"Seeing a Color Blind Race: The Paradox of Race" by Patricia Williams.

Essay by fleazUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, April 2003

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To a significant degree, racism can be considered a thread seeming from a smug sweater in which our society encases itself. It illustrates the bond our society has with specific racial stereotypes, which cannot simply be removed or plucked as it would produce a void or allow the sweater to dispel to a given degree. Instead, we'd simply opt to ignore the wavering thread in hopes that it wouldn't play a noteworthy role in the longevity of the sweater. For lack of a better mode of metaphoric portrayal, it is this idea which Patricia Williams sets forth to examine. Is it in fact our tendency not to address certain issues in regards to ones race? And in doing so, can it be envisioned as a mode or means of expressing an almost unseen or unintentional form of racial discrimination? Although racism plagues our society to an endless integer, we must address given issues regarding race if we're ever to anticipate the shattering of the definitive framework of being black or white.

The argument can also be made that the appropriate means of dealing with racial discrimination and stereotypes, is action as opposed to rhetoric and meaningless debate which tends to only sponsor further frustration. Yet with action comes reaction, so might it be argued that it's this immobilizing fear of the 'reaction' which promotes a societies being color-blind? Williams, in her work, spells out and assesses many abstract as well as thought provoking arguments which allow the reader to gain some valuable insight into a story which to a large degree, was considered one sided. After much careful and in-depth analysis, Williams come to the conclusion that:

"Racism is a gaze that insists on the power to make others conform, to perform endlessly in the prison of prior expectation"

With the specified information projected through Williams work, there accompanies with it a brawny atmosphere with a so themed consent. In other words, there is such an overwhelmingly immense amount of information presented that the dismissal of her conclusion as 'irrational' cannot be deemed feasible.

From the very beginning of the presented work, Williams clearly spells out and accesses the title of her intriguing paperback. By a deemed dominant white society exclaiming that 'color doesn't matter', what they are in fact doing is practicing a form of 'silent' racial discrimination. This discrimination can be considered the absence of recognition in regards to the distinctiveness of a given race. This failure to recognize, either imposed or accidental is what the author refers to as the notion of color-blindness. The non-recognition of color also furthers the impression that it doesn't exist at all. It's society's plight to mask the avoidance of exclusion by portraying an 'it doesn't matter' framework as a means of not having to deal with a 'sensitive' topic. It roots itself in the silencing of inquisition as it is presented by children. By schooling a child to withhold certain questions regarding race and ethnic origin, is to practice the avoidance of an issue which is ever so important in regards to understanding the complexities within a society. This practice will eventually invoke the imaginative side of a child's thought process and lead to the conjuring of uneducated views, which will eventually lead to stereotypes. Williams also wishes to make the reader aware of the fact or idea that white persons don't think of themselves as falling under the magnifying glass of 'race'. This view enforces the idea that to be white is considered societies norm, while anyone existing outside this system is supported by the crutch of race. While the author attacks the idea of color-blindness, she indeed embraces it as a future state or plain of existence in stating:

While I do want to underscore that I embrace color-blindness as a legitimate hope for the future...

It seems as though the only argument that can be discharged in opposition of the view presented by Williams would be; although the notion of color-blindness has made quite apparent its existence, it seems as though she speaks of it as practiced by a group. This systematic cataloguing of persons begs the question 'Where is the affirmation of the individual in regards to color-blindness'?

The author later reacquaints us with an old flame, being the infamous murder trial of O. J. Simpson and how it was subconsciously a trial focused upon race. As media coverage spread and reached biblical proportions, the American public was force-fed an onslaught of propaganda and biased views. What this in fact did was allow a significant amount of perpetual weight to shift in view of the case. It transformed itself from being a case solely based on the pending conviction of a man, to a case possessing certain sub-conscious elements of racial tension. This raises the question 'Was this unneeded emphasis a result of media hype or America's underplayed fixation to incorporate the issue of race into situations where it need not be of issue'? In relation, the John DuPont murder case was brought to light existing as a counter example to the O. J. case, which raised the issue of racial representation.

Is it any less absurd to think of O. J. Simpson as representative of the morals of all black people than to judge all white people by the murderous belligerence of a John DuPont?

How much blame can be sliced from the pie and fairly dealt to the media, in regards to its coverage leading to the exploitation of race, still remains at question. Many would hold stern in the weighted argument stating that it's the systematic package the media presents which further hinders the issue of race. To follow in suit and accept the argument that O. J. Simpson was exploited because he was both wealthy and black is not all that absurd, argues Williams. As given the overwhelming indirect emphasis placed on both these attributes would hinder some from seeing through the smoke. If stressed enough, these delusions yield that idea that to be black is to be exploited. The media has to invoke the ability to see people, as opposed to spotlighting them.

One purpose of this paper is to ponder the affects that Williams argument has on educated African-Americans in society today. The presented work covers a broad range of racial implications and in part, tries to reflect how they heavily weigh on learned African-Americans. An outstanding example of this is presented in the experiences of an African-American writer known as Anatole Broyard. The story of Broyard is one of a gifted African-American writer whom used a penname in an effort to be seen as white by mainstream society. He understood the views in Williams's notion of race being considered a crutch by white persons, so in an effort to avoid this either social sympathy or discrimination, he chose to conform. His goal in life was to be a writer, and in order to do so, he posed himself as a white writer in an effort to not be sucked into the lingering stereotypes imbedded in a questionably dominant white society's framework. These assimilative pressures were the catalyst which guided Broyard's decision to want to be thought of as a writer, rather than a writer whom is of African-American persuasion. This system of rationale, Williams believes draws attention to the question:

Are we driven beyond ourselves when we set out just to be ourselves?

