Civil Rights

Start Free Trial

Based on the Preface, Introduction, and Chapters 1-4 of Ian Haney López's "Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, what were the views of the Supreme Court in the 1960s and 1970s on "color blindness"? Why, today, is "color blindness" the dominant behavior when discussing race?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First, colorblindness refers to the disregard of race in the public arena. The idea is that the Constitution is colorblind and therefore, cannot favor any one group of people over another. Based on this form of reasoning, affirmative action policies are unnecessary to ensure the complete integration of black Americans into the public sphere. This view of absolute colorblindness was steadfastly rejected by the Supreme Court in the early 1960s.

Initially, civil rights champions like Martin Luther King welcomed the idea of absolute colorblindness. However, as the 1960s progressed, it became clear that informal efforts against integration prevailed despite laws against segregation. So, the civil rights movement changed course; leaders began demanding that race be considered in efforts to integrate black Americans into every social sphere. However, by the mid 1960s, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier position. It now championed the view that it was just as wrong to compel integration as it was to force segregation. Lopez argues that such a notion of colorblindness renders civil rights gains obsolete and promotes dog whistle politics.

He maintains that the notion of absolute colorblindness protects whites in their efforts to derail the full integration of minorities into mainstream society. So, today, "colorblindness" is dominant in the race discussion because there is disagreement about how to pursue racial cohesion in American society. While some argue that integration shouldn't be enforced by violent means or by affirmative action policies, others argue that raced-based policies should be in place to reverse centuries of material hardship. So, a working interpretation of "colorblindness" is central to the debate about racial harmony.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team