Normalizing Domination

CUNY Law Review, 20:20 493

12 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2017 Last revised: 26 Oct 2017

See all articles by Atiba R. Ellis

Atiba R. Ellis

Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Date Written: October 14, 2017


In the 2016 election, a sufficient majority of white voters in key battleground states elected Donald Trump president. In voting for Trump, these voters, as part of the minority of voters that supported Trump, had to, through their vote, either embrace or ignore his racist, sexist, xenophobic, and homophobic rhetoric. Though it is impossible to know which, their votes nonetheless served to “normalize domination”—that is, their act of legitimizing Trump’s rhetoric made the absurd or incendiary commonplace and acceptable. Even before the 2016 election, institutions and individuals have normalized of the ideology of white supremacy by camouflaging it with other normative values while at the same time allowing it to flourish and reinvent itself. It asserts an epistemology of failing to know racism—a key component of what scholars know as post-racialism—as a means of achieving colorblindness. The late great Derrick Bell recognized how the underlying structure of American politics is defined by domination that embraces white identity politics as central. Thus, the institutions that continue American democracy seek to organize the American political and legal structure to protect such domination. This short essay focuses on this problem through a brief examination of the American law of politics and argues for a new race consciousness can be used as a compass to understand the structure of political domination and thus subvert such domination to create an egalitarian society.

Keywords: Racism, White Supremacy, Legal Theory, Post-Racialism, Critical Race Theory

JEL Classification: K00, K19, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Ellis, Atiba R., Normalizing Domination (October 14, 2017). CUNY Law Review, 20:20 493, Available at SSRN:

Atiba R. Ellis (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )

11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106-7148
United States

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