Colorblind. It’s become a rather trend thing to say that you are colorblind but what do you actually mean by that? Are you saying that you share my infirmity and have a shade of red/green that you can not see a difference in? (small trivia for you here I only discovered I was colorblind last year, I had made it through my entire life not knowing) Probably not. What you are probably referencing when you beam with joy when you say you are color blind is that you aren’t racist. Unfortunately it has become trendy to classify yourself as a non racist with this very racist terminology. Now before you pick up the stones to stone me and kick me out of your blog roll hear me out.
You see everyone wants to put racism into a compact Jim Crowe box, to label the skin heads, Nazis, Israelis (the black militant group not the country), the extremist, the freaks, the ones that are no where near to our own front door as the racist. It’s easy to deal with racism when you are looking for the old school Jim Crowe racism, it’s easy to hear trigger words being used to refer to another mans skin tone to tell you if they subscribe to the good old boys club. But there has crept into society a much deadlier form of racism, a racism harder to address because the very people that have been ensnared in it have done so in their attempt to flee from the Jim Crowe generation of their parents. Sociologist have given this new racism several names, liaise faire racism, passive racism, or more commonly colorblind racism.
What do you see? Every dot here was taken from the skin tone of one of my family members face. It looks “diverse” right? Unfortunately this is the “colorblind” approach to seeing life. These diverse dots, they were all taken using Photoshop from only the Caucasian members of my family. You see to be colorblind means you are only seeing society through one perspective, yours. Now if you don’t believe that white privilege still exist in America you can stop reading here, there isn’t any reason for you to go any further until you can come to grips with that aspect of reality. For those still reading the only one who can truly afford to be colorblind in any society is those who have the power, and privilege of not being judged by their own race.
“Most whites don’t see white as a race. Like a fish in water, they don’t think about whiteness because it’s so beneficial to them.” It seems as if it’s oversimplified, but it’s not. By saying you are colorblind you are saying you are only giving validity to one perception of society. You are saying you don’t judge the color of ones skin, but you are invalidating that ones skin color changes the perceptions of how society operates, and ones place in that society. It isn’t an intended approach, but it’s the end result. Rather than opening up the dialogue to discuss race and racial issues, you effectively stop all conversation. As radical as you think you are being in taking the colorblind approach you are in fact being passive and allowing the cycles of racism to continue.
Still not convinced? Let me ask you to imagine with me for a second that you are lost, your cell phone is dead, it’s 1am on a Saturday and all you know is you are somewhere in the middle of Compton. Tell me, honestly, how colorblind are you right now? Want the other side of the fence? Imagine you are a 17 year old honor student whose lawyer father is letting you borrow the Mercedes to drive up to Malibu to visit your best friend. Only thing is your black. How many times are you going to be profiled as a car thief, a thug, anything but what you are? Are you going to receive the same treatment from the police as if you were white? Doesn’t this, as a young black man, affect your perceptions on how you see the world? Can you truly be “colorblind” when you have to navigate these kind of hurdles for the rest of your life?
You see society still does judge by the color of your skin, mind you it makes no more sense than being judged by the color of your eyes, but isn’t that what Halle Sellasie said all those years ago? But if your skin tone doesn’t match that of the privileged, then you grow up with a different perspective than those that do. Unfortunately being colorblind negates that reality, it negates seeing that skin tone affects perception of society. Being colorblind misses the question.
You see what happens when I add the rest of my children into the colorblind test? It’s time to stop being passive, which colorblind is, and start being proactive, which racial diversity is. By celebrating in racial diversity we embrace the different perspectives our brothers and sisters have. We cherish the diversity we all share and by doing so we learn from each other.
Honestly if you wanted to take an art appreciation class, would you want your teacher to be colorblind? To see all art in a shade of grey (it’s a very, very small percentage of people that suffer from total colorblindness)? Or would you want the professor to be able to discuss all the subtleties and shades of the Monet you are looking at? Really it’s no different in this discussion. Do you want to address society from only one perception, one perspective, or do you want to embrace it all?
There is a lot of material out there on this subject, some good, some not so good, but hopefully my blog was enough to at least spark your interest and want to go a read some more and education yourself of the realities of what you are saying when you say you are colorblind. Here are a few of the better articles I have read on the subject: http://www.rachelstavern.com/?p=395