Code Speak and the New Racism
_Tags: class, discourse/language, inequality, intersectionality, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, code speak, 00 to 05 mins
Access: The Daily Show
Summary: Since outright hatred and discrimination of people because of their race is no longer socially acceptable in our post Civil-Rights era, many argue racism no longer exists. But sociologists suggest that racism simply changed, becoming more implicit and indirect. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argues that the new racism entails individuals saying and doing things that perpetuate racial stereotypes and inequalities, but they do so in such a way that the offender is able to deny being explicitly racist. One of the many types of new racist strategies Bonilla-Silva highlights is the use of racially charged code speak, or using indirect racial rhetoric and semantic moves to express an ideology that serves to reinforce white dominance over minorities. In this clip, The Daily Show’s Larry Wilmore illustrates the code speak implicit in presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that we combat poverty by hiring poor children to clean the restrooms at their schools. Wilmore notes that “it’s 2011, and you can’t just call Black people lazy,” and then points out Gingrich’s racial code speak. He notes Gingrich’s statement about “neighborhoods where they may not have that experience [of working]” is “code for inner-city, which is code for urban, which is code for Black.” Gingrich’s statement about poor children having “no habit of showing up [to work] on Monday” is “code for shiftless, which is code for lazy, which is code for black.” Wilmore then plays more of Gingrich’s speech where the presidential candidate cites statistics about Black unemployment, thereby making his implicit racial assumptions explicit. When John Stewart asks why this is important, Wilmore points out how the causes of poverty “matter to the solutions.” Viewers can be encouraged to consider how framing these issues as individual problems (e.g. a person being lazy) differs from framing them as social issues (e.g. lack of available jobs), and how that might "matter to the solutions" that society seeks as a result? How is this related to race and do we see code speak in reference to other groups as well?
Note: This summary is an edited excerpt from Jason's original post at Sociological Images.
Submitted By: Jason Eastman
1/11/2013 04:57:17 am
If saying you are not a racist, automatically makes you racist, then what's the point in even trying? Honestly, assuming most white people are racist is wrong. I identify as "white", but I really have about 30% (give or take) American Indian and some Arabic in me. I think the way you act toward people should signify whether you are racist or not, not a few misplaced or misinterpreted words. If the good outweighs the bad, you have someone who earnestly is not racist.
1/11/2013 08:53:28 am
Hi Samantha, Saying you are not racist does NOT automatically make you racist. The problem is that people tend to use certain frames when talking about race and presenting themselves as non-racist when they say racist things. Qualitative studies (e.g. see Bonilla-Silva's book, Colorblind Racism) have documented how people commonly say "I am not racist but ..." statement before saying racist things. Furthermore, good and well-intentioned people can still say racist things. As Jay Smooth notes (in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU), it might be more helpful if we focus on the racist things a person says, rather than claiming that they are racist (i.e. bad) or not racist (i.e. good). That binary is not that helpful for pushing forth intelligent dialogue about race.
The media has reinforced the notion that 'racist' means only the overt name-calling and behaviour.....which is why most white people (I am white) baulk at being called 'racist' today as many understand that it's not ok. What is not understood so well is the inherent racism we are steeped in from birth, the institutionalised kind that becomes the 'wallpaper' of our existence....it is so normalised we just don't see it. It is the kind that gives me privileges right from the get-go that people of colour don't have.....and in that sense, yes, I am racist (but I'm working on it). So many white people, raised with authoritarian parenting, when called on their racism, feel it as another 'telling off' that they are just not going to take now that they are adults themselves. Some of us have done some work on releasing our own pain around that so that we don't get so defensive when called on our white privilege. That's my take on things anyway.
7/31/2018 09:26:07 am
Good point. My issue is when other people say very racist stuff towards me, a white guy, and I tell them it's racist and to stop. They tell me that reverse racism doesn't exist. They are right, it's not reverse racism. It's simply them being racist.
Jose L Gutiérrez
7/19/2013 02:13:17 am
You ignore Tim Wise, author of COLORBLIND, to the detriment of your audience. His work reinforces then Bonilla-Silva's excellent work, by grounding his findings in sociological studies and the like. Hid work turns ouy to have been predictive, not just prophetic,
10/1/2013 01:37:01 pm
I'm "white", a portion of my heritage is Caribbean (Amerindian/African), it's quite amusing people think that "white" automatically means only Caucasian ancestry. I feel very much that that line is in my heritage, it must have really impacted my family, some of the first "darkskinned foreigners" in my fathers birthcountry, and later being in a place with a very small, if at all, percentage of "darkskinned people". Pretty sure my ancestors on that side were at some point slaves etc, so, interesting to have things attached to "white". My hair tangles up in no time, like my Jamaican ancestors, if I were to have dreadlocks, people would laugh at me and say "typical white people".
11/24/2013 04:47:15 am
Remember the media insisted on labeling George Zimmerman as 'white' even though he is Hispanic. (Well, he's as Hispanic as Barack Obama is black.) Anyway, the logic behind this was allegedly that Hispanic is a culture/ethnicity, not a race. Ergo, even though Zimmerman was Hispanic, his race was still considered to be white. (I suspect the real logic behind the 'white' label was so that the media would not have to pick one minority over another.)
3/12/2014 12:37:45 pm
The visibility of my family's African heritage has been blended out as well, so I tend to get the Adam & Eve/location of Eden speech when I happen to mention it. It's annoying that people think blonde hair and blue eyes means 100.00% European and no claim to ancestors who were kept as slaves or had their native lands stolen from them--but nothing like freedom people feel to make those comments on the supposedly inferior genetics of certain groups.
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