Social Justice Usage
Source: Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2004, pp. 32–33.
As these systems of racial rule recede in the post–civil rights era, what if anything is taking their place? Over one hundred years ago, African American intellectual William E. B. DuBois predicted that the problem of the twentieth century would be the presence of the color line. By that, DuBois meant that the policies of colonialism and racial segregation were designed to create, separate, and rank the various “races” of man. Until legally outlawed in the 1950s and 1960s, the color line policies of Jim Crow racial segregation kept the vast majority of African Americans from quality educations, good jobs, adequate health care, and the best neighborhoods. In contrast, the problem of the twenty-first century seems to be the seeming absence of a color line. Formal legal discrimination has been outlawed, yet contemporary social practices produce virtually identical racial hierarchies as those observed by DuBois. By whatever measures used in the United States or on a global scale, people of African descent remain disproportionately clustered at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The effects of these historical exclusions persist today under a new racism.
It is important to note that the new racism of the early twenty-first century has not replaced prior forms of racial rule, but instead incorporates elements of past racial formations. As a result, ideas about race, gender, sexuality, and Black people as well as the social practices that these ideas shape and reflect remain intricately part of the new racism, but in changed ways. The new racism thus reflects a situation of permanence and change. Just as people of African descent were disadvantaged within prior forms of economic organization, a similar outcome exists today. On a global scale, wealth and poverty continue to be racialized. This is permanence. At the same time, racial hierarchy is produced in a context of massive economic, political, and social change that organizes racial hierarchy differently. The processes used to maintain the same outcome are also different. In a similar fashion, ideas about sexuality and gender that were very much a part of prior forms of racial rule remain as important today. They too are differently organized to produce remarkably similar results.
New Discourses Commentary
“New racism” (sometimes “neo-racism”) is an uncommonly used term within Social Justice that means either the same thing as cultural racism or very nearly the same thing. In short, the pessimistic idea of “new racism” within critical race Theory is that as older, more overt forms of racism (like biological racism and legally institutionalized racism – see also, institutional racism) became unacceptable or illegal (largely decades ago), racism did not end or even diminish much but changed form to focusing upon cultural elements of “black culture” (see also, blackness, anti-blackness, whiteness, and mask). Under new racism, black culture (meaning a particular cultural form most common with black Americans) is seen as less valuable and less prone to success than white culture (cultural racism and model minority), is steadfastly associated with people of African descent or origin (see also, identity-first), and is identified as the primary reason for the persistence of achievement gaps in which black people have worse outcomes on average than those of other racial groups (see also, meritocracy).
This view is typical of the pessimism about progress that fundamentally characterizes critical race Theory, which often begins with the “pillar” view that racism is ordinary and permanent in American society (short of a race-based social revolution). Critical race Theory maintains that racism doesn’t really diminish so much as it gets hidden more successfully, particularly as whites realize that it is in their social and economic interests to mask it (see also, interest convergence). This leads it to take different, more diffuse forms. These include economic legacies from past eras (leading it sometimes to be described as “past-in-present” racism) in addition to the shift in focus to subtler aspects like culture (as compared against biology and law).
Since new racism is so profoundly interested in the idea of how racism shifts to culture while insisting that racism hasn’t improved, it bears mentioning that reifying race through culture is another foundational effort of critical race Theory (see also, identity-first). When Kimberlé Crenshaw famously wrote that “I am Black” means something important and something more than “I am a person who happens to be black,” and claimed the difference lies in identifying and forwarding what it means to be black (culturally, especially in terms of systemic oppression – see also, intersectionality, standpoint epistemology, and positionality), she was creating the platform upon which this issue increases in relevance and becomes salient, essentially by the mandate of Social Justice Theory. This move was strategic for Crenshaw so as to complexify and advance identity politics.
