The Supreme Court overturned part of the Voting Rights Act, overturned DOMA based on a ‘state’s rights’ claim, and a jury in Florida found nothing criminal when George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. Why does this trouble me in the so-called ‘post-racial’ United States? Paul Rosenberg over at Crooks and Liars has the answer. In 2013, white supremacy is alive and well and it isn’t always burning crosses or wearing hoods.
Rosenburg makes a point that we shouldn’t call what is going on racism because it lets white supremacists off the hook. That’s how we get four frames of colorblind racism:
Even though the president himself is black, the fundamental logic of white supremacy is still in place, and very few of us have any coherent way to make sense of how this can be so–much less how it relates to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.
Bonilla identifies “four central frames” at the core of color-blind racism, with the explanation that “The central component of any dominant racial ideology is its frames or set paths for interpreting information.” Simply by virtue of being mutually-supportive parts of a larger whole, they all played a role in the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, but one was much more obviously central than the others.
Abstract liberalism: The frame of abstract liberalism involves using ideas associated with political liberalism (eg “equal opportunity”, the idea that force should not be used to achieve social policy) and economic liberalism (eg, choice, individualism) in an abstract manner to explain racial matters. Abstraction allows these ideals to be invoked when convenient (say when objecting to affirmative action) and to be ignored when they’re not (when unequal school funding makes equal opportunity impossible, for example).
Naturalisation: The frame of naturalisation allows whites to explain away racial phenomena by suggesting they are natural occurrences. It’s “just the way things are”.
Cultural Racism: The frame of cultural racism gives rise culturally based arguments such as “Mexicans do not put much emphasis on education” or “blacks have too many babies”, which it then uses to explain the standing of minorities in society.
Minimisation of Racism. The “minimisation of racism” frame suggests discrimination is no longer a central factor affecting minorities’ life chances (“It’s better now than in the past” or “There is discrimination, but there are plenty of jobs out there”). It remembers the past with a highly selective intent, to excuse the evil that remains.
The last frame, “minimisation of racism”, is what was used to justify overturning part of the Voting Rights Act.
I’ve heard some of my white friends, mostly conservatives, use the frames mentioned above to justify their racism yet they claim not to be racist. I will now just say they are white supremacists.