Baruch College Professor Finds Progressive Organizations "Walk the Walk" but Don't "Talk the Talk" on Racism
NEW YORK, NY-March 12, 2015 -Angie Beeman, Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences at Baruch College has published a new study in Sociological Forum. In recent news articles on police brutality, such as the Eric Garner case, activists and scholars noted color-blind ideology as a central barrier to equality. Beeman’s study aims to explain the persistence of this racial inequality. According to the study, even those organizations that repudiate racism are affected by the larger cultural silence on it. Beeman finds that activists in interracial organizations choose not to address racism explicitly, because they fear it would appear “unprofessional” and divisive.
According to the study, which is based on three years of field work, “The fear and hesitancy of discussing racism within the organization was not only influenced by organizational culture, but also by color-blind ideology in larger society. Many of the issues these organizations deal with concern racist practices. However, the organization is operating within a society, where discussing racism is taboo. Furthermore, European Americans often fear explicitly discussing racism, because it would force them to contend with their own racist sentiments."
Beeman states that “Activists justified racism-evasive strategies by emphasizing action over talk. In their view, since they “walked the walk” they did not need to “talk the talk” on racism." This perspective was shared by members regardless of ethnicity. However, African American and Latino/a members expressed greater concern for potential divisions between ethnic groups.
The author notes that her findings have both theoretical and practical implications for studies of racial ideology and progressive movements. She states, “First, the term color-blind racism is problematic, because it combines a number of different components racism, colorblind ideology, and racism evasiveness-which should be analyzed as separate but interrelated concepts.” Beeman suggests that colorblindness as an ideology promotes a certain racial worldview and political climate that leads to racism evasiveness “This racism evasiveness is what scholars are finding when their respondents argue that “the past is the past” or explain protests as “black unruliness.” These responses have typically been referred to as color-blind racism, color evasion, or power evasion. However, what is really being evaded is a specific form of racial power and racism.”
While activists view racism-evasiveness as a necessary means to stay focused on practical action, Beeman argues, it also creates interracial tensions: “Avoiding discussions on racism internally may prevent the organization from dealing with complaints of racism when they arise. Also, if members are only communicating problems through a class analysis, how are they to justify their demands for greater representation of people of color on the job, in access to health care, and education, all racialized issues?" Beeman concludes that progressive organizations must achieve a balance between talk and action, without relying on racism evasiveness.
About Baruch College:
Baruch College is a senior college in the City University of New York (CUNY) with a total enrollment of more than 18,000 students, who represent 164 countries and speak more than 129 languages. Ranked among the top 15% of U.S. colleges and the No. 4 public regional university, Baruch College is regularly recognized as among the most ethnically diverse colleges in the country. As a public institution with a tradition of academic excellence, Baruch College offers accessibility and opportunity for students from every corner of New York City and from around the world. For more about Baruch College, go to http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/.