Rise of Race Neutral Racism


Table of Contents

Defining Race Neutral Racism
Invisible Foundation of White Supremacy
Hiding White Supremacy in the US Constitution
The White Head Start and Freedom to Famine
Changing the Language of Racism
Preserving Exclusion and Injustice
Public Outcome vs Public Intent
Voter IDs and Unaffordability
Rise of Southern Strategy
ColorBlindness of Disinvestment
Colorblind Constitutionalism
Outcomes, not just intentions, matter
Rise of Proof of Malice
Closing the Door on Racial Bias
Race Neutrality of Mass Incarceration
Anti-PC Attack on Anti-Racism
The Racism of Denying Systemic Racism
Other Relevant People’s School of DC Pages

Defining Race Neutral Racism

“Colorblind racism…when racially neutral language makes extreme racial inequalities appear to be the natural outcome of innocent private choices or free-market forces rather than intentional public policies like housing covenants, federal mortgage redlining, public housing segregation, and school zoning” Matthew Delmont

“Legislators in the US no longer explicitly write laws in the racially discriminatory manner that marked the Reconstruction Era. But even laws that are neutral on their face can disparately impact black people.” Vera Justice: An Unjust Burden: The Disparate Treatment of Black Americans in the Criminal Justice System

Most White People Don’t Say “Black Lives Don’t Matter”

  • Instead white people
    • Support, are complicit, or complacent with racist institutions and policies that devalues black lives
      • Criminal Justice System, school funding, housing discrimination, gentrification, etc.
    • Support politicians that devalue black lives 
      • Trump and Biden
    • Whitewash antiracism efforts using
      • Language such as PC culture, culture wars, cancel culture, SJW
        • Language created by the Political Right to demonize antiracism and social justice efforts
      • Respectability politics, white centering, white fragility
    • Justify oppressive systems
      • “Just a few bad apples”, “we can all make it if we try”, “All equal under the law”
      • Meritocracy myth
    • Don’t consider how black lives are impacted when advocating for policies
      • White moderates
        • Liberals sacrificing civil rights policies to win white “racist” moderate voters
      • Class reductionist policies – think a fair economy and more jobs will fix everything including racism
        • While ignoring even at full employment
          • White men are paid more than women and people of color
          • 400 years of past and present white supremacy without reparations and the racial wealth gap it created
          • Unconscious implicit racism in all white people
        • Policies that pretend to be race neutral but end up hurting communities of color disproportionately
          • Exclusionary zoning, free markets, welfare work requirements, cutting social safety funding, etc.
    • White Silence
      • When you see someone, an institution, or a policy that devalues black lives but don’t speak up

Jacqui Germain, The Insidious Problem Of Racism ‘By Omission’

“Here’s the thing: by and large, white supremacy is a self-sufficient beast that operates in its own best interest. It seeks to create the conditions that allow it to thrive, and will continue recreating those conditions for as long as it can manage to live. Though there are plenty of maliciously racist actors operating in countless spaces across the country, white supremacy has organized itself so that there need not be any admitted or overt racist intent in order to perpetuate institutional racism. The “by omission” aspect of American anti-Black racism is the “racism without racists” phenomenon. Racism is built into our country in such a way that the fuel it needs to operate is produced casually, without much attention or notice, with increasing regularity.

What we know of white supremacy and American anti-Black racism is that it adapts quickly, transforming its language and appearance without sacrificing much of its effectiveness. American anti-Blackness “by omission” doesn’t look like the more overt anti-Blackness we’re trained to recognize; it doesn’t look like signs on water fountains or burning crosses on lawns. It looks like Black men and women being shuffled in massive numbers into the U.S. prison system — coincidentally the one place slavery is still constitutionally permitted. It looks like deeply segregated neighborhoods and public schools more than six decades after Brown v. Board was decided, despite the efforts of desegregation, with underfunded schools serving primarily low-income Black students. “Homicide by omission” means no one deliberately poisoned the water, but when the lead shows up, it shows up in schools and communities with majority Black populations — in Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago and elsewhere.

We know that the neglect, the absence, the omission does not need to be deliberate in order for it to be effective; this is, perhaps, the greatest sign of its efficiency. The structure of white supremacy means system can and does operate as if by happenstance, without an evil mastermind turning racism’s wheel forward. But does the act of omission need to be deliberate in order for it to be effective? And if it does need to be deliberate, does a lack of criminality absolve anyone and everyone of responsibility? It’s difficult to have a conversation about accountability — legally or otherwise — when the system works to erase individual culpability. There are certainly individual racists putting racist things in motion, but the day-to-day churn of racism is largely due to the mundane and uncritical thoughtlessness that allows white supremacy to thrive. The “by omission” aspect of anti-Black racism is the reason anti-racist efforts must be unequivocally deliberate. Only with rigorous effort can we hope to counter a system constructed so that the easiest, most profitable response is the racist one.”

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“Omitted information can have similar effects. For example, another young woman, preparing to be a high school English teacher. expressed her dismay that she had never learned about any Black authors in any of her English courses. How was she to teach about them to her future students when she hadn’t learned about them herself? A White male student in the class responded to this discussion with frustration in his response journal, writing “It’s not my fault that Blacks don’t write books.” Had one of his elementary, high school, or college teachers ever told him that there were no Black writers? Probably not. Yet because he had never been exposed to Black authors, he had drawn his own conclusion that there were none. Stereotypes, omissions, and distortions all contribute to the development of prejudice. Prejudice is a preconceived judgment or opinion, usually based on limited information.” Beverly Daniel Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race

John Halstead, The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’

“The problem with being “colorblind” — aside from the fact that we’re not really — is that it is really a white privilege to be able to ignore race. White people like me have the luxury of not paying attention to race — white or black. The reason is because whiteness is treated as the default in our society. Whiteness is not a problem for white people, because it blends into the cultural background.

Black people, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of being “colorblind.” They live in a culture which constantly reminds them of their Black-ness, which tells them in a million large and small ways that they are not as important as white people, that their lives actually do not matter as much as white lives. Which is why saying “Black Lives Matter” is so important.

“All Lives Matter” is a problem because it refocuses the issue away from systemic racism and Black lives. It distracts and diminishes the message that Black lives matter or that they should matter more than they do. “All Lives Matter” is really code for “White Lives Matter,” because when white people think about “all lives,” we automatically think about “all white lives.”

We need to say “Black Lives Matter,” because we’re not living it. No one is questioning whether white lives matter or whether police lives matter. But the question of whether Black lives really matter is an open question in this country.”

Quotes from Eduardo Bonilla-Silva: Racism without Racists

“But regardless of whites’ “sincere fictions,” racial considerations shade almost everything in America. Blacks and dark-skinned racial minorities lag well behind whites in virtually every area of social life; they are about three times more likely to be poor than whites, earn about 40 percent less than whites, and have about an eighth of the net worth that whites have. They also receive an inferior education compared to whites, even when they attend integrated institutions. 7 In terms of housing, black-owned units comparable to white-owned ones are valued at 35 percent less.° Blacks and Latinos also have less access to the entire housing market because whites through a variety of exclusionary practices by white realtors and homeowners, have been successful in effectively limiting their entrance into many neighborhoods.9 Blacks receive impolite treatment in stores, in restaurants and in a host of other commercial transactions.10 Researchers have also documented that blacks pay more for goods such as cars and houses than do whites.” Finally, blacks and dark-skinned Latinos are the targets of racial profiling by the police, which, combined with the highly racialized criminal court system, guarantees their overrepresentation among those arrested, prosecuted, incarcerated, and if charged for a capital crime, executed. Racial profiling on the highways has become such a prevalent phenomenon that a term has emerged to describe it: driving while black. In short, blacks and most minorities are “at the bottom of the well.”

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? More important, how do whites explain the apparent contradiction between their professed color blindness and the United States’ color-coded inequality? In this book I attempt to answer both of these questions. I contend that whites have developed powerful explanations—which have ultimately become justifications—for contemporary racial inequality that exculpate them from any responsibility for the status of people of color. These explanations emanate from a new racial ideology that I label color-blind racism. This ideology, which acquired cohesiveness and dominance in the late 1960s, explains contemporary racial inequality as the outcome of nonracial dynamics. Whereas Jim Crow racism explained blacks’ social standing as the result of their biological and moral inferiority, color-blind racism avoids such facile arguments. Instead, whites rationalize minorities’ contemporary status as the product of market dynamics, naturally occurring phenomena, and blacks’ imputed cultural limitations. For instance, whites can attribute Latinos’ high poverty rate to a relaxed work ethic (“the Hispanics are mañana, mañana, mañana tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow”)? or residential segregation as the result of natural tendencies among groups (“Does a cat and a dog mix? I can’t see it. You can’t drink milk and scotch. Certain mixes don’t mix.’).

