R is for Racial Ideology

| March 2, 2014

I found the discussion within Robert Gooding-Williams’ “Citizenship and Racial Ideology” very interesting as it focused on society’s reaction following the Rodney King verdict. While the liberal and conservative views differed, they both “suggested that the burning of Los Angeles had little to do with what happened to Rodney King” (253). The conservatives viewed the rioters as a chaos that needed to be erased to restore civility. The liberals highlighted the social causes of the riots, such as socioeconomic need. Commentators ultimately did not understand that King’s injustice was “symbolic of a larger social injustice” which Gooding-Williams viewed as the failure to view black people as fellow citizens (253). As he states, black people are unjustly characterized as lawless opportunists and unfortunate victims. Black people are rarely seen as those with “reasonable point(s) of view about their and white Americans’ shared circumstances” (253). Racial ideology in America works to leave out blacks from white Americans’ conceptions of their fellow citizens. The fixed beliefs people place on those of particular races stop any sort of advancement in society or a community. Racial ideology prevents citizens from coming together and engaging with one another; being confined to discussions and dialogue within one’s own race eliminates the possibility of progression. Sadly, the officers were acquitted in the Rodney King case as the defense attorneys placed the emphasis on racial imagery. Promoting racial ideology was the answer to their acquittal as King’s skin color and race were central instead of the police officers’ brutal crime.

Meagher, Sharon M., ed. Philosophy and the City: Classic to Contemporary Writings. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008. Print.