In a reality-show, “Black. White” first broadcasted in 2006, there were two families taking part: a white one and a family of color. Within the frame of the project, they were asked to live under one roof for some time and, with the help of make-up experts, to switch their skin color (“Black. White” par. 1).
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Such a shift of personality was designed to emphasize the drastic diversity of the way society treated white people and people of color. It was to demonstrate that the problem of racism was still pressing. Still, despite the seemingly illustrative demonstration, some white people thought the problem was overly exaggerated and not worth their attention (Dreisinger 66).
Why the white people disguised as black did not feel they were being discriminated against? Because the time of out-in-the-open oppression has gone. Instead, today’s racist attitudes are deeply intertwined with American society’s rules. This is what the authors under study (Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Philip Q. Yang) emphasize, among other issues. Although they overview the problem from different perspectives, they agree that modern racism has various forms, and the problem is as serious as ever.
While “Ethnic Studies: Issues and Approaches” by Philip Yang seems to inform the reader of existing racial issues and explanations merely, Bonilla-Silva in his work “Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States” tend to analyze the information and draw conclusions about modern racism critically.
Still, there are some common points; for example, both authors emphasize the conspiratory character of racism today. It is visible that, although few people openly identify themselves as racist, racism is a normal state of things. The authors explain that the reason for it is mainly that people are too used to thinking about each other in terms of physical appearance.
It is deeply rooted in the collective subconscious that there are norms and modes of behavior and that all ethnic groups should follow these norms. People are prone to judgment, which is what ethnocentrism takes roots from (Yang 67). Judgment is what generally makes white people think people of color are worse than themselves simply because they do not fit their concept of “normal.” Bonilla-Silva, in his turn, supports this position stating that judgmental attitudes hide under the mask of color-blindness (1).
Judgment was, in fact, one of the conditions of slavery back in the 17th century, and the after-effects of it still linger on. Back then, people of color were considered subhuman (Yang 69). Today, the stereotypes have somewhat faded in favor of “seeing people, not a color,” and the shift of attitudes is widely accepted; what is still unacceptable is the action towards actual change (Bonilla-Silva 1, 5).
Much has been said about competition in which people like Barack Obama have participated and won. However, such people are an exception. It just gives white Americans the right to claim racism is gone, and they overlook the facts which show that it is not. The American Government is almost totally white. So are the big sports, science, medicine, and stage (Revoner 77-85).
It only demonstrates that a racist collective subconscious is ready to accept the change in attitude, but only in theory. As a matter of practice, it will not tolerate any competition that shatters its domination.
In addition, both authors state that modern racism is not only considered matter-of-course, but it is also justified and adopted by society. The authors agree that the category of the race (as well as any other category, such as gender or age) is, by nature, a social construct.
Still, they claim, it is seen as ultimate and unchangeable reality. The authors assert that the constructs affect reality in multiple ways; so does, for example, residential segregation (Yang 168; Bonilla-Silva 3). It creates a sensation of difference, or rather, “otherness,” that is almost tangible. Otherness is basically any factor that people can be differentiated by, and it complicates building a society where everyone is equal (Cashmore 263).
Indeed, a paradigm shift is rather unlikely when white people and people of color live in separate neighborhoods. Officially, such situations are thought to be the only natural. In reality, the case often is that ethnic people are either short of finance or simply are not wanted in a white neighborhood because of their skin color (Yang 168).
At that, people do not get thrown out by force; instead, it is made clear to them that “certain mixes don’t mix,” which is yet another aspect of color-blind racism (Bonilla-Silva 3). The segregation is justified by vague assumptions that some groups have no desire to study while others are bad at parenting, which serves as a proper explanation for the minorities’ subordinate position (Bonilla-Silva 29).
The final idea that is traced through both works concerns the explanation of the forms racism takes today. Historically, Yang asserts, white people tended to dominate and maintain their domination in order to get hold of resources (67).
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This was the explanation provided by one of the approaches, and it managed to grasp the main idea. In his turn, Bonilla-Silva states that nowadays, the reason for inequality has not changed: it still meets the privileged whites’ interests (9). Considering that, today, one of the few sparse resources worth competing for is power, we see that all factors fit into place.
The segregation, the employers’ selectivity, and the hypocritical reasoning on the ethnic groups’ inability to get properly educated and raise their children is just a cover for an insistent message: whiteness prevails. There are, of course, some individuals who seemingly enthusiastically dispose of the privilege whiteness gives them, for example, white rappers such as Eminem (Dreisinger 131).
Such an image is supposed to depict racism as an unnecessary and outdated concept, but the “white blacks” still look like a mockery. The awareness that under the impression of an underdog, there lie privileged white male molds the whole performance into another color-blind racist frame.
To sum it up, the authors share the idea that racism is a persistent issue despite society’s efforts to conceal it. They both state that ethnocentrism is the key reason people think one race is somehow better than another. Another aspect of modern racism is that it lurks behind the optimistic color-blind approach.
This approach, despite its initially good intentions, allows its adepts to make single-minded assertions about the characteristics of ethnic groups. Besides, the concept of racial competition appears to have survived through several hundred years, and what we see now is white people trying to maintain their privilege to get access to more power.
To my mind, the concept of color-blindness as the aspect of modern racism is not new, at least not entirely. There is only too much evidence that racism has not become a thing of the past but remains a normal (that is, socially accepted) course of events.
There are numerous works devoted to this subject, but, in my view, this fact does not make the issue any less serious. The books by Philip Yang and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva thoroughly explore the phenomenon of modern racism; the authors have undoubtedly done a great amount of work. It is vital that more people should be aware of the issue, of course.
But still more important is that they should be persuaded to adopt a deeper insight of what they consider to be a part of everyday life. It is important that people read books and think just what they can be probably doing wrong. It is also important that they learn to think frankly and not be afraid to face the problem squarely.
What these books do is inform and analyze; what they should result in is action. I think these books would be very useful for those who are concerned and interested in the subject. The books do not really open one’s eyes to anything revolutionary; at any rate, I doubt that was their initial purpose.
Instead, they provoke the reader to think and want to read more. They break the reader’s peaceful perception of him- or herself as a member of society on its way to the American Dream. Indeed, reading these works is slightly unsettling. The books urge the reader to gather extra information to get a full overview of the issue, which is, as I see it, the first step to action.
Black. White. 2006. Web.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006. Print.
Cashmore, Ellis. Dictionary of Race and Ethnic Relations. London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2002. Print.
Dreisinger, Baz. Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008. Print.
Revoner, Bryian K. The Fear of Being Challenged: Democratically Independent; I Am the Realacrat. Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse, 2011. Print.
Yang, Philip Q. Ethnic Studies: Issues and Approaches. Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 2000. Print.