Color-blind racism became the dominant racial ideology as the mechanisms and practices for keeping blacks and other racial minorities at the bottom of the well” changed. I have argued elsewhere that contemporary racial inequality is reproduced through “new racism” practices that are subtle. institutional, and apparently nonracial. In contrast to the Jim Crow era, where racial inequality was enforced through overt means (e.g. signs saying “No Niggers Welcomed Here” or shotgun diplomacy at the voting booth), today racial practices operate in a “now you see it, now you dont fashion. For example, residential segregation, which is almost as high today as it was in the past, is no longer accomplished through overtly discriminatory practices. Instead, covert behaviors such as not showing all the available units, steering minorities and whites into certain neighborhoods, quoting higher rents or prices to minority applicants, or not advertising units at all are the weapons of choice to maintain separate communities. 20 In the economic field, “smiling face” discrimination (“We don’t have jobs now, but please check later”), ad vertising job openings in mostly white networks and ethnic newspapers, and steering highly educated people of color into poorly remunerated jobs or jobs with limited opportunities for mobility are the new ways of keeping minorities in a secondary position.21 Politically, although the civil rights struggles have helped remove many of the obstacles for the electoral participation of people of color, “racial gerrymandering, multimember legislative districts, election runoffs, annexation of predominantly white areas, at-large district elections, and anti-single-shot devices (disallowing concentrating votes in one or two candidates in cities using at-large elections) have become standard practices to disenfranchise” people of color.22 Whether in banks, restaurants, school admissions, or housing transactions, the maintenance of white privilege is done in a way that defies facile racial readings. Hence, the contours of color-blind racism fit America’s new racism quite well.

Compared to Jim Crow racism, the ideology of color blindness seems like “racism lite.” Instead of relying on name calling (niggers, spics, chinks), color-blind racism otherizes softly (“these people are human, too”); instead of proclaiming that God placed minorities in the world in a servile position, it suggests they are behind because they do not work hard enough; instead of viewing interracial marriage as wrong on a straight racial basis, it regards it as “problematic” because of concerns over the children, location, or the extra burden it places on couples. Yet this new ideology has become a formidable political tool for the maintenance of the racial order. Much as Jim Crow racism served as the glue for defending a brutal and overt system of racial oppression in the pre-civil rights era, color-blind racism serves today as the ideological armor for a covert and institutionalized system in the post-civil rights era.

And the beauty of this new ideology is that it aids in the maintenance of white privilege without fanfare, without naming those who it subjects and those who it rewards. It allows a president to state things such as, “I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education yet, at the same time, to characterize the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program as “flawed” and “discriminatory” against whites.23 Thus whites enunciate positions that safeguard their racial interests without sounding “racist.” Shielded by color blindness, whites can express resentment toward minorities; criticize their morality, values, and work ethic; and even claim to be the victims of “reverse racism” This is the thesis I will defend in this book to explain the curious enigma of racism without racists!”

“The mechanisms by which blacks experience social control in the contemporary period are not overwhelmingly covert. Yet they share with the previous mechanisms discussed in this chapter their invisibility. The mechanisms to keep blacks in “their place” are rendered invisible in three ways. First, because the enforcement of the racial order from the 1960s onward has been institutionalized, individual whites can express a detachment from the racialized way in which social control agencies operate in America. Second, because these agencies are legally charged with defending order in society, their actions are deemed neutral and necessary. Thus, it is no surprise that whites consistently support the police in surveys.125 Finally, the white-dominated media depicts incidents that seem to indicate that racial bias is endemic to the criminal justice system as isolated. For example, cases that presumably expose the racial character of social-control agencies (e.g., the police beating of Rodney King, the police killing of Malice Green in Detroit, the acquittal or lenient sentences received by officers accused of police brutality, etc.) are viewed as “isolated” incidents and are separated from the larger social context in which they transpire. Ultimately, the emergence of the new racism does not mean that racial violence has disappeared as an enforcer of the racial order. Ramen these incidents are portrayed as nonracial applications of the law.”

“Thus liberalism, when extended to its seemingly logical conclusions (“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all”) and connected to social movements, can be progressive. My point, however, is less about reform liberalism (although I contend many reform organizations and me white reform-minded individuals have adopted color-blind racism the about how central elements of liberalism have been rearticulated in post civil rights America to rationalize racially unfair situations.

The frame of abstract liberalism involves using ideas associated with political liberalism (e.g., “equal opportunity,” the idea that force should not be used to achieve social policy) and economic liberalism (e.g., choice, individualism) in an abstract manner to explain racial matters. By framing race-related issues in the language of liberalism, whites can appear “reasonable” and even “moral” while opposing almost all practical approaches to deal with de facto racial inequality. For instance, the principle of equal opportunity, central to the agenda of the civil rights movement and whose extension to people of color was vehemently opposed by most whites, is invoked by whites today to oppose affirmative-action policies because they supposedly represent the “preferential treatment” of certain groups. This claim necessitates ignoring the fact that people of color are severely underrepresented in most good jobs, schools, and universities and, hence, it is an abstract utilization of the idea of “equal opportunity?’ Another example is regarding each person as an “individual” with choices” and using this liberal principle as a justification for whites having the right of choosing to live in segregated neighborhoods or sending their children to segregated schools. This claim requires ignoring the multiple institutional and state-sponsored practices behind segregation and being unconcerned about these practices’ negative consequences for minorities.

Naturalization is a frame that allows whites to explain away racial phenomena by suggesting they are natural occurrences. For example, whites can claim “segregation” is natural because people from all backgrounds “gravitate toward likeness.” Or that their taste for whiteness in friends and partners is just “the way things are” Although the above statements can be interpreted as “racist” and as contradicting the colorblind logic, they are actually used to reinforce the myth of nonracialism. How? By suggesting these preferences are almost biologically driven and typical of all groups in society, preferences for primary associations with members of one’s race are rationalized as nonracial because they (racial minorities) do it too.”

Cultural racism is a frame that relies on culturally based arguments such as “Mexicans do not put much emphasis on education” or “blacks have too many babies” to explain the standing of minorities in society. This frame has been adequately discussed by many commentators and does not require much discussion. During slavery and Jim Crow a central rationale for excluding racial minorities was their presumed biological inferiority. Even as late as 1940, a white newspaper editor in Durham, North Carolina could confidently state that

“a Negro is different from other people in that he’s an unfortunate branch of the human family who hasn’t been able to make out of himself all he is capable of. He is not capable of being rushed because of the background of the jungle. Part of his human nature can’t be rushed; it gets him off his balance. … You can’t wipe away inbred character in one year or a hundred years. It must be nursed along. We look upon him for his lack of culture, as being less reliable, in business and unsafe socially. His passions are aroused easily.”

Today only white supremacist organizations spout things such as this in open forums. Yet, these biological views have been replaced by cultural ones that, as I will show, are as effective in defending the racial status quo.18 For example, George McDermott, one of the white middle-class residents interviewed by Katherine Newman in her Declining Fortunes, stated,

“I believe in morality: I believe in ethics: I believe in hard work: I believe in all the old values. I don’t believe in handouts. . . . So that the whole welfare system falls into that [category]. … The idea of fourteen-year-old kids getting pregnant and then having five children by the time they’re twenty is absurd! It’s ridiculous! And that’s what’s causing this country to go downhill.”

And as Newman poignantly comments, “George does not see himself as racist. Publicly he would subscribe to the principle everyone in this society deserves a fair shake.”19 Color-blind racism is racism without racists!

Minimization of racism is a frame that 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”). This frame allows whites to accept facts such as the racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, 20 the brutal police attack on Rodney King, the Texaco case, 21 the 2005 lawsuit by black workers alleging that Tyson Foods maintained a “Whites Only” bathroom in one of their Alabama plants, the neglect and slow response by government officials toward a mostly black population during Hurricane Katrina, and many other cases and still accuse minorities of being “hypersensitive,” of using race as an “excuse,” or of playing the infamous race card.” More significantly, this frame also involves regarding discrimination exclusively as all-out racist behavior, which, given the way “new racism” practices operate in post-civil rights America (chapter 1), eliminates the bulk of racially motivated actions by individual whites and institutions by fiat.

