Saturday, April 28, 2007

colorblindness, the "new" justification for institutional racism

Just for my own education and as resources for talking to other white people about racism, I have started collecting articles and studies pointing out institutional racism in this country. It is amazing how much evidence of institutional racism exists in just about every area - environment, housing, health care, education, and more. But, so many white people refuse to see it and even argue against it.

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Colorlines, a magazine whose tagline reads "The national newsmagazine on race and politics." It's really an excellent publication. Its March/April 2007 feature is on racial disparities in healthcare and the conscequences of 'colorblind' policies on the health of people of color. Important information!

The article, What Your Doctor Won't See... If conservatives make helthcare "colorblind", incorporates a wide scope, discussing trends in the perception of inequalities:

For three decades, conservative thinkers have worked mightily to discredit race-based considerations in public policy and cement the belief that America today is, as it sould be, a colorblind society. "It really begins in the early '70s," says Bard College sociologist Amy Ansell, author of New Right, New Racism. "Conservatives believe that with the civil rights movement the barriers were brought down, and that's when racism ends. At that point, government and society have nothing more to do."

Instead, (City University of New York (CUNY) researcher Jack) Geiger suggests, the answers are said to lie in changing the behaviors of people of color. Notably, . . . conservative activists do not deny the existence of inequality. To the contrary, says Tarso Luis Ramos, research director of Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank, they nominally share anti-racists' outrage over the gaps. "The rhetoric acknowldges disparities and even decries them on one hand, and on the other hand rejects proposals to reduce these disparities," Ramon says.

A circuitous intellectual route squares this circle of thought. Colorblind ideology rests on two premises: reducing racism to "individual acts of meanness," as Ramos puts it, and blaming uneuqal outcomes in any given area on the cultural norms of individuals affected. Like Ansell, Ramos traces the "new racism" to the years following the civil rights movement, and in particular the infamous Moynihan Report, which he argues established the idea the Blacks' troubles stem from destructive devolution of their culture.

In the ensuing years, Ramos says, rightwing thinkers and advocates built on this premise. They stroked America's individualist ethos as they steadily narrowed racism's definition to exclude broad, structural factors. And they drove home the idea that both oppression and liberation lie in individual rather than societal acts - that, where racism is concerned, I rather than we shall overcome. As a result, efforts like affirmative action are dismissed because they misdirect the burden of fighting racism on individuals. . .

I have noticed this trend myself. It is exhausting to fight against, but imperative.

While politicos argue about things like whether to use the word disparities or differences in reports, the problems, many of which are literally life-and-death issues, go unaddressed. Blacks, for instance, are dying at rates alarmingly higher - a full 40 percent!!!- than whites, according to a 2005 article in the journal Health Affairs, cited by Colorlines. The infant mortality gap between Blacks and whites doubled between 1950 and 2002.

I have just added my collection of studies and articles addressing institutional racism available in the side bar of this blog in the Recommended Online Reading section.

1 comment:

cloudscome said...

Thank you for doing this. I have been wanting to find this kind of evidence myself. I am looking forward to reading your sidebar articles and plan to use your list as a reference. I have a bad memory for this sort of thing so I really need a list to come back to again and again. This is just want we need more of!