Ever since the civil rights movement, liberals have advocated a retreat from color-conscious public policies such as affirmative action, and even from open discussion of racism as a key factor in the perpetuation of racial inequity in the United States. They have argued that the barriers faced by black and brown Americans are largely divorced from racism, and that these stem, instead, from economic factors such as deindustrialization, capital flight from the cities, spiraling healthcare costs and inadequate funding for education, jobs programs, and other programs of social uplift. From this starting point, they contend that "universal" programs intended to help the poor and working class are the best means for narrowing the racial inequalities with which the nation is still plagued.
In discussing the pitfalls of "colorblindness" in the Obama era, Wise argues against colorblindness and for deeper color-consciousness in both public and private practice. We can only begin to move toward authentic social and economic equity through what he calls illuminated individualism—acknowledging the diverse identities that have shaped our perceptions and the role that race continues to play in the maintenance of disparities between whites and people of color in the United States today.
Sponsored by the Understanding Race Theme Semester Student Steering Committee, the Center for Campus Involvement, U-M Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, U-M Department of American Culture, U-M Diversity Council, U-M Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA), Zingerman's Community of Businesses, the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, and the Center for Public Policy in Diverse Societies.