Before proceeding to illustrate how whites use these frames, I need to clarify a few points about the data and how I present them. First, whites used When asked if minority students should be provided unique opportunities to be admitted into universities, Sue stated:

I don’t think that they should be provided with unique opportunities. I think that they should have the same opportunities as everyone else. You know, it’s up to them to meet the standards and whatever that’s required for entrance into universities or whatever. I don’t think that just because they’re a minority that they should, you know, not meet the requirements, you know.

Sue, like most whites, ignored the effects of past and contemporary discrimination on the social, economic, and educational status of minorities. Therefore, by supporting equal opportunity for everyone without a concern for the savage inequalities between whites and blacks, Sue’s stance safeguards white privilege. Sue even used the notion of equal opportunity to avoid explaining why blacks tend to perform worse than whites academically: “I don’t know … um, like I said, I don’t see it as a group thing. I see it more as an individual [thing) and I don’t know why as a whole they don’t do better. I mean, as I see it, they have the same opportunity and everything. They should be doing equal?”

…Most whites in the US rely on the ideology of color racism to articulate their views (by relying on the frames of the ideology), present their ideas (by using the style of the ideology), and internal interactions with people of color (by sharing the racial stories of the ideology). They believe blacks are culturally deficient, welfare-dependent and lazy. They regard affirmative action and reparations as tantamount to reveres discrimination.” And because whites believe discrimination is a thing of the past, minorities’ protestations about being racially profiled, experiencing discrimination in the housing and labor markets, and being discriminated against in restaurants, stores, and other social settings are interpreted as “excuses.” Following the color-blind script, whites support almost all the goals of the civil rights movement in principle, but object in practice to almost all the policies that have been developed to make these goals a reality. Although they abhor what they regard as blacks’ “self-segregation,” they do not have any problem with their own racial segregation because they do not see it as a racial phenomenon. Finally, although they sing loudly the color-blind song, as I showed in the previous chapter, they live a white color-coded life.”


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Invisible Foundation of White Supremacy

Charles Mills, The Racial Contract

“White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today. You will not find this term in introductory, or even advanced, texts in political theory. … But though it covers more than two thousand years of Western political thought and runs the ostensible gamut of political systems, there will be no mention of the basic political system that has shaped the world for the past several hundred years. And this omission is not accidental.

Rather, it reflects the fact that standard textbooks and courses have for the most part been written and designed by whites, who take their racial privilege so much for granted that they do not even see it as political, as a form of domination. Ironically , the most important political system of recent global history, the system of domination by which white people have historically ruled over and, in certain important ways, continue to rule over nonwhite people, is not seen as a political system at all.” The Racial Contract, Charles W Mills

Robin Diangelo, Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism

while white supremacy has shaped Western political thought for hundreds of years, it is rarely named. In this way, white supremacy is rendered invisible while other political systems—socialism, capitalism, fascism—are identified and studied. In fact, much of its power is drawn from its invisibility—the taken-for-granted aspects of white superiority that underwrite all other political and social contracts. White resistance to the term white supremacy prevents us from examining this system. If we can’t identify it, we can’t interrupt it.”

Josh Tucker: Black History: A History of Permanent White Oppression, from 1619 to 2016

When are black people going to get their act together?

That’s a question many white people, particularly white conservatives, have been implicitly asking for decades. If it weren’t for the fact that the question is inherently wrong, the answer would no doubt be complex and multi-faceted—but the first part of it really ought to be much more obvious than it apparently is.

When we stop oppressing them.

The problem, of course, is that we think that we already have. And part of the reason we think this is that we have forgotten, or were perhaps never aware of, much of our history of white supremacy. We acknowledge the evil that was slavery, and we recall in disbelief the fairly recent shame of Jim Crow. And that’s about it.

But Jim Crow ended decades ago! Blacks are equal under the law now! Why aren’t they pulling themselves up by their bootstraps?

The reality is that white oppression is one of the most resilient and adaptive social forces in all of human history. Every time we think that we have ended white supremacy, it reinvents itself—and each successive iteration is more subtle, more invisible, than the last.

Institutional Racial Breakdown in 2016-2017

  • Congress: 90% white
  • Governors: 96% white
  • Top military advisers: 100% white
  • President and vice president: 100% white
  • Current POTUS cabinet: 91% white
  • People who decide which TV shows we see: 93% white
  • People who decide which books we read: 90% white
  • People who decide which news is covered: 85% white
  • People who decide which music is produced: 95% white
  • People who directed 100 top-grossing films of all time worldwide: 95% white
  • Teachers: 83% white
  • Full-time college professors: 84% white
  • Owners of men’s pro-football teams: 97% white
  • Billionaires: 96% white (estimate)
  • Millionaires: 76% white (2013 data)

Source: Yes! Mag: No, I Won’t Stop Saying “White Supremacy”

Guante: How to Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist

“Remember White supremacy is not the shark but the fish in the water”

“How long do we keep pointing out the bad apples, ignoring the fact that the orchard was planted on a mass grave. And that we planted it there.”

“It isn’t just the broken treaty; it also the treaty.”


“Racism is a systemic, societal, institutional, omnipresent, and epistemologically embedded phenomenon that pervades every vestige of our reality. For most whites, however, racism is like murder: the concept exists but someone has to commit it in order for it to happen. This limited view of such a multilayered syndrome cultivates the sinister nature of racism and, in fact, perpetuates racist phenomena rather than eradicates them. Further, this view of racism disguises its true essence, thus allowing its tenets to proliferate.

Racism conceived of in this way ignores the societal, systemic, institutional, and political institutions which both overtly and inherently ensure minority subjugation and protect white privilege. When racism is regarded in this way, it also helps white society to erect defense mechanisms to ignore its direct implication and involvement in the maintenance of white racism, white privilege, and the construction of “other.”After all, if racism is conceived of as the conscious employment of certain acts, using certain taboo terms (i.e., nigger, spic) and one does not consciously perform “racist” acts or utter certain taboo terms, then one can reasonably assert that one is not a racist.This notion suggests that racism is an abstract hypothetical that functions outside of our human and social systems and that without conscious human choice cannot occur.

Another view of racism in America, however, is that it is a phenomenon constructed by Americans socially defined as “White,” and that its primary role is to ensure that group’s primacy to the exclusion of all others at whatever cost. This view of racism refutes the notion that racism is an abstract hypothetical that exists outside of the social milieu that requires conscious and deliberate acts to manifest. Further, this view asserts that racism is integrally and inextricably bound to all of our “human” and social processes and that, in fact, American society itself is a function of racism and lies embedded in racist ideology. This notion of racism and American society is illustrated in a Conceptual Model 2 (see below).

Racism is thus perceived of as abstract hypothetical cause for the emergence of other fallacious syndromes. If racism is perceived as functioning outside of societal processes and as having to be consciously chosen and enacted to become concrete reality then racism in theory can be practiced by anyone. That is, “non-Whites,”too, may engage in practicing racism and thus Whites themselves may be victims of racism.

Such a notion is exactly how racism is mostly perceived in American society, so that the possibility of deconstructing White supremacy, the progenitor and true underlying problem of racism. and racist ideology, does not become the focus of racial investigation. That the entire infrastructure of American society is based upon and emanates from the Western canon; that European Americans raped the continent and decimated its indigenous peoples, instituted a system of society and government sanctioned chattel slavery for over three centuries; that the present population that is deemed “White” is still benefiting from these systems and institutions; these, it appears, are all points to be ignored.

By ignoring the historical specificity of the construction of race by “Whites,” as a tool to ensure that group’s supremacy and subsequent degradation of”others,”and by promoting the concept of racism as abstract hypothetical, White society not only can ensure that the system of White supremacy remains intact but can, in fact, successfully create smoke screens that actually implicate “others” in the maintenance of such a system.

Given these assertions with regard to Whites’ perception of racism as abstract hypothetical, what does this mean in terms of our conception of race, racism, and multicultural education?