It was also strategic more broadly at least in part because cultures are deemed impossible to criticize under a broader (postmodern) rubric of (somewhat modified) cultural relativism, upon which critical race Theory also relies. More specifically, cultures with lower social position with relationship to systemic power dynamics in society cannot be criticized or understood properly by those with more, but the opposite is not true. This creates an advantageous double standard that Social Justice is happy to exploit in virtually any situation (see also, strategic racism).
See also – cultural racism.
Anti-blackness; Blackness; Critical race Theory; Cultural racism; Cultural relativism; Identity; Identity-first; Identity politics; Institutional racism; Intersectionality; Mask; Meritocracy; Model minority; Oppression, Position; Postmodern; Privilege; Progress; Race; Racism (systemic); Revolution; Standpoint epistemology; Strategic racism; Systemic power; Theory; White; Whiteness
Source: Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2004, pp. 33–34.
People of African descent are routinely disadvantaged in this global economy in which corporations make the decisions and in which “the company is free to move; but the consequences of the move are bound to stay.” Within a global context, Black people and other people of color are those more likely to lose jobs in local labor markets. They are the ones who lack control over oil, mineral wealth, or other natural resources on their land; who lose their land to global agribusiness; and who are denied basic services of electricity and clean water, let alone the luxury goods of the new information age. The benefits of telecommunications and other new technologies have had a far greater impact on Whites than on people of African descent and other people of color. For example, though Europe and North America constitute 20 percent of the world’s population, two-thirds of all televisions and radios are owned and controlled in these two regions.
The new racism is also characterized by a changing political structure that disenfranchises people, even if they appear to be included. In the United States, for example, people may vote, but corporations and other propertied entities wield tremendous influence in deciding the outcome of elections because they fund campaigns. All levels of government have been affected by a growing concentration of economic power that has fostered corporate influence over public policy. This same process operates in a transnational context. Global corporations increasingly dominate national, regional, and local governance. This concentrated economic power erodes the authority of national governments and has created unprecedented migrations of people and jobs both within and between nation-states. The ineffectiveness of transnational governance and domestic policies of racial desegregation in reducing Black poverty suggests an important link joining the experiences of people of African descent with postcolonial governance and the experiences of African Americans in the United States with racial desegregation. The outcome is reconfigured social hierarchies of race, class, gender, and sexuality, with people of African descent clumped at the bottom. Patterns of desegregation and subsequent resegregation of African Americans in the United States resemble the decolonization and recolonization that characterizes the global context.
The new racism also relies more heavily on mass media to reproduce and disseminate the ideologies needed to justify racism. There are two themes here—the substance of racial ideologies under the new racism and the forms in which ideologies are created, circulated, and resisted. Ideas about Black sexuality certainly appear in contemporary racial ideologies. But the growing significance of Black popular culture and mass media as sites for creating and resisting racial ideologies is also striking. The films, music, magazines, music videos, and television shows of global entertainment, advertising, and news industries that produce superstars like Jennifer Lopez help manufacture the consent that makes the new racism appear to be natural, normal, and inevitable.
Source: Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2004, p. 54.
What’s new about this new racism? First, new patterns of corporate organization have made for an increasingly global economy. In particular, the concentration of capital in a few corporations has enabled them to shape many aspects of the global economy. One outcome is that, on a global scale, wealth and poverty continue to be racialized, with people of African descent disproportionately poor. Second, local, regional, and national governmental bodies no longer yield the degree of power that they once did in shaping racial policies. The new racism is transnational. One can now have racial inequality that does not appear to be regulated by the state to the same degree. For example, the legal support given racial segregation in the United States has been abandoned yet African Americans remain disproportionately at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Third, the new racism relies more heavily on the manipulation of ideas within mass media. These new techniques present hegemonic ideologies that claim that racism is over. They work to obscure the racism that does exist, and they undercut antiracist protest. Globalization, transnationalism, and the growth of hegemonic ideologies within mass media provide the context for a new racism that has catalyzed changes within African, Black American, and African-Diasporic societies. From one society to the next, Black youth are at risk, and, in many places, they have become identified as problems to their nation, to their local environments, to Black communities, and to themselves.
Revision date: 2/24/20