It creates the notion that races other than white are striving to 'fit it' as it were, into mainstream society chanting its heartfelt 'color doesn't matter' slogan. Many African-Americans wish to avoid stumbling into this ideology as it links their accomplishments with the overcoming of their race (being considered a crutch).

Williams later brings forth the notion of class and the somewhat significant part it plays in this broad theme. Noted as the 'Distribution of Distress', its society's fixation with cataloguing race in regards to class and in doing so, practice another type of discrimination. The author accentuates this point in saying:

....because class denominations are so uniformly understood to be stand-ins for race.

She argues that there exists a strong imaginary tie binding 'underclass' with blackness, and discusses how the two are often projected in unison. There is also a certain preordained weight placed upon language as it applies to the African-American community.

Black speech becomes a cipher for all the other stereotypes associated with racial discrimination; the refusal to understand becomes rationalized by the assumption of incomprehensibility.

By allowing this 'Ebonics' wave to be labeled a significant or separate language from that of the rest of English speaking society, is to in fact practice a social division in which one may easily be seen as a separatist.

To recall upon the issue of race as it pertains to class, Mrs. Williams provides for us some personal insight into her experiences with this racial phenomenon. Upon requesting a mortgage to purchase a home, the author approved was almost immediately. It wasn't until the bank discovered that she was in fact black that they made her place a larger deposit on the house, even in light of the Fair Housing Act which prevented banks from red-lining certain neighborhoods based on race. This is yet another hurdle African-Americans must overcome in regards to the workings of the economy. It affects both the educated as well as the non-educated, though to different degrees. The experiences undergone my Mrs. Williams strengthen this argument as it's a prime example of a well endowed African-American being discriminated against based solely on socially derived stereotypes, which cross over to enforce themselves via the economy. Therefore, if the color of ones skin determines the class into which they fall, could it not also be said that it determines their quality of life? To a significant degree, any conflicting views into the workings of society when speaking on race would have to be very well supported as the author lays out a series of almost bulletproof arguments.

The idea of 'rationalization of racism' is discussed in the latter division of Williams work as it primarily portrays stereotypes regarding IQ and African-Americans. The argument is made that the level of a persons IQ is directly dependant upon their given race. This is an absurd notion yet to no avail; a shameful exercise to be practiced within society.

Rationalized racism has become the soup of the day; race is said to determine IQ; IQ is supposed to determine economic status.

Racism was also brought about as being quite apparent in sports, and this in turn relates back to the notion that race is the determinant of IQ. African-Americans are seen by many as being naturally good at sports as a dominant amount of players in many professional sports are indeed black. By placing emphasis on this stereotype, it can only strengthen the bitter argument that race determines IQ. To an educated African-American, they're acquired intellect can be teased and deemed a 'backup plan' they'd called upon to make up for the fact that they were denied their natural athletic ability at birth. Although this posed view can be seen as a long shot, with this mindset, is it not possible? The fact is that no matter how many African-Americans play professional sports, this inclined physical prowess is in no way, shape, or form linked to ones race. This media representation only spawns controversy in our society in regards to race. Yet upon this realization, why doesn't it just stop? It doesn't just stop because its impossible for the American public to get their fill, as is seen in the success of the relatively young 'reality television'. It's as though currency is the subtle replacement for language in the media, a language everyone can take part in.

With the endless number of questions and arguments presented in regards to racial discrimination, Williams makes a point in saying that African-Americans as well as whites must first recognize the exact type of racism they're up against, if they ever hope to overcome it. To rid a society of racism, we must rid our society of the stereotypes which surround race. Also, racism isn't only black and white relations; one must always consider the other equally unique ethnic groups that make up a society. In regards to this discussion, they're referred to as the 'grays'.

To backtrack, I wish to reflect upon all the given information presented by the author and how it originates to her findings that 'racism insists on the conformation of others, allowing them to perform endlessly in the prison of prior expectation'. The collection of attitudes in regards to race indeed allow for a strong argument that: blacks need to separate themselves from their color, in an effort to conform into mainstream society. This would also be in an effort to avoid issues that would place emphasis on race, therefore excluding them from a unified social structure. The conformation argument is quite a sound one in regards to the information presented in Patricia Williams work. The first and second part of Williams's conclusion go hand in hand. The notion of 'performance in the prison of prior expectation' is related to the ongoing efforts by different races to abandon their distinctiveness and mold their lives to how mainstream society sees fit. This prior expectation, in anyone's opinion, should be considered unfeasible as well as ethical. How can we address certain issues regarding race when we impose the abandonment of color, only leaving ourselves as color-blind? Therefore, with the information given, Williams indeed presents a strong argument.

On a more personal side of the coin, this work presented by Patricia Williams really opened my eyes to the not so apparent side of racial discrimination. I often found myself agreeing with many arguments she brought forth. Were David Hume to walk amongst us today, we would hope his views on race would differ from his original uneducated conclusions that:

I am apt to suspect the Negroes and in general all other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites.

Perhaps with the discussion of these issues on a grand scale, we can hope to attain a

color-blindness which is pure and doesn't practice this silent discrimination.