Critical Race Theory

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Link -- Color-Blindness

Colorblindness is counter-productive—it papers over the criminialization and demonization of black men

Alexander 10 (Michelle associate professor of law at Ohio State University, a civil rights advocate and a writer “The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness” New York: The New Press. 2010 , cayla_)
But even assuming that our nation achieved as much as a 25 percent reduction in crime overall through mass incarceration, it still means that the overwhelming majority of incarceration—75 percent—has had absolutely no impact on crime, despite costing nearly $200 billion annually. As a crime reduction strategy, mass incarceration is an abysmal failure. It is largely ineffective and extraordinarily expensive. Saying mass incarceration is an abysmal failure makes sense, though, only if one assumes that the criminal justice system is designed to prevent and control crime. But if mass incarceration is understood as a system of social control—specifically, racial control—then the system is a fantastic success.30 In less than two decades, the prison population quadrupled, and large majorities of poor people of color in urban areas throughout the United States were placed under the control of the criminal justice system or saddled with criminal records for life. Almost overnight, huge segments of ghetto communities were permanently relegated to a second-class status, disenfranchised, and subjected to perpetual surveillance and monitoring by law enforcement agencies. One could argue this result is a tragic, unforeseeable mistake, and that the goal was always crime control, not the creation of a racial undercaste. But judging by the political rhetoric and the legal rules employed in the War on Drugs, this result is no freak accident. In order to make this point, we need to talk about race openly and honestly. We must stop debating crime policy as though it were purely about crime. People must come to understand the racial history and origins of mass incarceration—the many ways our conscious and unconscious biases have distorted our judgments over the years about what is fair, appropriate, and constructive when responding to drug use and drug crime. We must come to see, too, how our economic insecurities and racial resentments have been exploited for political gain, and how this manipulation has caused suffering for people of all colors. Finally, we must admit, out loud, that it was because of race that we didn't care much what happened to "those people" and imagined the worst possible things about them. The fact that our lack of care and concern may have been, at times, unintentional or unconscious does not mitigate our crime—if we refuse, when given the chance, to make amends. Admittedly, though, the temptation to ignore race in our advocacy may be overwhelming. Race makes people uncomfortable. One study found that some whites are so loath to talk about race and so fearful of violating racial etiquette that they indicate a preference for avoiding all contact with black people.31 The striking reluctance of whites, in particular, to talk about or even acknowledge race has led many scholars and advocates to conclude that we would be better off not talking about race at all. This view is buttressed by the fact that white liberals, nearly as much as conservatives, seem to have lost patience with debates about racial equity. Barack Obama noted this phenomenon in his book, The Audacity of Hope: "Rightly or wrongly, white guilt has largely exhausted itself in America; even the most fair-minded of whites, those who would genuinely like to see racial inequality ended and poverty relieved, tend to push back against racial victimization—or race-specific claims based on the history of race discrimination in this country." Adding to the temptation to avoid race is the fact that opportunities for challenging mass incarceration on purely race-neutral grounds have never been greater. With budgets busting, more than two dozen states have reduced or eliminated harsh mandatory minimum sentences, restored early-release programs, and offered treatment instead of incarceration for some drug offenders.32 The financial crisis engulfing states large and small has led to a conversion among some legislators who once were "get tough" true believers. Declining crime rates, coupled with a decline in public concern about crime, have also helped to create a rare opening for a productive public conversation about the War on Drugs. A promising indicator of the public's receptivity to a change in course is California's Proposition 36, which mandated drug treatment rather than jail for first-time offenders, and was approved by more than 60 percent of the electorate in 2000.33 Some states have decriminalized marijuana, including Massachusetts, where 65 percent of state voters approved the measure.34 Taken together, these factors suggest that, if a major mobilization got under way, impressive changes in our nation's drug laws and policies would be not only possible, but likely, without ever saying a word about race. This is tempting bait, to put it mildly, but racial justice advocates should not take it. The prevailing caste system cannot be successfully dismantled with a purely race-neutral approach. To begin with, it is extremely unlikely that a strategy based purely on costs, crime rates, and the wisdom of drug treatment will get us back even to the troubling incarceration rates of the 1970s. As indicated earlier, any effort to downsize dramatically our nation's prisons would inspire fierce resistance by those faced with losing jobs, investments, and other benefits provided by the current system. The emotion and high anxiety would likely express itself in the form of a racially charged debate about values, morals, and personal responsibility rather than a debate about the prison economy. Few would openly argue that we should lock up millions of poor people just so that other people can have jobs or get a good return on their private investments. Instead, familiar arguments would likely resurface about the need to be "tough" on criminals, not coddle them or give "free passes." The public debate would inevitably turn to race, even if no one was explicitly talking about it. As history has shown, the prevalence of powerful (unchallenged) racial stereotypes, together with widespread apprehension regarding major structural changes, would create a political environment in which implicit racial appeals could be employed, once again, with great success. Failure to anticipate and preempt such appeals would set the stage for the same divide-and-conquer tactics that have reliably preserved racial hierarchy in the United States for centuries. Even if fairly dramatic changes were achieved while ignoring race, the results would be highly contingent and temporary. If and when the economy improves, the justification for a "softer" approach would no longer exist. States would likely gravitate back to their old ways if a new, more compassionate public consensus about race had not been forged. Similarly, if and when crime rates rise—which seems likely if the nation's economy continues to sour—nothing would deter politicians from making black and brown criminals, once again, their favorite whipping boys. Since the days of slavery, black men have been depicted and understood as criminals, and their criminal "nature" has been among the justifications for every caste system to date. The criminalization and demonization of black men is one habit America seems unlikely to break without addressing head-on the racial dynamics that have given rise to successive caste systems. Although colorblind approaches to addressing the problems of poor people of color often seem pragmatic in the short run, in the long run they are counterproductive. Colorblindness, though widely touted as the solution, is actually the problem.

