THE DAILY STUDENT NEWSPAPER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH

Oxford professor talks colorblind America

Aaron Stier-Cohen | February 16, 2012    

Four years after the election of President Barack Obama, racial inequalities are still heavily… Four years after the election of President Barack Obama, racial inequalities are still heavily ignored in society.

Desmond King, author and American government professor at Oxford University, discussed in a lecture how colorblind policies in America don’t address the existing problems he sees. King was the guest speaker at this year’s Roscoe Robinson Jr. Memorial Lecture — a series of lectures designed to honor ’64 alumnus Robinson, who was the first black four-star army general. The two-hour lecture, titled “Race and Politics in Obama’s America,” was organized by the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and took place Thursday night at the University Club.

Harvey White, an associate professor at GSPIA and one of the organizers of the event, explained the significance of the annual lectures.

“The Roscoe Robinson Diversity Lecture series was designed to help us understand the role diversity plays, and should play, in enhancing public service” White said.

During the lecture, King spoke about the colorblind policies that are in effect in America today, and how these policies, which don’t distinguish among races, are not helping the racial inequalities in society.

King said the question of how to deal with racial discrimination has caused a rift in the U.S., especially along partisan lines.

Two modern alliances have developed in American politics today with two very different ideas of how to achieve racial equality, King said. These alliances are largely divided down traditional partisan lines, with Republicans advocating a colorblind public policy and Democrats supporting policy that acknowledges and addresses issues of racial relations in the U.S.

King said colorblind public policy — which is opposed to affirmative action — will not address the issues of racial inequality.

“The colorblind positions that are designed to help previous victims of discrimination are impossible in principle,” King said. “If discrimination is to be eliminated, [colorblind positions] are insufficient policies if you are serious at getting at these issues.”

He acknowledged that Americans took a giant step by electing Obama in 2008, but warned that racial policy has so far been largely controlled by a colorblind dogma. He said this dogma has resulted in a black infant mortality rate that is two times that of whites and an economy in which black people work an average of 12 more weeks a year than white people, yet make only 60 percent as much.

Despite these statistics, King said Americans would not vote for politicians who ran in favor of affirmative action.

“Race targeting policies are politically unsustainable,” he said.

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