Why it’s Never About Race
Honestly, I’m not sure I know of an instance where someone Black has brought up race illegitimately. Race is everywhere. The notion that Blacks play the race card to gain advantage is silly to me. Considering race is used against Blacks and other minorities on a daily basis by the majority culture in power with impunity, how can minorities play the race card “for advantage” at all? We are, consistently, disadvantaged…
There’s a reasonable debate to be had here, even if many Americans don’t want to hear it.
Instead, we continue to insist on taking a dispositional, personality-based view of racial bias. Only “racists” exhibit bias, we think. Therefore, to admit that race could have played a role in a given decision is to paint the decision-maker in the broad brushstrokes of hopeless bigotry. And we’re hesitant to do that since most of the decision-makers in question don’t look to us like out-and-out bigots. Instead, we assume there must be a reasonable race-neutral explanation:
• Most employers aren’t racists, so racial disparity in a company’s hiring tendencies must result from other factors, like there simply not being enough strong applications from qualified minority candidates.
• Few attorneys or judges are bigots, so what look to be racial differences in say, how they evaluate potential jurors must result from other, race-neutral considerations in their jury selection calculations.
• The arresting officer used to run diversity training sessions for his colleagues, so race couldn’t have played a role in his decision to arrest the Black professor who was legally inside his own home–the professor must have been a disorderly jerk who warranted arrest.
• Race has nothing to do with it; we just don’t believe that the dark-skinned president with the funny name was born in this country (or that many of his supporters are “real Americans,” for that matter).
The ready availability of race-neutral explanations for any given decision allows us to stick to the party line that “this one isn’t about race.” But the aggregated data tell different stories. Résumés with Black-sounding names get 50% fewer call-backs than résumés with White-sounding names. The same juror background is seen more positively by a prosecutor when the juror is White than when the juror is Black. And so on. – Sam Sommers