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Hiding White Supremacy in the US Constitution

  • Constitution doesn’t mention race, white supremacy, slaves, slavery
    • First references to “race” and “color” occurs in the 15th Amendment ratified in 1870
    • The Constitution refers to slaves using three different formulations:
      • “other persons”
      • “such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit”
      • “person held to service or labor in one state under the laws thereof”
    • “Reading the original Constitution, a visitor from a foreign land would simply have no way of knowing that race-based slavery existed in America” David Azerrad, Heritage
  • Constitution gave America’s white male minority more power
    • While excluding the vast majority of the country
    • Women, slaves, Natives, immigrants of color, etc
  • White supremacy was covered up by other concepts
    • Politics, Democracy, capitalism, property rights, colonialism, manifest destiny, etc.
    • First US law wasn’t the constitution but Northwest Ordinance (2 months before)
      • Blueprint for colonizing “British protected” Native American land West of Appalachia
  • White internalization of white supremacy
    • American institutions, culture and subconscious created a world where, without even thinking:
      • Normal and good was “white” and everything different and bad was “non-white”
        • Instead of defending white supremacy, white people could just defend “civility” and “decency”

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The White Head Start and Freedom to Famine

MLK Explains What Black People Faced After Slavery

The White Head Start from Slavery

Slavery ended in 1865 only 152 years ago.  The first African slaves arrived in the New World in the 1620s.  For 245 years white slave owners financially benefited and accumulated wealth from free labor.  Harper’s magazine estimated that slaves in the US did a quarter billion hours of free labor and it could require $97 trillion to pay for the hours of uncompensated work done during the slavery era.   These financial reparations do not include the cultural, psychological, sociological and family trauma, the continual  economic disadvantages and the continual discrimination black people experienced from slavery and post slavery oppression that can still be felt today.

  • Wealth accumulation
    • 245 years slave owners accumulated wealth from free labor
      • ¼ white Southerners owned slaves
      • Estimated billion hours of free labor
      • $97 trillion of back pay
      • “In 1860, slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America’s manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together. Slaves were the single largest financial asset of property in the entire American economy.” Yale historian David Blight
    • Domestic Slave trade
      • Displaced/separated 1.2 million black men, women, and children
  • Established white supremacy
    • Slave trade built/financed industrial Rev., Modern Europe, US
      • Ensure white supremacy founding principle in institutions like:
        • Colonialism, capitalism, democracy, laws, schools, property rights
      • Had to include white supremacy principles
        • Racism, ethnic cleansing, enslavement, racial hierarchy, trauma, internalizations, dehumanization, stereotypes, white privilege
      • Even if a white person’s ancestry doesn’t go back to slaves
        • Still benefiting from institutionalize white supremacy exists today


Yes! Magazine: A Nation Built on the Back of Slavery and Racism

Freedom to Famine

The Guardian: How the end of slavery led to starvation and death for millions of black Americans

“Hundreds of thousands of slaves freed during the American civil war died from disease and hunger after being liberated, according to a new book.

The analysis, by historian Jim Downs of Connecticut College, casts a shadow over one of the most celebrated narratives of American history, which sees the freeing of the slaves as a triumphant righting of the wrongs of a southern plantation system that kept millions of black Americans in chains.

But, as Downs shows in his book, Sick From Freedom, the reality of emancipation during the chaos of war and its bloody aftermath often fell brutally short of that positive image. Instead, freed slaves were often neglected by union soldiers or faced rampant disease, including horrific outbreaks of smallpox and cholera. Many of them simply starved to death.

After combing through obscure records, newspapers and journals Downs believes that about a quarter of the four million freed slaves either died or suffered from illness between 1862 and 1870. He writes in the book that it can be considered “the largest biological crisis of the 19th century” and yet it is one that has been little investigated by contemporary historians.

Downs believes much of that is because at the time of the civil war, which raged between 1861 and 1865 and pitted the unionist north against the confederate south, many people did not want to investigate the tragedy befalling the freed slaves. Many northerners were little more sympathetic than their southern opponents when it came to the health of the freed slaves and anti-slavery abolitionists feared the disaster would prove their critics right.

Historical Legislation that Gave White People a Head Start

  • The Naturalization Act (1790)
    • Only “free whites” allowed to become naturalized US citizens
      • Right to vote, serve on juries, hold office, etc
  • The Indian Removal Act (1830)
    • Military enforced ethnic cleansing of Cherokee, Creek and other eastern Native American tribes to relocate west of the Mississippi River to give white settlers 25 million acres
  • The Homestead Act (1862)
    • Gave away Native American land to white settlers out west
      • Nearly 270 million acres of Indian Territory was converted to private property for white settlers
  • The Social Security Act of 1935
    • Provided a financial safety net for millions of workers and guaranteed that they would continue to be paid after retirement
      • Excluded agricultural and domestic laborers
      • Industries with large majorities of people of color
      • 65% of the African American workforce was excluded by this provision
  • The National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) of 1935
    • Gave labor unions the power of collective bargaining, defined unfair work practices, and established consequences if those rules were broken
    • Majority of unions excluded non-white workers
    • Less than 1% of black workers were in unions at this time.
  • National Housing Act (1934)
    • Established the Federal Housing Administration to give white families home loans.
    • People of color were considered too risky for these loans
    • 1934-1968 – 98% of home loans were only given to white people
  • The G.I. Education Bill (1944)
    • Funds and programs to help white service members continue their education, guaranteed private housing, and granted access to a public health care system.
    • Black veterans were excluded

MLK, Poor People’s Campaign, and Economic Justice

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Changing the Language of Racism

Slavery Didn’t End in 1865 but Evolved

“Though legally emancipated from slavery and endowed with constitutional rights to participate in society as full citizens, black people soon learned that those rights were unenforceable in a white-controlled political system hostile to their exercise. This message was communicated through an intricate and complex system of racial subordination built after the Civil War to maintain and reinforce white supremacy in a world without chattel slavery. Constructed of law and custom, force and fear, disenfranchisement, convict leasing, and Jim Crow segregation, the system was fragile and fiercely guarded. “ Bryan Stevenson, Equal Justice Initiative


Source: Josh Tucker – Medium: Black History: A History of Permanent White Oppression, from 1619 to 2016

  • 13th Amendment (1865)
    • Outlawed slavery except as punishment for crime
      • Slavery evolved into Black codes, Vagrancy laws, Jim Crow, convict leasing, sharecropping
        • Slavery by another name
  • 15th Amendment (1870)
    • Granted black men right to vote, didn’t prevent “race neutral” discriminatory barriers
      • Voter suppression evolve into literary tests, poll taxes, white-only primaries, intimidation, etc.
  • 1866 Civil Rights Bill
    • Outlawed racial discrimination, particular the Black Codes
      • Left out voting as a civil right
    • Needed explicit proof of racial discrimination to be enforced
      • Black code racism evolved into “race neutral” discrimination with same effect
    • Discriminatory racial language (not racial inequities) became the proof of racism for the federal courts, the apparatus charged with the huge burden of enforcing equal treatment. It was like writing laws for premeditated murders and not writing manslaughter laws for murderers that the state could not prove were premeditated. The shrewdest discriminators switched tactic, and simply avoided using racial language to veil their discriminatory intent, to get away with racial murder” Ibram Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning
  • Failure of Enforcement Acts (1870-71)
    • Gave fed gov right to enforce 14th and 15th amendment on states
      • Led to many KKK convictions in South Carolina
    • United States v. Cruikshank (1876)
      • SCOTUS ruled Fed gov could only enforce 14th and 15th Amendments on state action, not individual
      • Federal prosecution of white terrorists stopped until 1966
      • Blacks in the South were left at the mercy of white “non-state” terrorists

Brennan Center for Justice: Racism & Felony Disenfranchisement: An Intertwined History

The End of the Civil War: An Increasingly Racist Criminal Justice System

By the end of the Civil War, states were already incarcerating African Americans at a higher rate than whites. This disparity significantly worsened in the ensuing years, a fact well-documented in the South.

Although outlawing slavery itself, the Thirteenth Amendment carved out an exception allowing states to impose involuntary servitude on those who were convicted of crimes. Seeing an opportunity to sustain their crumbling economy, numerous Southern politicians quickly implemented new criminal laws that were “essentially intended to criminalize black life,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Blackmon.  These ostensibly race-neutral laws were selectively enforced by a nearly all-white criminal justice system.  While white people accused of crimes often escaped punishment, black people were arrested and convicted “almost always under the thinnest chimera of probable cause or judicial process,” as Blackmon put it.”

