To See or Not to See: The Problem With Racial Colorblindness

My soon to be three year old daughter sees a person's color. It's as simple as that. She describes herself as brown, her mother as pink, and me, her dad, as a "different" brown. I bring this up because I feel there are still far too many people who believe in the concept of "racial colorblindness". I've encountered this concept as a student, teacher, director of diversity, family member, and parent. Even though people who I have heard say they are "colorblind" usually do so with the best intentions, that does not make it any less problematic. I ask those people to see me. I am Black. My Blackness is an essential part of who I am. Don't take that away from me, please. Accept it. Embrace it. Respect it. I would also ask not to deny a part of my daughter's multiracial background. What I would prefer is to not be solely defined by my color. 

Why is this concept so problematic? Because it is what I call classic diversity deflection. Many diversity themed discussions focus on some of the core diversity identifiers: race, socio-economic status/class, sexual orientation, religion, ability. What I have seen so often during my time as a director of diversity is that people are still quite fearful of discussions about race. They will say that we have already talked about this, which ignores and demeans the complexities of the topic. Or, they will deflect, unknowingly, the conversation to a different focus, usually class. Why that topic? Because it is one where people of different races can be on equal footing. And it helps people find a way to relate to racism. Once again, this happens with the best of intentions. However, it does take away from the task at hand, which is deconstructing racism. 

There are a few things you can do to recover from the affliction of racial colorblindness.
1) Understand that discussing race should not be feared.
2) If you are fearful of saying something that makes you sound racist, it's because you are racist. But guess what, according to an interesting theory, we are all recovering racists or purveyors of prejudice. Here is the theory explained.

"In America there are only racists and recovering racists. It is like alcoholism. There is no point at which you are rid of it completely – racist thinking is too much a part of American culture. No one completely escapes it, not even people of color." For more, click here.

3) To become a true white ally and/or anti-racist advocate, educate yourself. Seek help, but challenge yourself to broaden your knowledge on your own, because not all people of color want to educate white folks about their experience.
4) Expose yourself to the rich tapestry that is this country. You can do so through travel, film, books, and food. Yes, the internet can be helpful in this. 
5) Most people of color acknowledge they are people of color. You can, too. Just avoid doing this.

Posted on February 25, 2014 .