by Erick Miron
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is a political sociologist who focuses a lot of his research on the oppression and marginalization of Black People in the United States. In Sharon Patricia Holland’s The Erotic Life of Racism, Holland critiques the “color blind” mentality, which many people use to claim that they do not see color. In his book, Racism Without Racists, Bonilla-Silva challenges this mentality. He analyzes several “color blind beliefs” and explains why they contribute to racist narratives. One of his most striking counter-arguments focuses on the call for “equal opportunity” in academia and the professional world. In his argument, Bonilla-Silva states that the desire for meritocracy is simply a denial of the way academia has been historically run (80). According to Bonilla-Silva, people who adopt this mentality are overlooking the fact that minorities have been subjected to social, economic, and educational discrimination, which has strictly benefitted the white population. In pointing out this reality, Bonilla-Silva is able to debunk this color blind mentality, and demonstrate how the call for “equal opportunity” is simply a denial of white privilege.
Bonilla-Silva’s commentary on the racism embedded in meritocracy is one of many instances in which he has written about contemporary racism. In a separate article, Bonilla-Silva discusses why contemporary racism tends to fly under the radar. In his article, “Rethinking Racism: Toward a Structural Interpretation,” Bonilla-Silva discusses how social progression has caused people to inaccurately label what is and isn’t racist. He states, “Racism is conceived of as a belief with no real social basis, it follows that those who hold racist views must be irrational or stupid,” (Rethinking Racism, 468). Here, Bonilla-Silva discusses how the “racist” label has historically been given to individuals with extreme and irrational beliefs. As time has progressed, people have come to believe that the systems in our world today are built on equality. This has caused systems that are not as obvious in their discriminatory practices to fall under the radar. Bonilla-Silva expands on his thinking when stating, “By considering racism as a legacy, all these analysts downplay the significance of its contemporary materiality or structure,” (Rethinking Racism, 468). Here, he is pointing out how many individuals have come to believe that racism is a thing of the past. This of course, is not the case. Through his writing, Bonilla-Silva works to shed light on contemporary racism, and aims to disprove the idea that we are living in an equitable society.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism Without Racists, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. “Rethinking Racism: Toward a Structural Interpretation.” American Sociological Review, Vol. 62, No. 3, 1997, 465-480.
Holland, Sharon Patricia. The Erotic Life of Racism. Duke University Press, 2012.