooses, and plenty of uses of the “N” word, against small children – this decade! – in my home state of Texas).

I just presented my synopsis of Racism without Racists for the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare. Here is the way I summarized the book:

The basic premise of the book – After slavery, the Jim Crow era was the “accepted” racism throughout our society. Now, such out-in-the-open racism is no longer “acceptable.” Thus “racism,” and thus also, “racists,” are no longer part of our society. (Everyone rejects such). But, in reality, there is plenty of racism – just not practiced by out-in-the-open racists in such out-in-the-open ways.
Color-blind racism is racism without racists!” 

If you research this book, the dominant content that is most frequently quoted has to do with the author’s four frames. This is what I included on my handout (with some quotes coming from the analysis linked to below)

• A word about “frames” – “we are the way we think…”

  • The four frames (note: this is the heart of the book; what most critical reviewers and academicians refer to from this book).

…color-blind racism has four central frames and these frames are used by an overwhelming majority of the white respondents. The four frames are

#1 — abstract liberalism — the ruling group must somehow convince itself that its place in the social hierarchy is just and earned.
(from one analysis: abstract liberalism is akin to the “bootstrap theory” where we are told that there are equal opportunities, that equality is now possible because gains made by the struggles of the Civil Rights Movements has now completely leveled out the playing field, that we are all individuals with choices, that we must be colorblind and that discrimination is just a matter of individual prejudice if it happens.).

#2 – naturalization — social segregation as “self-segregation”.

#3 — cultural racism — whites often construe the situation of Blacks as a cultural thing, drawing from the previously mentioned “culture of poverty” arguments of the 1960’s.
…By “blaming the victim”, whites don’t have to take responsibility for racism/racial inequality, because we don’t have to examine our own complicity in maintaining the dominant status quo/white privilege.

#4 — minimization of racism — Otherwise known as “playing the race card”, accusations of “reverse discrimination”, accusing minorities of being too sensitive and using race as an excuse, and others obscure the real incidents of racism (not just prejudice) and race-based discrimination (Bonilla-Silva 29). Minimization also allow whites to be racist through the rhetoric of colorblind racism, by silencing the voice of the oppressed, telling those who are experiencing racism that they are being “hypersensitive”, and allowing the oppressor to analyze and mandate the terms of what is/isn’t racism/racist

{Therefore white privilege isn’t only disproportionate wealth/access/resources, but it is the privilege of not having to acknowledge where this came from, the cost to those who were denied so that we could have what we have. White privilege is unearned, it is historically rooted, it is the ability to “choose” ignorance as bliss and not be held responsible for it.}.

(Part of the above comes from Racism Without Racists- an analysis). 

This is what I think. Racism is wrong, and we all know that it is wrong. But, we are not diligent against the “new” ways that society practices racism. From the book: Whereas for most whites racism is prejudice, for most people of color racism is systemic or institutionalized,

• And here are some lessons and takeaways from the book:

#1 – Maybe racism in deep within us. (Or, maybe, the “need” to create hierarchical orders is deep within us).
#2 – Our default position seems to be that of “meritocracy,” with our own blindness to issues of privilege. (especially “white privilege”).
#3 – “Blaming the victim” can provide quite a plentiful and lucrative career path.
#4 – Just because one says, or think, that “I am not a racist,” does not make one “not a racist…”

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