For years now, I’ve heard many people say that they are “colorblind” in an attempt to prove they are not racist. Usually, this is followed by a statement explaining that they don’t see a person’s color because at the core we’re all human. While it sounds good on the surface, people who profess colorblindness have always made me a little uncomfortable.
While we are, in fact, human, we can’t escape the role race and ethnicity plays in our lives. Although race is socially constructed, our ethnicities, nationalities, race, and cultural experiences inform who we are as people, and discounting those experiences under the guise of a colorblindness just doesn’t feel right to me. After all, recognizing and acknowledging each other’s differences isn’t a step back, but rather a step toward true inclusion.
Recently, Psychology Today took a look at the ideology behind being racially colorblind. In the article, “Colorblind Ideology Is A Form of Racism,” Dr. Monica Williams argues that refusing to acknowledge the racial and ethnic differences of others is a form of racism.
At its face value, colorblindness seems like a good thing — really taking MLK to task on his call to judge people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. It focuses on commonalities between people, such as their shared humanity.
However, colorblindness alone is not sufficient to heal racial wounds on a national or personal level. It is only a half-measure that in the end operates as a form of racism.
She breaks it down:
In a colorblind society, Whites, who are unlikely to experience disadvantages due to race, can effectively ignore racism in American life, justify the current social order, and feel more comfortable with their relatively privileged standing in society (Fryberg, 2010). Most minorities, however, who regularly encounter difficulties due to race, experience colorblind ideologies quite differently. Colorblindness creates a society that denies their negative racial experiences, rejects their cultural heritage, and invalidates their unique perspectives.
Let’s break it down into simple terms: Color-Blind = “People of color — we don’t see you (at least not that bad ‘colored’ part).” As a person of color, I like who I am, and I don’t want any aspect of that to be unseen or invisible. The need for colorblindness implies there is something shameful about the way God made me and the culture I was born into that we shouldn’t talk about. Thus, colorblindness has helped make race into a taboo topic that polite people cannot openly discuss. And if you can’t talk about it, you can’t understand it, much less fix the racial problems that plague our society.
If colorblindness isn’t the answer to dealing with racism, Williams argues what many of us have always known: Multiculturalism is the answer.
Learning about the culture, practices, and nuances of another’s culture does more to stem the tide of racism than simply ignoring our differences. Through multiculturalism, Williams argues, we can celebrate our differences while acknowledging the difficult racial pasts of others.
What do you think? Do you think colorblindness is a form of racism? Speak on it!