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'White Racism' Textbook Author Speaks at FGCU

Rachel Iacovone
Dr. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva signs copies of his book "Racism Without Racists" before his talk at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Florida Gulf Coast University hosted the president of the American Sociological Association last week for a talk on colorblind racism in the Trump era.

RELATED: Author of 'White Racism' Textbook Comes to FGCU

Dr. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is a political sociologist and a self-proclaimed “proud black Puerto Rican.” He says both of those roles make him an expert on what he refers to as “new racism.”

“Rather than telling me, ‘Hey, black-looking person, get out of the store,’" Bonilla-Silva said, "I get the ‘May I help you?’ ‘Mm, no.’ ‘May I help you?’ ‘Still no.’ ‘May I help you?’ ‘Yes, I’m trying to steal this fancy coat, and I was wondering if you could give me some ideas.’ ‘I-I didn’t mean it like that!’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, you did!’”

The joking manner in which Bonilla-Silva explained his experience landed well with the crowd of a few hundred FGCU students, staff and community members. They not only laughed out loud, but many emphatically nodded through each anecdote. Most of them were minorities themselves.

“People say, ‘You know, you’re just preaching to the choir,’ but we all can benefit from having these conversations," Dr. Ted Thornill said. "And, it’s not limited to one racial or ethnic group.”

Thornhill is the professor of the White Racism sociology course on campus where he says most of the students enrolled are minorities. He added that even if it’s “preaching to the choir,” choirs still need practice and guidance.

Credit Rachel Iacovone / WGCU
Bonilla-Silva addresses the crowd in the Cohen Center ballroom.

Bonilla-Silva’s audience was also populated mainly by people of color, and he spoke directly to them as the way to get past the racial divide many attribute to President Donald Trump taking office.

“If we’re in the business of trying to forge a new society, demonizing all whites as racists, beyond redemption, is highly problematic," Bonilla-Silva said.

Bonilla-Silva encouraged students to step across what he referred to as the "color line” that races and ethnicities draw around themselves.

The Duke University professor of sociology authored a book on the very subject. It’s called “Racism without Racists: Colorblind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America.”

The book, which is now in its fifth edition, was first published in 2003 – long before the Trump administration and before the Obama administration as well.

Dr. Ted Thornhill calls the book an industry standard on racial sociology, which he says is why it was an easy choice to be one of the required texts in the White Racism course.

Bonilla-Silva’s talk ended with a discussion where members of the crowd could submit questions anonymously on their phones. Others could then vote to decide which were the most important ones to be addressed.

Credit Rachel Iacovone / WGCU
Bonilla-Silva poses for a selfie with one of the talk's student attendees, who just had him sign her copy of "Racism Without Racists."

One of the questions asked if it would be fair to add classes titled Asian Racism, Latino Racism, etc.

“We can all be prejudiced, yeah?" Bonilla-Silva said. "So, black people can be anti-white, but there is a big difference between having prejudiced views about other people and having a system that gives systemic privilege to some groups.”

A group of twenty-somethings toward the front enthusiastically snapped and “mhmmed” in response – and their notes rang out in the ballroom as the choir finished its practice.

Rachel Iacovone is a reporter and associate producer of Gulf Coast Live for WGCU News. Rachel came to WGCU as an intern in 2016, during the presidential race. She went on to cover Florida Gulf Coast University students at President Donald Trump's inauguration on Capitol Hill and Southwest Floridians in attendance at the following day's Women's March on Washington.Rachel was first contacted by WGCU when she was managing editor of FGCU's student-run media group, Eagle News. She helped take Eagle News from a weekly newspaper to a daily online publication with TV and radio branches within two years, winning the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Best Use of Multimedia in a cross-platform series she led for National Coming Out Day. She also won the Mark of Excellence Award for Feature Writing for her five-month coverage of an FGCU student's transition from male to female.As a WGCU reporter, she produced the first radio story in WGCU's Curious Gulf Coast project, which answered the question: Does SWFL Have More Cases of Pediatric Cancer?Rachel graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.
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