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Preserving Exclusion and Injustice

  • New Deal (1933-36) and GI Bill (1944)
    • Aimed at benefiting the lower and middle class
      • Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC): created mortgage assistance programs
      • Federal Housing Administration (FHA): created gov backed housing loans
      • Social Security Act (1935): Safety net programs for elderly, unemployed, injured workers, children, disabled
      • The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (Wagner Act) : guaranteed right to unionize, collective bargain and strike
      • The G.I. Education Bill (1944): gave WW2 vets funding for college, housing, healthcare, unemployment insurance
  • Majority of benefits from the New Deal excluded people of color
    • Was a requirement to win Southern votes (Solid South)
      • After Reconstruction failed, white supremacy regained the South creating a voting block against civil rights
    • Created huge racial disparities in wealth, homes, communities, schools, jobs, health, etc
      • 1934-68 – 98% of home loans, the number one way to accrue generational equity, were only given to white people
        • The Deal created a middle class for white people while leaving people of color in post depression poverty
      • Segregation was required in all housing loans, benefits, suburbs, and public housing created in New Deal and GI Bill
        • Creating enormous segregation and concentrated poverty for people of color, still felt today
      • Less than 1% of black workers were in unions at the time the Wagner Act was signed
        • Most unions excluded people of color

“More than 200,000 war veterans used the bill’s benefits to buy a farm or start a business, 5 million purchased new homes and almost 10 million went o college. Between 1944 and 1971, federal spending for former soldiers in this ‘”model welfare system” totaled over $95 billion. As with the New Deal welfare programs, however Black veterans faced discrimination that reduce or denied them the benefits. Combined with the New Deal and suburban housing construction (in developments that found legal ways to keep Blacks out), the GI Bill gave birth to the White middle class and widened the economic gap between the races, a growing disparity racist blamed on poor Black fiscal habits.” Ibram Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning

Realtor Code of Ethics

  • National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAR)
    • Trade association to regulate realtors
    • Formed in 1908
  • NAR Code of Ethics
    • Adopted in 1908
    • Realtors disagreed/violated code could be fined or removed from local board
      • Especially if they sold property to the wrong person
  • From 1924 to 1950, Article 34 of the Realtor Code of Ethics read:
    • “A Realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or occupancy, members of any race or nationality, or any individuals whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood.
  • 1933-34, NAR created HOLC and FHA red lines maps
    • Created a legal system of segregation till 1968 but still felt today
  • 1950, Shelley v. Kraemer, SCOTUS outlawed protective racial covenants
    • Realtor Code of Ethics was amended as follows:“A Realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or use which will clearly be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood.
  • Although race was removed from code
    • Realties were still instrumental in preserving and promoting segregation
      • Blamed it on market values instead of race, although outcomes were same

  • New Deal programs didn’t open to non-whites until LBJ’s Great Society/60s civil rights bills
    • Rather than fixing the past injustices and huge white head starts
      • These policies preserved them by:
        • By avoiding any reparations programs
        • Only focusing on future “explicit” discrimination
        • Ignoring “race neutral” forms of discrimination

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Public Outcome vs Public Intent

  • 1964 Civil Rights Act
    • Outlawed future explicit and intentional public discrimination, like Jim Crow
      • Did not address the huge head start white people have from discrimination
      • Nor “non-explicit” race neutral racism, especially in the private sector

“And so, as much as the Civil Rights Act served to erect a dam against Jim Crow policies, it also opened the floodgates for new racist ideas to pour in, including the most racist idea to date: it was an idea that ignored the White head-start, presumed that discrimination had been eliminated, presumed that equal opportunity had taken over, and figured that since Blacks were still losing the race, the racial disparities and their continued losses must be their fault. Black people must be inferior, and equalizing policies — like eliminating or reducing White seniority, or instituting affirmative action policies — would be unjust and ineffective. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 managed to bring on racial progress and progression of racism at the same time.

The most transformative verbiage of the 1964 act was the wording that legislated against clear and obvious “intention to discriminate,” such as southern “Whites only” public policies. But what about those northern discriminators with private policies that had long kept Blacks out? What about those who were still blockbusting, and segregation northern cities, and still creating, maintaining, and increasing racial inequalities in wealth, housing and education? If the northern backers of the act defined policies as racist by their public outcomes instead of their public intent, then they would be hard-pressed to maintain the myth of the anti-racist North and the racist South. By not principally focusing on outcome, discriminators had to merely privatize their public policies to get around the Civil Rights Act. And that is precisely what they did.

Though the members of Congress were aware of these privatizing forces, they chose not to explicitly bar seemingly race-neutral policies that had discriminatory public outcomes through racial disparities.” Ibram Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning

MLK Jr “My dream has turned into a nightmare”

Atlantic: When Black Voters Exited Left

“While the passage of the Civil Rights Act helped Johnson earn support from 94 percent of black voters in 1964, there is a gulf between what black Americans hoped the legislation would achieve and what Democratic politicians actually delivered. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped end apartheid conditions in the South, a critical objective for which grassroots black Southern activists fought and died, the legislation did little to address the structures of racism that shaped black lives in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. This was an intentional consequence of how the bill’s sponsors, largely liberals from the North, Midwest, and West, crafted the legislation.

This is a problem for black voters, because the Democratic Party’s vision of racial justice is also extremely limited. Northern liberals pioneered what scholars now call “colorblind racism.” That’s when racially neutral language makes extreme racial inequalities appear to be the natural outcome of innocent private choices or free-market forces rather than intentional public policies like housing covenants, federal mortgage redlining, public housing segregation, and school zoning.

Democratic lawmakers drafted civil-rights legislation that would challenge Jim Crow laws in the South while leaving de facto segregation in the North intact. When NBC News asked the civil-rights organizer Bayard Rustin why many African American communities rioted the summer after the bill passed, he said, “People have to understand that although the civil-rights bill was good and something for which I worked arduously, there was nothing in it that had any effect whatsoever on the three major problems Negroes face in the North: housing, jobs, and integrated schools…the civil-rights bill, because of this failure, has caused an even deeper frustration in the North.” Today’s protest movements against second-class citizenship in Baltimore, Ferguson, Oakland, and elsewhere are in part a legacy of the unresolved failures of civil-rights legislation.

Unfortunately for black voters, most white politicians and voters assume that the civil-rights revolution not only leveled the playing field, but also tilted it in favor of African Americans. The white backlash to civil rights helped resurrect the Republican Party after the disastrous Goldwater campaign in 1964, and, over the last five decades, the Democratic Party has followed the electorate to the right.

This poses the biggest problem for black voters today, which is that Democrats running for state or national office aspire to win black votes without appearing to be beholden to black voters. This is especially true of the three Democratic presidents since Kennedy and Johnson. Black support was crucial to the elections of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (each received over 80 percent of black votes), but both distanced themselves from policies that might seem to disproportionately help black people. Urban League Director Vernon Jordan outlined his concerns a year into Carter’s presidency: “We have no full employment policy. We have no welfare reform policy. We have no national health policy. We have no urban revitalization policy. We have no aggressive affirmative action policy. We have no solutions to the grinding problems of poverty and discrimination.”

When Bill Clinton and the “New Democrats” emerged victorious in the 1990s, thanks in large part to 83 percent support from black voters in 1992 and 84 percent in 1996, they adopted policies, such as welfare reform (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996) and a crime bill (Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994) that proved ruinous for many black Americans. “It is difficult to overstate the damage that’s been done,” the legal scholar Michelle Alexander noted recently of Clinton’s presidency. “Generations have been lost to the prison system; countless families have been torn apart or rendered homeless; and a school-to-prison pipeline has been born that shuttles young people from their decrepit, underfunded schools to brand-new high-tech prisons.” Clinton acknowledged last year that the crime bill “cast too wide a net” and made the problem of mass incarceration worse.

More recently, as more groups—evangelicals, gays and lesbians, and gun owners, among them—lobby for specific policies, black voters have seen their interests deemed too “special” for consideration by a democratic administration. President Obama has felt the pressure to connect with black voters while distancing himself from black interests. Although his signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, will surely benefit black Americans, he has been reluctant to endorse policies that cannot be pitched as universal. In a 2012 interview with Black Enterprise Magazine he said, “I want all Americans to have opportunity. I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America.”

In the 2016 Democratic primary, African Americans are challenging Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to earn their votes. Whoever wins the nomination will likely garner support from over 85 percent of black voters, but African Americans still lack a mechanism to hold Democrats accountable once they are elected. Consequently, the outlook for blacks in the United States regarding housing, jobs, education, and criminal justice is little better today than when Kennedy helped get King out of jail in 1960. During this election year, they will again weigh what they won and what they lost when they cast their lot with the Democratic Party.”