Colorblindness has justified the systematic mass incarceration of people of color

Alexander 10 (Michelle associate professor of law at Ohio State University, a civil rights advocate and a writer “The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness” New York: The New Press. 2010 , cayla_)
Far from being a worthy goal, however, colorblindness has proved catastrophic for African Americans. It is not an overstatement to say the systematic mass incarceration of people of color in the United States would not have been possible in the post—civil rights era if the nation had not fallen under the spell of a callous colorblindness. The seemingly innocent phrase, "I don't care if he's black . . ." perfectly captures the perversion of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream that we may, one day, be able to see beyond race to connect spiritually across racial lines. Saying that one does not care about race is offered as an exculpatory virtue, when in fact it can be a form of cruelty. It is precisely because we, as a nation, have not cared much about African Americans that we have allowed our criminal justice system to create a new racial undercaste. The deeply flawed nature of colorblindness, as a governing principle, is evidenced by the fact that the public consensus supporting mass incarceration is officially colorblind. It purports to see black and brown men not as black and brown, but simply as men—raceless men—who have failed miserably to play by the rules the rest of us follow quite naturally. The fact that so many black and brown men are rounded up for drug crimes that go largely ignored when committed by whites is unseen. Our collective colorblindness prevents us from seeing this basic fact. Our blindness also prevents us from seeing the racial and structural divisions that persist in society: the segregated, unequal schools, the segregated, jobless ghettos, and the segregated public discourse—a public conversation that excludes the current pariah caste. Our commitment to colorblindness extends beyond individuals to institutions and social arrangements. We have become blind, not so much to race, but to the existence of racial caste in America. More than forty-five years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. warned of this danger. He insisted that blindness and indifference to racial groups is actually more important than racial hostility to the creation and maintenance of racialized systems of control. Those who supported slavery and Jim Crow, he argued, typically were not bad or evil people; they were just blind. Even the Justices who decided the infamous Dred Scott case, which ruled "that the Negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect," were not wicked men, he said. On the contrary, they were decent and dedicated men. But, he hastened to add, "They were victims of a spiritual and intellectual blindness. They knew not what they did. The whole system of slavery was largely perpetuated through spiritually ignorant persons." He continued: This tragic blindness is also found in racial segregation, the not-too-distant cousin of slavery. Some of the most vigorous defenders of segregation are sincere in their beliefs and earnest in their motives. Although some men are segregationists merely for reasons of political expediency and political gain, not all of the resistance to integration is the rear- guard of professional bigots. Some people feel that their attempt to preserve segregation is best for themselves, their children, and their nation. Many are good church people, anchored in the religious faith of their mothers and fathers. . . . What a tragedy! Millions of Negroes have been crucified by conscientious blindness. . . . Jesus was right about those men who crucified him. They knew not what they did. They were inflicted by a terrible blindness.36 Could not the same speech be given about mass incarceration today? Again, African Americans have been "crucified by conscientious blindness." People of good will have been unwilling to see black and brown men, in their humanness, as entitled to the same care, compassion, and concern that would be extended to one's friends, neighbors, or loved ones. King recognized that it was this indifference to the plight of other races that supported the institutions of slavery and Jim Crow. In his words, "One of the great tragedies of man's long trek along the highway of history has been the limiting of neighborly concern to tribe, race, class or nation." The consequence of this narrow, insular attitude "is that one does not really mind what happens to the people outside his group."37 Racial indifference and blindness—far more than racial hostility—form the sturdy foundation for all racial caste systems. Abandoning the quest for a colorblind society is easier said than done, of course. Racial justice advocates, if they should choose this path, will be required to provide uncomfortable answers to commonly asked questions. For example, advocates are frequently asked, When will we (finally) become a colorblind society? The pursuit of colorblindness makes people impatient. With courage, we should respond: Hopefully never. Or if those words are too difficult to utter, then say: "Not in the foreseeable future." More than a little patience will be needed when explaining the complete about-face. Probably around the same number of people think the Earth is flat as think race consciousness should be the rule in perpetuity, rather than the exception. It would be a mistake, though, to assume that people are incapable of embracing a permanent commitment to color consciousness. The shift may, in fact, come as something of a relief, as it moves our collective focus away from a wholly unrealistic goal to one that is within anyone's reach right now. After all, to aspire to colorblindness is to aspire to a state of being in which you are not capable of seeing racial difference—a practical impossibility for most of us. The shift also invites a more optimistic view of human capacity. The colorblindness ideal is premised on the notion that we, as a society, can never be trusted to see race and treat each other fairly or with genuine compassion. A commitment to color consciousness, by contrast, places faith in our capacity as humans to show care and concern for others, even as we are fully cognizant of race and possible racial differences. If colorblindness is such a bad idea, though, why have people across the political spectrum become so attached to it? For conservatives, the ideal of colorblindness is linked to a commitment to individualism. In their view, society should be concerned with individuals, not groups. Gross racial disparities in health, wealth, education, and opportunity should be of no interest to our government, and racial identity should be a private matter, something best kept to ourselves. For liberals, the ideal of colorblindness is linked to the dream of racial equality. The hope is that one day we will no longer see race because race will lose all of its significance. In this fantasy, eventually race will no longer be a factor in mortality rates, the spread of disease, educational or economic opportunity, or the distribution of wealth. Race will correlate with nothing; it will mean nothing; we won't even notice it anymore. Those who are less idealistic embrace colorblindness simply because they find it difficult to imagine a society in which we see race and racial differences yet consistently act in a positive, constructive way. It is easier to imagine a world in which we tolerate racial differences by being blind to them. The uncomfortable truth, however, is that racial differences will always exist among us. Even if the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration were completely overcome, we would remain a nation of immigrants (and indigenous people) in a larger world divided by race and ethnicity. It is a world in which there is extraordinary racial and ethnic inequality, and our nation has porous boundaries. For the foreseeable future, racial and ethnic inequality will be a feature of American life. This reality is not cause for despair. The idea that we may never reach a state of perfect racial equality—a perfect racial equilibrium—is not cause for alarm. What is concerning is the real possibility that we, as a society, will choose not to care. We will choose to be blind to injustice and the suffering of others. We will look the other way and deny our public agencies the resources, data, and tools they need to solve problems. We will refuse to celebrate what is beautiful about our distinct cultures and histories, even as we blend and evolve. That is cause for despair. Seeing race is not the problem. Refusing to care for the people we see is the problem. The fact that the meaning of race may evolve over time or lose much of its significance is hardly a reason to be struck blind. We should hope not for a colorblind society but instead for a world in which we can see each other fully, learn from each other, and do what we can to respond to each other with love. That was King's dream—a society that is capable of seeing each of us, as we are, with love. That is a goal worth fighting for.’

