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Professor lectures on racial colorblindness

Emily Dabish | Thursday, October 9, 2008

White American society experiences “colorblindness,” in that white society commonly believes that racism no longer accounts for the hardships experienced by black society, said professor Charles Gallagher, the chair of the Sociology, Social Work and Criminal Justice Department at LaSalle University, during a lecture Wednesday at Saint Mary’s.

“Colorblindness creates an illusion, even though we know race still shapes life,” he said. “What people say and do are unbelievably different things…. If you’re in a minority the playing field isn’t level.”

White Americans think “a level playing field now exists,” Gallagher said.

“Success, like failure, is a choice,” Gallagher said. “You can run a prison or you can be a prisoner.”

Gallagher explained that race has become something not talked about but something that lives under the surface. This under-the-surface racism can be thought of as “incidental racism,” he said.

“We aren’t moving forward; we’re moving backward,” he said. There is a hands-off approach to racism now and government has no involvement. This is known as laissez-faire racism, he said.

“Fundamentally, Americans know opportunity structure is not the same,” he said. “Since [racism] is below the surface they get to keep their privileges. … Power is concentrated within a very tight window in American society.”

“People live in bubbles,” Gallagher said. “They are segregated.”

Whites do not know ethnicities through personal interaction but through examples shown on the television, he said. People explain racism by talking about something else.

Gallagher said people convince themselves that “everyone has equal opportunity, [and ask] ‘why do we need to talk about race?'”

“Whites have unbelievably rosy view of racial structure,” he said.

Gallagher has received various awards for his work including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Torch of Peace award. He has published multiple articles about race theory.