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Voter IDs and Unaffordability

  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
    • Prohibits racial discrimination in voting
    • Allowed other race neutral discrimination
      • Voter ID laws, political gerrymandering, felon disenfranchisement, eliminating early voting, etc.
  • Fair Housing Act of 1968
    • Outlawed Housing Discrimination
    • Allowed race neutral discrimination
      • Exclusionary zoning laws (single family units), credit scoring, and unaffordability

“70 years ago, many working and lower middle class African American families could have afforded suburban single-family homes that cost about $75,000 (in today’s currency) with no down payment. Millions of whites did so. But working and lower-middle class African American families cannot now buy homes for $350,000 and more with down payments of 20 percent, or $70,000

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination, but it was not primarily discrimination (although this still contributed) that kept African Americans out of most white suburbs after the law was passed. It was primarily unaffordability. The right that was unconstitutionally denied to African Americans in the late 1940s cannot be restoed by passing a Fair Housing law that tells their descendants they can now buy homes in the suburbs, if only they can afford it. The advantages that FHA and VA loans gave the white lower-middle class in the 1940s and 50s has become permanent.” Richard Rothstein – Color of Law

  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants
    • HUD founded as a Cabinet department in 1965, as part of the “Great Society” program of President Lyndon Johnson, to develop and execute policies on housing and metropolises.
  • Fair Housing Act directed HUD to “affirmatively further” fair housing
    • To receive HUD funding , localities are supposed to identify obstacles to fair housing, keep records of their efforts to overcome them, and certify that they do not discriminate.
      • HUD has rarely verified lack of discrimination in their grantees
        • Instead has sent grants to communities even after they’ve been found by courts to have promoted segregated housing or been sued by the U.S. Department of Justice.
    • George Romney only head of HUD to try to support “fair housing” with his “Open Communities” program
      • Pressured white communities to
        • build more integrated affordable housing and end discriminatory zoning practices
      • By rejecting HUD grants for projects from communities that fostered segregated housing
    • Was stopped and dismissed by Nixon

“I realize that this position will lead us to a situation in which blacks will continue to live for the most part in black neighborhoods and where there will be predominately black schools and predominately white schools.” Nixon, 1972 “eyes only” memo

  • Since then HUD has given over $137 billion to over 1,200 communities
    • HUD has only rejected 2 grants due to violating the Fair Housing Act
    • Despite evidence of discrimination and lack of addressing it in most communities that receive HUD grants

“In several instances, records show, HUD has sent grants to communities even after they’ve been found by courts to have promoted segregated housing or been sued by the U.S. Department of Justice. New Orleans, for example, has continued to receive grants after the Justice Department sued it for violating that Fair Housing Act by blocking a low-income housing project in a wealthy historic neighborhood.” Nikole Hannah-Jones, Propublica

RRTR-Tree-SM.jpgSource: Roosvelt Institute: Spread the Word: New Rules for the New Deal

Further Readings

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Rise of Southern Strategy

Wikipedia: Southern strategy

“In American politics, the southern strategy was a Republican Party electoral strategy to increase political support among white voters in the South by appealing to racism against African Americans. As the Civil Rights Movement and dismantling of Jim Crow laws in the 1950s and 1960s visibly deepened existing racial tensions in much of the Southern United States, Republican politicians such as presidential candidate Richard Nixon and Senator Barry Goldwater developed strategies that successfully contributed to the political realignment of many white, conservative voters in the South that had traditionally supported the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. ”

What is Dog Whistle Politics?

Southern Strategy

  • 1950-60s Created from opposition to civil rights and desegregation efforts 
    • Created modern Republican party around:
      • Based on coding explicit racism (n-word, white supremacy, segregatin, lynching, etc.) which was no longer socially acceptable
      • Instead used Race Neutral polices, dog whistles, strategic racism, etc.
        • States Rights, Law and Order, welfare, illegals, etc.
        • Segregationist became conservative
      • Harnessing/feeding white resentment of de-segregation and civil rights
      • Convincing white supporters racism was only:
        • An individual choice from a bad person that required “proof of malice”
      • All other racism (systemic to implicit) was dead (Post racial)
        • Thanks to the 60s civil rights bills
        • Responsibility for racial disparities was now solely on the marginalized individual
  • Ushered in new era of neoliberal policies
    • From Nixon to Trump
    • Dismantled majority of New Deal benefits for black & whites
      • Huge disinvestments in social/safety net programs that disproportionately harmed communities of color
      • Under the guise of free markets promotion, cutting gov waste and building personal responsibility

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.Lee Atwater, Reagan political strategist, Bush campaign manager,1981 RNC Chairmam

Exclusive: Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy

Ian Haney Lopez on Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Racism

Ian Haney López on the Dog Whistle Politics of Race.

Click here for part 2

Further Reading

Saloon: How the GOP became the “White Man’s Party”

NY Times: Impossible, Ridiculous, Repugnant

Wikipedia: Southern strategy

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ColorBlindness of Disinvestment

  • Redevelopment (1950-70s)
    • White Flight, deindustrialization, red-lining, ghettoization
      • When white people fled they took jobs, schools, tax bases, gov funding, with them
        • People of color couldn’t get housing loans to follow
      • Forced people of color in concentrated poverty, ghettos
    • Blight myth, redevelopment, planned shrinkage, municipal disinvestment
      • Justifications for displacing/segregating/disinvesting communities of color
      • “When the mid-20th-century white homeowner claimed that the presence of a Bill and Daisy Myers decreased his property value, he was not merely engaging in racist dogma—he was accurately observing the impact of federal policy on market prices. Redlining destroyed the possibility of investment wherever black people lived…White flight was not an accident—it was a triumph of racist social engineering” Ta-Nehisi Coates- The Atlantic
  • Reagan Neoliberal disinvestment (1980s)
    • 100s of millions in cuts to social programs while increasing rich tax cuts/military
      • Cuts to inner city programs, affordable housing, welfare, safety net programs, public health
      • Launched homeless epidemic, public health crisis, increased racial inequalities
      • Between 1982-85, poorest Americans lost 9% of their wealth
        • while the wealthiest gained 9%
      • All policies that disproportionately hurt communities of color
        • Without mentioning race
      • Life-expectancy of black Americans decreased during this time

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Colorblind Constitutionalism

  • Colorblind Constitutionalism
    • Belief that gov racial classifications are prohibited by 14th amendment’s Equal Protection Clause

Wikipedia: Constitutional colorblindness

“Constitutional colorblindness is an aspect of United States Supreme Court case evaluation that began with Justice Harlan‘s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Prior to this (and for a good while afterwards), the Supreme Court considered color as a determining factor in many landmark cases. Constitutional colorblindness holds that skin color or race is virtually never a legitimate ground for legal or political distinctions, and thus, any law that is “color conscious” is presumptively unconstitutional regardless of whether its intent is to subordinate a group, or remedy discrimination. The concept, therefore, has been brought to bear both against vestiges of Jim Crow oppression, as well as remedial efforts aimed at overcoming such discrimination, such as affirmative action.

Color Blindness

The theory behind color blindness is that a person should have unlimited opportunities regardless of race. There is a big contemporary debate surrounding affirmative action; some believe that it’s beneficial because a person’s social class should be considered instead of their race. Others criticize color blindness because,“There are concerns that majority groups use color-blindness as a means of avoiding the discussion of racism and discrimination.” This might diminish the hardships that minorities face in the public eye. Another thought that emerges from this concept is that, “color-blindness operates under the assumption that we are living in a world that is “post-race“, where race no longer matters.”[1]

Wikipedia: Equal Protection Clause

“The Equal Protection Clause is a clause within the text of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The clause, which took effect in 1868, provides “nor shall any State […] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”…

…Because inequalities can be caused either intentionally or unintentionally, the Supreme Court has decided that the Equal Protection Clause itself does not forbid governmental policies that unintentionally lead to racial disparities, though Congress may have some power under other clauses of the Constitution to address unintentional disparate impacts. This subject was addressed in the seminal case of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Corp. (1977). In that case, the plaintiff, a housing developer, sued a city in the suburbs of Chicago that had refused to re-zone a plot of land on which the plaintiff intended to build low-income, racially integrated housing. On the face, there was no clear evidence of racially discriminatory intent on the part of Arlington Heights’s planning commission. The result was racially disparate, however, since the refusal supposedly prevented mostly African-Americans and Hispanics from moving in. Justice Lewis Powell, writing for the Court, stated, “Proof of racially discriminatory intent or purpose is required to show a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.” Disparate impact merely has an evidentiary value; absent a “stark” pattern, “impact is not determinative.”

The result in Arlington Heights was similar to that in Washington v. Davis (1976), and has been defended on the basis that the Equal Protection Clause was not designed to guarantee equal outcomes, but rather equal opportunities; if a legislature wants to correct unintentional but racially disparate effects, it may be able to do so through further legislation.[68] It is possible for a discriminating state to hide its true intention, and one possible solution is for disparate impact to be considered as stronger evidence of discriminatory intent.[69] This debate, though, is currently academic, since the Supreme Court has not changed its basic approach as outlined in Arlington Heights.”