Colorblind policy locks in white supremacy – justifies status quo inequality – it must be challenged

Davis et al 15- researcher of social justice leadership at University of Texas with the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Texas (Bradley W. Davis , Mark A. Gooden, and Donna J. Micheaux, “Color-Blind Leadership: A Critical Race Theory Analysis of the ISLLC and ELCC Standards”,, p. 7)

Additionally, Delgado and Stefancic (2001) argue that the system of White supre macy5 serves important purposes that outline how race-based outcomes emerge, often as an unconscious result of how individuals think about race. Moreover, the inherent subtlety that comes from being ordinary makes White racism harder to detect, and therefore more difficult to address. Incidentally, the impact of the unearthed White racism is difficult to measure. Thus, concepts of color blindness or formal definitions of equality, which insist on treating all people equally, facilitate hiding White racism in plain sight. Thus, White takes on the appearance of being normal, natural, and fair, as it operates in the background in activities like policy construction. Color blindness s stifles deeper reflections about inequity and precludes interrogations of White privilege or conversations about equalizing outcomes. In the case of education, color blindness precludes recognition and repair of racial opportunity gaps. Thus, like those CRT scholars who argue that concepts of neutrality, objectivity, color blindness, and meritocracy must be challenged, we contend that educators must start to question why these concepts hinder the reduction of systemic inequities.

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