The face of racism is changing on campuses across the nation, but it’s no less destructive than in the past, according to American Political Sociologist and Duke University Sociology Professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. Racism, overt and covert, still affects the curriculum, admissions process, faculty recruitment, school traditions and culture, and everyday life at what Bonilla-Silva calls Historically White Colleges and Universities (HWCUs).
The Diversity Blues
On January 19, Bonilla-Silva led a frank discussion on the state of race to more than 100 attentive students and faculty at American University’s Abraham Family Recital Hall at the Katzen Arts Center. The event, titled The Diversity Blues: Reframing the Diversity Agenda, was the latest in the Bishop C. C. McCabe lecture series, which features prominent faculty members, notable alumni, and distinguished scholars from all disciplines within the College.
“Dr. Bonilla-Silva is here to tell us that American University, and all universities, can do better in fighting racial discrimination and promoting diversity and inclusion—academically and in the life of our community,” said Peter Starr, dean of AU’s College of Arts and Sciences. “On campuses across the country, there are complaints about racial climate, the hiring and retention of faculty of color, and a white-centric curriculum. AU is no exception. Efforts to improve the racial climate here at AU are not new. But we also know that we are still trying to reach our ultimate goal of a fully inclusive and diverse campus.”
Bonilla-Silva asked the audience: Why are we facing the diversity blues 40 years after universities first began dealing with diversity? He pointed out that the complaints made today by students and faculty of color are remarkably similar to those made 40 years ago: a racist climate, racist incidents that happen with alarming frequency, a curriculum that isn’t inclusive, and lack of faculty of color. He noted that, despite all efforts, HWCUs remain this way because they have not effectively made substantive changes to their institutions, culture, and curriculum. He discussed his own experiences of being singled out as an African-American man on the campus where he works as a professor. And he called for a deep diversity agenda at universities, with racial justice at the core.
Bonilla-Silva is a nationally recognized scholar on race and higher education. He has published and spoken widely on racial theory, color-blind racism, race stratification, racial grammar, historically white colleges and universities, race and human rights, and race and citizenship.
He is author of numerous articles and books, including White Out: The Continuing Significance of Racism. His 2004 book, Racism Without Racists: Colorblind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States, is in its fourth printing.
Bonilla-Silva is the first Afro-Latino to be elected President of the American Sociological Association In 2011 he received the association’s Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award. It honors social justice and human rights scholarship aimed at helping disadvantaged populations around the world.