  • Used to oppose Jim Crow
    • 1896, Justice Harlan’s lone dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson
      • “Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”
      • 1954, Brown v Board of Education
        • NAACP used same argument to help outlaw school segregation
  • Used to oppose integration and affirmative action
    • 1955, South Carolina Federal court opposed integration
      • “The constitution…does not require intergration. It merely forbids discrimination”
    • 1964, Barry Goldwater election speech
      • “It has been well-said that the Cpnstitution is coloblind. And so it is just as wrong to compel children to attend certain schools for the sake of so-called integration as for the sake of sergregation.”
    • 1995, Adarand Constructors v Secretary of Transportation
      • Justice Thomas attacks Affirmative Action as reverse discrimination
        • “I believe that there is a moral and constitutional equivalence between laws designed to subjugate a race and those that distribute benefits on the basis of race in order to foster some current notion of equality …. In my mind, government-sponsored racial discrimination based on benign prejudice is just as noxious as discrimination inspired by malicious prejudice.”
    • 2007, Parents Involved v. Seattle School District
      • SCOTUS: School integration plans are unconstitutional
      • Justice Breyer dissent;
        • “The lesson of history is not that efforts to continue racial segregation are constitutionally indistinguishable from efforts to achieve racial integration. Indeed, it is a cruel distortion of history to compare Topeka, Kansas, in the 1950’s to Louisville and Seattle in the modern day-to equate the plight of Linda Brown (who was ordered to attend a Jim Crow school) to the circumstances of Joshua McDonald (whose request to transfer to a school closer to home was initially declined). This is not to deny that there is a cost in applying “a state-mandated racial label.” But that cost does not approach, in degree or in kind, the terrible harms of slavery, the resulting caste system, and 80 years of legal racial segregation.”

“By divorcing race from social context, conservatives can describe racism as merely treating someone differently on the basis of racism…Coloblindness shifts the harm of racism from degradation, exculsion, and exploitation, to being treated differently on the basis of socially irrelevant characteristic, no matter how benign the motive.” Ian Haney Lopez – Dog Whistle Politics

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Outcomes, not just intentions, matter

in cases challenging discrimination…until 1979

  • Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971)
    • A high water case for courts challenging structural racism
    • Duke Power required IQ tests and high school diploma for highest paying jobs
      • Which maintained its racial hierarchy against black workers
    • Since these procedures were technically neutral this challenged the courts to look at outcomes, beyond intentions
  • SCOTUS found company liable for discrimination warning that
    • “good intent or absence of discriminatory intent does not redeem employment procedures or testing mechanisms that operate as “built-in headwinds” for minority group”

“Griggs, represented the high-water mark for anti-discrimination law. Over the remainder of the decade, conservatives on the Court, including Powell and Rehnquist, chipped away at the standard for proving discrimination against nonwhites. By 1979, the Court had embraced the “racism as hate” model we continue to struggle under today, demanding proof of malice on the part of a culpable actor. This bar is almost insurmountable. Absent a recorded use of a racial epithet or an in-court confession, malice is virtually impossible to prove…

…Since the Supreme Court adopted the malice test in 1979, it has never found discrimination against nonwhites under that approach, not even once. As far as the Court is concerned, racism against nonwhites must involve proclaimed animus, and that has all but disappeared” Ian Haney Lopez – Dog Whistle Politics

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Rise of Proof of Malice

  • Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeney (1979)
    • SCOTUS established “neutral” laws constitutional unless there was “proof of malice”
  • Mobile v Bolden (1980)
    • SCOTUS held that disproportionate effects alone, absent purposeful discrimination, are insufficient to establish a claim of racial discrimination
  • City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co (1989)
    • SCOTUS ruled “ To accept Richmond’s claim that past societal discrimination alone can serve as the basis for rigid racial preferences would be to open the door to competing claims for “remedial relief” for every disadvantaged group. The dream of a Nation of equal citizens in a society where race is irrelevant to personal opportunity and achievement would be lost in a mosaic of shifting preferences based on inherently unmeasurable claims of past wrongs”

“The malice test developed as a mirror to colorblindness, deeming all facially race-neutral government practices presumptively innocent and imposing an egregiously high burden to prove otherwise…Once embraced as a way of thinking about equality, colorblindness both legitimized and impelled a highly restrictive approach to proving discrimination against nonwhites.” Anne Richardson Oakes, Controversies in Equal Protection Cases in America, pg 72

“The standards that the Supreme Court has enacted recently on discrimination cases (plaintiffs carrying the burden of proof in discrimination cases and the denial of statistical evidence as valid proof of discrimination) help to preserve intact the contemporary forms for reproducing racial inequality in America. Unless the court becomes cognizant of the new character of racial discrimination and changes its current practice of requiring the “smoking gun” in cases, the court itself will be participating in covering up the far-reaching effects of racism in America.” Eduardo Bonilla-Silva: Racism without Racists

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Closing the Door on Racial Bias

  • McCleskey v Kemp (1987)
    • “Turned out to be the Dred Scott decision of our time” Anthony G Amsterdam– NY University lawyer
    • SCOTUS considered evidence of racial bias in the capital punishment system
      • Georgia system 22x more likely to impose capital punishment on black people convicted of murdering a white
    • SCOTUS held significant risk of racial discrimination did not violate the Constitution
      • Closed doors to claims of racial bias in criminal justice system

“(SCOTUS) also dismissed as immaterial that this statistical pattern strongly correlated with social practices of white-over-black hierarchy stretching back to slavery. Refusing to even engage this evidence, the conservatives on the Court stubbornly maintained that the sole measure of racism was proof of malice, and then they upheld Georgia’s death penalty machinery. Under the Court’s approach to discrimination against nonwhites, only a bullheaded bigot who publically vows to harm minorities should worry. “Ian Haney Lopez – Dog Whistle Politics

  • Easley v. Cromartie (2011)
    • SCOTUS approved racially focused gerrymandering map on the grounds that
      • Couldn’t prove “intent” was racial gerrymandering, not partisan gerrymandering, which is constitutionally permissible
        • Regardless if the outcome was racial gerrymandering

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Race Neutrality of Mass Incarceration

“Though it was the most insidious engine of the subordination of black people throughout the era of racial terror and its aftermath, the criminal justice system remains the institution in American life least affected by the civil rights movement.” Bryan Stevenson – Equal Justice Initiative

  • Rise of Mass Incarceration (1980s to present)
    • Race neutral policies reached new level of harm
      • Law and order, War on Drugs, mandatory minimums, 3-strikes, drug free zones, stand your ground laws, hot spots policing, broken window policing, zero tolerance rules
      • All race neutral policies that disproportionately harm and devastated communities of color
      • “The United States did not face a crime problem that was racialized; it faced a race problem that was criminalized,” observes historian Naomi Murakawa
  • Racial disparity studies in the criminal justice system have found:
    • Police are more likely to stop, search, and arrest black people
    • Prosecutor bias can lead to harsher outcomes for black people
    • Judicial bias can lead to worse criminal justice outcomes for black people
    • Evidence of racial bias against black people in jury verdicts and sentencing
    • “Implicit bias affects everyone, but is of particular import when it results in unequal treatment by criminal justice actors. Such biases impact individual stages of the process, like policing, and also accumulate over multiple stages, through case processing, prosecution, and disposition. The cumulative effect of such individual biases contributes to disproportionately negative outcomes for black Americans.” Vera Justice Institute
  • Due to the systemic racism and bias in our criminal justice system
    • Any effort to increase policing or criminalization often results in disproportionate harm to communities of color
    • “The disproportionate racial impact of certain laws and policies, as well as biased decision making by justice system actors, leads to higher rates of arrest and incarceration in low-income communities of color which, in turn, increases economic strain, further reduces income, and stifles wealth creation. Consequently, current approaches to criminal justice are extending levels of discrimination that are typically associated in the popular consciousness with a pre-civil rights era, but still exist today. “Vera Justice Institute

“90% of those admitted to prison for drug offenses in many states were black or Latino, yet the mass incarceration of communities of color was explained in race-neutral terms, an adaptation to the needs and demands of the current political climate. The New Jim Crow was born “Michelle Alexander – The New Jim Crow

“By not seeing that racism is systemic (part of a system), people often personalize or individualize racist acts. For example, they will reduce racist police behavior to “a few bad apples” who need to be removed, rather than seeing it exists in police departments all over the country and is basic to the society. This mistake has real consequences: refusing to see police brutality as part of a system, and that the system needs to be changed, means that the brutality will continue.” Elizabeth Martinez, What is White Supremacy

