“Justice Undone: Color Blindness After Civil Rights”

Thanks abubanda for sharing this video (Prof. López’s lecture begins at 28:00):

Below is some hasty transcription and paraphrasing of some of Professor López’s points in the lecture, to give you a sneak peak and why you should spend the hour watching the lecture.

“He, George Wallace, had figured out how to tap into that hatred, and the key was to use non-racial language that stoked racial fears but allowed people to tell themselves they weren’t being motivated by racism. … In the words of the historian Dan Carter, ‘Wallace Pioneered a kind of a soft-porn racism, in which fear and hate could be mobilized without mentioning race itself except to deny that one is a racist.'” … “[This] Southern strategy [of politicians’ using coded racist language to attract white vote] is really a version of color-blind racism. It’s colorblind in the sense that it never makes a formal reference to race except, of course, to deny that race is an issue. It’s race-ism because it constantly seeks to stoke racial animosity.” The politicians elected through this strategy then appoint judges to the supreme court. “It’s color-blind racism that creates the court about to enact [constitutional] color-blindness.” A constitutional color-blindness that holds that express references to race cannot be made, requires direct evidence of express reference to race to prove discrimination based on race. This results in less than 5 percent of litigated racial discrimination cases resulting in conviction, but more insidiously it ensures that the racial politics of the elected officials that appointed the Judges could not be indicted. It also holds that express references to race cannot be made. “When the court begins to announce that it needs to be suspicious of every use of race, because you can’t differentiate between affirmative action and Jim Crow, it’s saying that at the point it is already clear that the only express uses of race will be in the context of affirmative action.” With a non-self-referring racism in place, the advocacy for affirmative action, which has to use the language of race expressly to bring attention to the issue at hand, that being, um, race and racism, is confounded with Jim Crow and racism itself!
“Even those people who seek to oppose this sort of racial politics, embrace the basic structure, the basic legitimacy of that politics. This is a great definition of a hegemonic idea.”
“Color-blind racism has changed the meaning of race itself, indeed it has changed the racial categories.” Up through the 1960’s race was always biology + culture: it was brown and lazy, black and lascivious, black and criminal. It was always biology +  culture/temperament/ability/whatever. The big innovation has been to hive off the biological part and to focus simply on the cultural or the behavioral part, with the biological part there, lurking in the background, but denied whenever you need to deny it. That’s the big move of color-blind racism” … With this “You get to blame the minorities for the position they are in, because now it’s dispositional: it’s black pythology, it’s brown laziness, that explains why the browns and blacks are so disproportionately poor. At the same time you get to exonerate Whites. It doesn’t have to do with situational factors and it certainly doesn’t have to do with ongoing racism. And more, you get to celebrate Whites, because you get to say, ‘well, whites must have a culture that allows them to do well under meritocratic competition. … Racism is now expressed in cultural terms.”
“This sort of cultural racism works a lot like the intent doctrine, in the sense that you can never find racism anymore: As long as people never use a race-word, as long as they are only talking about behavior, defective culture, they can’t possibly be racist.” [So if one critiques the crackdown on “illegal” immigrants, and says sounds a lot like racism, one gets to hear the retort, “illegal is a crime, not a race.”] “That’s how the new racial discourse works to insulate racism: as long as they don’t say spic they can’t possibly be racist.” Alabama bans marriage between a citizen and someone who is illegal, Alabama starts to go back to anti-miscegenation, but don’t worry, ‘illegal is a crime, not a race.'”
“Racial categories used to be rigid at their boundaries, defined by the importance of biology [either in terms of ancestries or morphology i.e what you look like]. Now they are defined by imputed behavior [culture and whatnot] in a way that facilitates, what I’m gonna call, ‘honorary White status.'” [Apartheid South Africa did business with the Japenese, racial cockroaches to them so given that status as if they were White.] We do the same thing in the United States. We give this status to people who, through education, through wealth, through professional accomplishment, are now allowed to function as if they are White. This honorary status is color-dependent. They lighter you are the more likey you are to achieve this status. This is both within racial groups but between racial groups. It’s fragile: If you wanna lose this status, all you gotta do is say “race matters.” It is ideologically incredibly important because the presence of honorary whites helps make the claim that race has ceased to matter for everybody. This is the incredibly important role of Obama and especially of those non-whites who are willing to say that race no longer matters.”
But racial categories have eased in a sense that now some people can now function as whites in a way that they couldn’t before and also in a way that legitimates the racial changes we’ve undergone.
Civil Rights movement changed things remarkably for many of us, things did remarkably improve. But racism adapted remarkably quickly. It took the language of civil rights, of color-blindness; it took the legal tools: of equal protections, and it turned that very language and those very tools into weapons that preserved the status-quo. And indeed, weapons that allowed libertarianism, and concentrations of power, and great inequalities to come back into our society.
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