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Was Blind, But Now I See

White Race Concsiousness and the Law

Barbara Flagg

Publication Year: 1997

"Race" does not speak to most white people. Rather, whites tend to associate race with people of color and to equate whiteness with racelessness. As Barbara J. Flagg demonstrates in this important book, this "transparency" phenomenon--the invisibility of whiteness to white people-- profoundly affects the ways in whites make decisions: they rely on criteria perceived by the decisionmaker as race-neutral but which in fact reflect white, race-specific norms.

Flagg here identifies this transparently white decisionmaking as a form of institutional racism that contributes significantly, though unobtrusively, to the maintenance of white supremacy. Bringing the discussion to bear on the arena of law, Flagg analyzes key areas of race discrimination law and makes the case for reforms that would bring legal doctrine into greater harmony with the recognition of institutional racism in general and the transparency phenomenon in particular. She concludes with an exploration of the meaning of whiteness in a pluralist culture, paving the way for a positive, nonracist conception of whiteness as a distinct racial identity.

An informed and substantive call for doctrinal reform, Was Blind But Now I See is the most expansive treatment yet of the relationship between whiteness and law.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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p. xi


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pp. xiii-xiv

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-18

THE MOST STRIKING characteristic of whites' consciousness of whiteness is that most of the time we don't have any. I call this the transparency phenomenon: the tendency of whites not to think about whiteness...

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2. An Overview of Race and Racism

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pp. 19-38

THOUGH THE TRANSPARENCY phenomenon itself should be easily recognizable to whites in this society, the proposition that it is a form of racism may not be equally uncontroversial. This chapter provides a framework...

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3. The Constitutional Requirement of Discriminatory Intent

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pp. 39-65

THE EQUAL PROTECTION Clause of the U.S. Constitution proscribes race discrimination, and accordingly is the provision to which one should look for legal redress when government engages in transparently...

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4. Constitutional Qualms

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pp. 66-82

I BELIEVE THE PROPOSAL set forth in chapter 3 is adoptable, in the sense that it is consistent with Equal Protection principles and with what we know about transparently white decisionmaking, the problem...

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5. Disparate Impact under Title VII

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pp. 83-116

TITLE VII OF the Civil Rights Act of 1964 governs discrimination in employment, and currently includes a doctrine that predicates liability upon proof of disparate impact alone, without requiring the plaintiff...

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6. Statutory Interpretation

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pp. 117-128

BECAUSE THE PROPOSALS discussed in chapter 5 implicate interpretation of a statute—Title VII—they raise issues somewhat different from those addressed in chapter 4 concerning constitutional...

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7. Notes on Doctrinal Reform

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pp. 129-148

THE PROPOSED TRANSPARENCY-CONSCIOUS modifications of Equal Protection and Title VII doctrines give rise to several jurisprudential considerations. First, they embody a more constructive discourse...


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pp. 149-182


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pp. 183-188

About the Author

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p. 189

E-ISBN-13: 9780814728871
E-ISBN-10: 0814728871
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814726433
Print-ISBN-10: 0814726437

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 1997

OCLC Number: 42922375
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Was Blind, But Now I See

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Legal status, laws, etc.
  • Race discrimination -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • United States -- Race relations.
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