The Corner

Education

The Latest Academic Fad: ‘Color Blind Racism’

Instead of focusing on actual ways in which our rules often handicap “people of color” (such as civil asset forfeiture, occupational licensing, and, above all, public education), many academics prefer to rant that it is racism that holds them back. No, not the old racism of the segregationists, but subtle racism that’s so deeply embedded that few white people are aware of it. Only the “woke” among us can understand how institutional racism is everywhere.

If you try to deny that, well, you merely prove how racist you are. Claiming to favor a color-blind society is, in the eyes of many deep thinkers, racism too.

In today’s Martin Center essay, Duke University professor John Staddon carefully examines CBR — Color Blind Racism. “According to CBR doctrine,” he writes, “color blindness is any attempt to explain racial disparities by means other than racist discrimination.”

This notion originated in the field of sociology and has been spreading like cancer into other disciplines. Sociology, Staddon explains, began as a scientific endeavor to understand society, but CBR works in an utterly unscientific way, embracing some claims uncritically while ignoring any actual evidence against them. The Marxists adopted similar tactics to protect their dogma from criticism long ago.

“Contra Marx,” Staddon writes, “science is about knowledge, not action. But politics is part of sociology, which means that straying from the scientific straight and narrow is all too easy: from scholarship to social justice is but a single, slippery step. For Marxists the point is not understanding the world, but changing it — by politics and, if necessary, by force.”

And that, of course, is why the Social Justice Warrior types who have been multiplying on college faculties love CBR. It’s the perfect excuse for activism without bothering to comprehend social problems. “CBR arguments don’t proceed from factual premises to logical implications. Assertions take the place of facts and logic is replaced by rhetoric. The whole is persuasive only to those willing to immerse themselves in CBR sociology’s special vocabulary of ‘frames,’ ‘discursive analysis,’ ‘story lines,’ ‘narrative,’ and the like,” as Staddon puts it.

In the CBR world, the guilt of white people is presumed, and it’s nearly impossible to rebut that presumption. It’s like a court where the accused is guilty unless he can somehow prove his innocence. Strangely, that’s like the old segregationist courts, where a black defendant was presumed guilty by white jurors just because of his race. We have come full circle, but with the races reversed.

One of the worst academic offenders here is another Duke professor, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva.  An encounter between he and Staddon in the faculty lounge would be most interesting.

Staddon will conclude his examination of CBR in the second part of his essay, which we will publish Friday.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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