The history of ethnicity and issues of racism in the United States dates back to a few centuries. Consequently, various generations have addressed the issue of ethnicity in different contexts and in regards to varying historical events. Scholars have often tried to contextualize the issue of ethnicity in the United States. Consequently, anthropologists and sociologists have forwarded various theories and counter-theories in regards to the issues of ethnicity.
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Ethnicity has had a wide range of effects on various social groups across the country and the world at large. One scholar who has added his voice to the debate on ethnicity is Philip Yang. Yang’s book, “Ethnic Studies: Issues and Approaches” addresses how ethnicity has evolved within the American culture. Another scholar, Eduardo Silva addresses the issues of ethnicity and racism in the post Civil Rights era in the United States.
Silva’s book is titled “Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and Racial Inequality in Contemporary America”. Both Yang and Silva address the same issues albeit from different points of view. This essay explains the relationship between Bonilla-Silva’s notion of colorblind racism and Yang’s perspective of ethnic segregation. In addition, the paper discusses how these two factors validate or invalidate each other.
Bonilla-Silva’s Notion of Colorblind Racism
According to the author, the matters of race are still rife within the American society even after the initial struggles that were witnessed during the Civil Rights era. In addition, the effects of racism have continued to have negative effects on the quality of life of most minority races in the United States. Racism has persisted in the United States even after several institutions and frameworks have been put in place to safeguard victims from the effects of racism.
Bonilla-Silva begins his book by posing a question: “How is it possible to have this tremendous degree of racial inequality in a country where most whites claim that race is no longer relevant…how do whites explain the contradiction between their professed color blindness (within) the United States’ color-coded inequality?” (Bonilla-Silva 2).
According to Bonilla-Silva, we are going through a period of less overt racism where racial stereotypes are mostly confined to situations where systems are subtly beneficial to the white minority. In addition, a majority of the white majority are strategically ignorant of the fact that minority races have trouble accessing services that grant them education, credit, and housing among other amenities.
Bonilla-Silva’s main concern in “Racism without Racists” is the role that is often played by the white majority when this group plays down the existence of modern-day racism. The core of the notion of colorblind racism is that even in the post-Civil Rights era, ‘differing’ realities still apply to both the majority and the minority races in the United States. In essence, most white people’s reality of racism is different from that of non-whites.
For example, the majority of the white population considers incidences of racism as isolated incidents that rarely apply to the overall situation in America. On the other hand, individuals from minority races are aware that racism is alive and thriving within the American society. To eliminate colorblind racism, Bonilla-Silva suggests a strategy that focuses on structural changes that focus changing the ideologies that prevent individuals from confronting racism in a realistic manner.
Most of the ideologies that shape colorblind racism involve theoretical perspectives and attitudes that can only be eliminated through coordinated efforts. Consequently, if the finer elements of colorblind racism are not changed, they will continue to have far-reaching negative impacts on American ethnicity. The origins of colorblind racism can be traced back to the 1960s, right after the struggle for Civil Rights. Consequently, the attainment of the Civil Rights sent the wrong because the “whites felt that, with legal protection against racial discrimination, discrimination no longer occurs” (Desai 25).
Yang’s Perspective on Ethnic Stratification and Ethnic Segregation
Author Philip Yang concentrates on the study of ethnic studies, a branch of sociology that came to fore as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. Consequently, ethnic studies are based on the need to check the advent of ethnic stratification and segregation. The author also focuses on the issue of racism in the context of an individuals’ environment.
When addressing the issue of ethnic stratification and segregation, the author focuses on various elements including national origin, culture, and language among others. In addition, the author observes that the issues of ethnic stratification and segregation are also closely connected to other physical characteristics such as color and other tangible distinctions.
For instance, Yang points out how various groups are distinguished with hyphenations such as ‘African-Americans’, ‘Asian-Americans’, ‘Native-Americans’ among others (Yang 111). Consequently, it is important to note that not all Americans are ‘wholesome’, hence the invocation of ethnic stratification and segregation.
