Making It Visible to Ourselves

Harris, Cheryl

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/09/2015
Year Published:  2015  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21281

Cheryl Harris reflects on Ferguson and the current and persisting issues Black people are facing in the U.S.



There's such a strong investment in this "colorblind" narrative that naming a pattern as a pattern is itself vigorously resisted, sometimes even by the people who are victimized by it. And this is really a painful but powerful point: to acknowledge that it is a pattern of state-sanctioned violence would be to repudiate the dominant racial framework of colorblindness, which even people of color, some of us, have bought into.

What I mean by "framework" is to refer to what lies between our facts and our perceptions - that is, the structure that allows us to make sense of the world. This is what we mean when we say these facts make sense, as well as when we try to make sense of the facts. So I'm talking about colorblindness as a racial frame, as a conceptual structure that operates at the macro or "big" societal level, as well as the micro, individual cognitive level; that is, the way in which we just process information.

It's this preexisting frame under which racial disadvantage is understood to be a product of something other than racism. Notions of biological inferiority have largely been repudiated - although it's a scary thing how salient that remains if you sit and talk amongst some of your colleagues, but that's another conversation. But because at least in certain ways, notions of biological racial inferiority have been taken off the table, in the contemporary context racial inequality is now understood as a product of cultural dysfunction.