“So, when there is a new name hashtagged each week, when police create more black stars than Hollywood; how long do we keep pointing out the bad apples, ignoring the fact that the orchard was planted on a mass grave? …and that we planted it there?” Guante

School to Prison Pipeline

“According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of school resource officers rose 38% between 1997-2007… this surge in police on campus helped to criminalize many students and fill the pipeline.” Jerri Katzerman, SPLC deputy legal director

  • Black students represent 16% of student enrollment and:
    • Nearly 50% of suspensions
    • 3x more likely suspended than white students over similar infractions
  • School-To-Prison Pipeline
    • Once black children are in the criminal justice system
      • they are 18x more likely than white children to be sentenced as adults
    • Children of color are more likely to be perceived as:
      • guilty, problem children, young criminals, and funneled into the justice system early


American Kids & The School-To-Prison Pipeline

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Anti-PC Attack on Anti-Racism

  • Early 90s, “political correctness” popularized by the Political Right
    • To exaggerate and demonize efforts to challenge systemic and implicit racism
  • Based on the following beliefs
    • Colorblindness
      • Thanks to 60s civil rights movement and bills, racial injustice is over
        • MLK Jr. “Dream” came true and everyone is now treated the same with equal chances in a post racial world
      • People who focus on racism now are actually the problem
    • Personal Responsibility
      • Outcomes of systemic racism now all the fault of individual actions of victims
        • Not systems they live in
    • Racism is a explicit choice reflecting someone’s morality
      • Not a system or internalization we all live in
    • Proof of Malice and Intentions
      • Must be present for discrimination or racism against people of color
        • Only bad people who admit to being racist can discriminate against people of color
      • If a white person has good intentions they can’t be racist
    • Reverse racism and White Victimhood
      • Racism today is only when someone is treated differently on the basis of race
        • Racism has no connection with past or present social practices or power dynamics
      • Affirmative action programs are racist and discriminatory against whites
        • Despite lacking any “proof of malice”, which is not needed to discriminate against whites for some reason
    • White internalization of white supremacy
      • White supremacy defined subconscious beliefs of what was good, bad, normal, abnormal
        • Segregation protect these beliefs from exposure or challenges

“Its not surprise that Reagan and other political leaders since have embraced colorblindness. It sounds liberal yet works like a racial cudgel, denying that there’s discrimination against minorities, elevating whites as racial victims, justifying white superiority, and facilitating dog whistle racial appeals.” Ian Haney Lopez – Dog Whistle Politics

The Guardian: Political correctness: how the right invented a phantom enemy

“If you search ProQuest, a digital database of US magazines and newspapers, you find that the phrase “politically correct” rarely appeared before 1990. That year, it turned up more than 700 times. In 1991, there are more than 2,500 instances. In 1992, it appeared more than 2,800 times. Like Indiana Jones movies, these pieces called up enemies from a melange of old wars: they compared the “thought police” spreading terror on university campuses to fascists, Stalinists, McCarthyites, “Hitler Youth”, Christian fundamentalists, Maoists and Marxists.

…PC was a useful invention for the Republican right because it helped the movement to drive a wedge between working-class people and the Democrats who claimed to speak for them. “Political correctness” became a term used to drum into the public imagination the idea that there was a deep divide between the “ordinary people” and the “liberal elite”, who sought to control the speech and thoughts of regular folk. Opposition to political correctness also became a way to rebrand racism in ways that were politically acceptable in the post-civil-rights era.

Soon, Republican politicians were echoing on the national stage the message that had been product-tested in the academy. In May 1991, President George HW Bush gave a commencement speech at the University of Michigan. In it, he identified political correctness as a major danger to America. “Ironically, on the 200th anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we find free speech under assault throughout the United States,” Bush said. “The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land,” but, he warned, “In their own Orwellian way, crusades that demand correct behaviour crush diversity in the name of diversity.

After 2001, debates about political correctness faded from public view, replaced by arguments about Islam and terrorism. But in the final years of the Obama presidency, political correctness made a comeback. Or rather, anti-political-correctness did.

As Black Lives Matter and movements against sexual violence gained strength, a spate of thinkpieces attacked the participants in these movements, criticising and trivialising them by saying that they were obsessed with policing speech. Once again, the conversation initially focused on universities, but the buzzwords were new. Rather than “difference” and “multiculturalism”, Americans in 2012 and 2013 started hearing about “trigger warnings”, “safe spaces”, “microaggressions”, “privilege” and “cultural appropriation”.

This time, students received more scorn than professors. If the first round of anti-political-correctness evoked the spectres of totalitarian regimes, the more recent revival has appealed to the commonplace that millennials are spoiled narcissists, who want to prevent anyone expressing opinions that they happen to find offensive…

…The climate of digital journalism and social media sharing enabled the anti-political-correctness (and anti-anti-political correctness) stories to spread even further and faster than they had in the 1990s. Anti-PC and anti-anti-PC stories come cheap: because they concern identity, they are something that any writer can have a take on, based on his or her experiences, whether or not he or she has the time or resources to report. They are also perfect clickbait. They inspire outrage, or outrage at the outrage of others…

…Trump did not simply criticise the idea of political correctness – he actually said and did the kind of outrageous things that PC culture supposedly prohibited. The first wave of conservative critics of political correctness claimed they were defending the status quo, but Trump’s mission was to destroy it. In 1991, when George HW Bush warned that political correctness was a threat to free speech, he did not choose to exercise his free speech rights by publicly mocking a man with a disability or characterising Mexican immigrants as rapists. Trump did. Having elevated the powers of PC to mythic status, the draft-dodging billionaire, son of a slumlord, taunted the parents of a fallen soldier and claimed that his cruelty and malice was, in fact, courage…

…The most alarming part of this approach is what it implies about Trump’s attitude to politics more broadly. His contempt for political correctness looks a lot like contempt for politics itself. He does not talk about diplomacy; he talks about “deals”. Debate and disagreement are central to politics, yet Trump has made clear that he has no time for these distractions. To play the anti-political-correctness card in response to a legitimate question about policy is to shut down discussion in much the same way that opponents of political correctness have long accused liberals and leftists of doing. It is a way of sidestepping debate by declaring that the topic is so trivial or so contrary to common sense that it is pointless to discuss it. The impulse is authoritarian. And by presenting himself as the champion of common sense, Trump gives himself permission to bypass politics altogether.”

Vox: The truth about “political correctness” is that it doesn’t actually exist

““Political correctness is often used by those in a position of privilege to silence debates raised by marginalized people — to say that their concerns don’t deserve to be voiced, much less addressed. “Politically correct” is a term we use to dismiss ideas that make us uncomfortable”

Guardian: “Is political correctness gone mad” a lie?

Is PC Culture Anti-Free Speech? | Decoded | MTV News

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The Racism of Denying Systemic Racism

  • Denying System Racism
    • Many white people believe everyone is equal/deserves equality but hold contradictory beliefs like:
    • Everyone gets a fair chance in this country
    • The US justice systems (police, courts, prisons) treats everyone equally
      • People brutalized by police must have done something to deserve it
    • People on welfare or undocumented immigrants have a choice
      • Homeless are lazy
    • Most US communities just became segregated on their own
      • Food desserts just naturally occurred too
    • Protestors are ungrateful
    • The racial hierarchy of this country is based on what people deserve
      • Personal responsibility myth
  • Defending systems that disproportionately hurt/oppress people of color are “fair”
    • Is to consciously or unconsciously imply something is wrong with people of color, instead of the system
      • In order to justify outcomes that disproportionately hurt people of color
    • To deny there’s a problem with police brutality problem against people of color
      • When people of color are being disproportionately brutalized by police Is to imply either:
        • There must be something wrong with people of color as a race
        • They always seem to be doing something that deserves more police brutalization than everyone else (victim blaming)
  • First step to reduce racism in this country
    • Listening and believing experiences of racism by people of color
      • Regardless/especially if it goes against our own experiences or beliefs

“The beneficiaries of slavery, segregation, and mass incarceration produced racist ideas of Black people being best suited for or deserving of the confines of slavery, segregation, or the jail cell. Consumers of these racist ideas have led to believe there is something wrong with Black people, and not the policies that have enslaved, oppressed, and confined so many Black people…If we truly believe that all humans are equal, then disparity in condition can only be the result of systemic discriminationHistorian Ibram Kendi – Stamped from the Beginning

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Other Relevant People’s School of DC Pages

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