Paul Ryan and Cultural Racism

Paul Ryan has recently been lambasted for his comments on inner city poverty and Black culture. While many in the media and blogosphere have picked up on his racism, I found his comments to be particularly illustrative of colorblind ideology. I pulled this quote from ThinkProgress:

“House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) previewed his upcoming legislative proposals for reforming America’s poverty programs during an appearance on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America Wednesday, hinting that he would focus on creating work requirements for men “in our inner cities” and dealing with the “real culture problem” in these communities. “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” he said.”

Paul Ryan is explicitly utilizing what Bonilla-Silva describes as the “cultural racism” frame”, a key frame used within the Color-Blind Racism framework. Ryan never explicitly mentions race, but it is clear he is talking about Black people in this quote. He is asserting that inequalities between poor inner-city folk (AKA, PoC) are due to Black culture being out-of-whack; he isn’t acknowledging that systemic inequalities due to centuries of racism affect Black people to this day. This type of discourse essentially blames the victim, allowing the White speaker who is buying into this ideology to eschew any responsibility for partaking in a system that oppresses and privileges on the basis of skin color. It is part of color-blind ideology in that it refuses to acknowledge that race exists, and that racism still occurs, with measurable effects, today.

Have you heard this frame invoked elsewhere in politics or the media before? What do you think of cultural racism? Can you think of arguments and facts that counter this particular facet of CBI?


3 thoughts on “Paul Ryan and Cultural Racism”

  1. In regards to politics, I recognize this framework a lot, in media as well. Cultural racism is not helpful to our soicety but then again what is when people still try to use the colorblind framework to describe our nation. Which really disturbs me (well pisses me off) is that we as people allow these individuals to hold office yet proudly claim the fact that we are not longer racist. When you continousely put down a race and creatively find different ways to keep them as a lower socioeconmic culture, your using your power wrong and it is disgusting. In regards to countering his words, I think it would be a good to bring up mass incarceration, and the Dovido articles we have looked at.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Emily. My immediate thoughts upon reading those comments shot to cultural racism and victim-blaming. It’s disturbing to me that someone who could have been the Vice President of the United States (along with many other politicians) has these kind of thoughts and opinions, which as we talked about in class, are downright racist.

  3. Thanks so much for posting this Emily! You’re right, it’s a perfect example of color-blind racism, especially the cultural frame. Cultural racism is a tricky area for me, though. Progressives, such as David Simon (co-writer of The Wire), sometimes make strikingly similar arguments about the decaying culture of the inner city ghetto. This argument is accompanied, at least in Simon’s case, by a lengthy description of the socioeconomic and political factors that created these conditions for a culture like this to develop, however. I wonder if this is still a problematic claim, or if it is validated by a discussion of other factors.

Comments are closed.