Laissez-Faire Racism

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In “Racial Attitudes and Relations at the Close of the Twentieth Century,” Lawrence Bobo discusses the concept of laissez-faire racism. Laissez-faire racism describes how racial attitudes in America have shifted from the overtly racist policies of Jim Crowe racism to more subtle forms. As opposed to during the Jim Crowe era when African-Americans faced blatant racism like segregation, they now face underlying racism educationally, socially, and politically. The four main characteristics of laissez-faire racism, as described by Bobo, are “a continued acceptance of negative racial stereotypes; a belief in a level playing field; the belief that due to this level playing field, anyone can succeed by working hard and playing by the rules; and our country’s belief in justice, so our country’s people behave consistently according to just principles.” Although there are many instances of this within the institutional policies and practices in our country, the two main examples that best illustrate the concept of laissez-faire racism are education and the criminal justice system.

The most prominent example of laissez-faire racism is our country’s education system. Although clearly our country does not still have overtly racist policies such as the separate but equal doctrine, there is still a clear disparity between the education received by white Americans and African-Americans and other minorities. The fact of the matter is, African-Americans and other minorities are still living in poorer neighborhoods, in which the quality of schools simply does not compare to those in richer neighborhoods. Students are held to lower expectations at these schools. The textbooks and curriculum are outdated, and job resources are not available to these students. The drop out rates are much higher for African-Americans and minorities, SAT scores are much lower, and overall success rates simply cannot compare to those of white Americans living in richer neighborhoods with better...
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