The Black/White Binary Paradigm of Race: The 'Normal Science' of American Racial Thought

46 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2019

See all articles by Juan F. Perea

Juan F. Perea

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Date Written: 1998


The Black/White Binary Paradigm of race has become the subject of increasing interest and scrutiny among some scholars of color. This Article uses Thomas Kuhn’s notions of paradigm and the properties of paradigms to explore several leading works on race. The works the author explores demonstrate the Black/White paradigm of race and some of its properties, among them extensive paradigm elaboration over the years. Paradigms have limitations, however. Among them is a tendency to truncate history for the sake of telling a linear story of progress. The author demonstrates how one constitutional law text truncates history, by omitting entirely Mexican-American struggles for desegregation, and presenting a linear story of the Black struggle for civil rights. Omitting important history from the narrative of civil rights history becomes extraordinarily damaging, since it distorts history and contributes to the marginalization of non-Black peoples of color. While recognizing the centrality of slavery and White racism against Blacks at the core of American history and society, this Article seeks to expand our understanding of racism through the use of legal history. The author contends that mutual and particularized understanding of racism as it affects all people of color has the potential to enhance our abilities to understand each other and to join together to fight the common evil of racism.

Keywords: Race, Racism, Black/White Racial Paradigm, Latinos, Legal History, Omissions from Legal History, Literature, Critical Race Theory

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Perea, Juan F., The Black/White Binary Paradigm of Race: The 'Normal Science' of American Racial Thought (1998). California Law Review, Vol. 85, 1998, Available at SSRN:

Juan F. Perea (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E Pearson Street
Chicago, IL 60613
United States

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