The author is careful while defining the elements that make-up an ethnic group. For instance, ethnicity is found to contain both narrow and broad elements. On most occasions, the narrow-viewed outlook of ethnicity is often used to propagate segregation and consequent racism.
It is also possible to draw important correlations between the issues of segregation and stratification using ethnicity as the basic idea. Yang’s main argument is that ethnic stratification occurs when the society adopts a certain level of complacency where issues of ethnicity are concerned.
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For instance, Yang provides a solution to ethnic stratification by noting that “ethnic studies allow individuals to avoid unnecessary altercation over the complex and sometimes overlapping boundaries between a culturally defined ethnic group and a racial group” (Yang 11). The topic of segregation can most likely be traced back to issues of ethnicity while stratification is synonymous with racism.
Comparison between Bonilla-Silva and Yang’s Terminologies
Both Bonilla-Silva and Philip Yang have written their books with the view of unearthing the truth about ethnicity and racial matters within the United States. Bonilla-Silva’s concept of ‘colorblind racism focuses on the misconceptions that often dismiss racism in America. On the other hand, Yang focuses on various manifestations on ethnicity within the United States including ethnic stratification and segregation.
Segregation is a term that can be used in regards to the shallow elements of ethnicity as explained by Yang. For instance, in the past America has experienced segregation based on factors such as skin color and language. Consequently, segregation as explained by Yang falls below the threshold of Bonilla-Silva’s colorblind racism. Colorblind racism is an ideology that seeks to ‘cancel out’ the effects of contemporary racism.
Colorblind racism goes beyond the narrow description of segregation because this concept encompasses high-level elements such as naturalization, liberalism, racism, and reverse racism. Colorblind racism is also an alien concept in environments where individuals are still battling racial segregation. Consequently, ethnic segregation can be categorized as a preceding factor while considering colorblind racism.
The theoretical argument in Yang’s ethnic segregation is contextualized in an environment that has factors that mirror the issues of racism within the United States. Bonilla-Silva’s notion of colorblind racism can also be contextualized within the United States. However, ethnic segregation is a universal concept as opposed to colorblind racism.
The notion of ethnic stratification is more complex than that of ethnic segregation because it encompassed the underlying factors in matters that deal with racism and ethnicity. According to Yang, color and other external factors are not the only factors that prompt individuals to shun others based on ethnicity.
Consequently, ethnicity stratification is more likely to degenerate into ‘silent racism’. For instance, it is hard to identify and prove there is racism in environments that feature elements of stratification. Some individuals might also take it upon themselves to cover up racism using the mask of ethnicity. When the issue of stratification is compared to colorblind racism, some similarities emerge including the reinstatement of the ethnic hierarchy.
Whenever, there are assumptions about a certain ethnic group, both colorblind racism and ethnic stratification issues are easily noticeable (Lieberson 175). Bonilla-Silva provides the example of the ‘assumptions of the white elites’ and how they can be used to illustrate colorblind racism. However, this same example can apply to the definition of Yang’s ethnic stratification.
Both Yang and Bonilla-Silva present compelling views about racism and ethnicity. However, the authors categorize their theories according to context. In the end, it is apparent that all authors are addressing a similar issue but their choice of context differs. For instance, the issue of ethnic segregation is consequently cancelled out by the concepts of colorblind racism and ethnic stratification.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism And The Persistence Of Racial Inequality in the United States, New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006. Print.
Desai, Dipti. “The Challenge of New Colorblind Racism in Art Education.” Art Education 63.5 (2010): 22-28. Print.
Lieberson, Stanley. “Stratification and Ethnic Groups.” Sociological Inquiry 40.2 (2011): 172-181. Print.
Yang, Philip. Ethnic Studies: Issues and Approaches, New York: Suny Press, 2000. Print.