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by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Mark Anthony Neal at Duke University is one of my most respected colleagues. A man known for bringing keen insights on matters of race in America, Dr. Neal uses his talents in ways that are incredibly productive for the advancement of the black community. In a recent episode of his online show, “Left of Black,” Dr. Neal speaks with Duke University Professor Eduardo Bonilla Silva, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Sociology Department.
Neal and Bonilla-Silva is the author of Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States.
Dr. Bonilla-Silva and Dr. Neal discuss the subtle racism that has come to define life in 21st century black America. You rarely have to worry about anyone calling you the n-word, but the penalties for failing to properly assimilate are tremendous, even for those of us who are highly educated. I’ve rarely experienced more racism in my life than I did once I earned a PhD and found myself being hired in an academic department that had never hired a single black person in 100 years of operating history. By simply being who I was as a black man, I was defined to be a professional deviant.
We must remember that there is a difference between racism and racial inequality, both of which can be devastating. Racial inequality is the result of a dysfunctional society with disparate outcomes that is created from hundreds of years of consistent work by racists who seek to create that society. This work must be reversed with courage, and it won’t happen by us simply getting together and singing “We shall overcome.” If we are not working to dismantle the work that was done by the forefathers of wealthy white Americans who built billion dollar institutions on the backs of slaves, then we’ve failed to make adequate progress.
The point here is that racial inequality doesn’t go away just because you’ve stopped trying to be racist. It continues to exist until we engage in systematic effort to reverse the effects of what we’ve already done. Also, you can have racial inequality in an institution without having a single racist in the building. This is the frustration being felt by millions of hard-working African Americans who can’t figure out why the white guys control the capital, get promotions that we might have earned or always seem to be able to leave their kids an inheritance. Much of the groundwork for such inequality was laid long before we were born.
Check out Dr. Neal’s video at this link. He’s a brilliant brother, and his show is worth watching.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. He is also the creator of the Building Outstanding Men and Boys Family Empowerment Series. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.