For a long time, Americans committed to fighting racism have rallied around the ideals of colorblindness. Both legally and culturally, they have sought to build a society where, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words, people are judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Over time, however, the persistence of racism has raised doubts about the colorblind approach. In response, groups like Black Lives Matter have seized on the rival paradigm of antiracism. Instead of aspiring to colorblindness, its proponents say, we should acknowledge that America is plagued by deep-seated racism—and then take aggressive steps to stamp it out.
In Beyond Racial Division: A Unifying Alternative to Colorblindness and Antiracism, Baylor University sociologist George Yancey seeks a new way forward, one grounded in a vision of healthy interracial communication and community. As Yancey argues, both colorblindness and antiracism result in “racial alienation,” which prevents us from working out our racial issues together in a way that honors the dignity, value, and worth of every individual.
In different ways, Yancey sees colorblindness and antiracism erecting barriers to this goal. As he puts it, colorblindness ignores the realities of racial injustice, past and present. As for antiracism, he faults it for exacerbating racial division, in part by issuing an implied permission slip to disrespect white people and creating a clear expectation that whites “defer to nonwhites.”
What can succeed where colorblindness and antiracism have failed? Here, Yancey emphasizes an ethic of mutual accountability and a reliance upon moral persuasion. This means, for starters, that when it comes to conversations on race, “everyone is allowed to participate, and everyone’s ideas are taken seriously.”
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Source: Christianity Today