Obama and Color-Blindness
Tags: nationalism, race/ethnicity, theory, color-blindness, ideology, obama, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: Racial ideologies are race-based frameworks for understanding the social world, which either challenge or reinforce the status quo of white privilege. In his book, Racism Without Racists (2013), Bonilla-Silva argues the dominant ideology of today is color-blindness, which views race as no longer important to determining social outcomes and, that by discussing race, we are treating it as if it is a real thing. As a result, we should move beyond race by ignoring it and being color-blind. The problem is that race does continue to shape social outcomes (e.g. in the labor market, wealth, education, interactions with police, and everyday encounters), and by ignoring this--or by being colorblind--we help perpetuate and reinforce the system of racial inequality. The power of this ideology is reflected in this early speech by Obama in March 2008. The speech came after the controversy of Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor whose racial remarks became highly scrutinized in national media. In the video here, Obama is encouraging viewers to ignore the issue of race and unite as Americans--to "move beyond these kinds of divisions." In short, he is promoting a color-blind society united through national identity. This is especially interesting in the context of Bonilla-Silva's book because in it, he predicts the future of race relations in the US by drawing upon the examples of Latin America. Amongst other factors, he notes that white supremacy in Latin American (e.g. Brazil) has been maintained through the myth of national unity, which claims that these countries have moved beyond racial divides and are united through national identity. In this speech, Obama makes similar calls to "bring the country together" as "Americans"; he states that "there is no Black America or white America, Asian America, Latino America; there is the United States of America" to great applause from the audience. In the book (Chapter 10), Bonilla-Silva notes the absence of gains made by Obama in regards to race, a topic that is not targeted in his social policies and is almost never addressed publicly (for an important exception, see his comments following the death of Trayvon Martin). In sum, Obama's speech is ideological because it helps to reinforce the system of white privilege; only by examining and discussing racial inequality can we begin to move beyond it.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
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