No, Being Colorblind Does Not Help Racism
"I don't see color, I see people"
"We're all one race...the HUMAN race"
"We all bleed red!"
Any of these sound familiar? Are these things that you have said? Heard someone else say them? These are classic go to defenses from people who want to seem like they care about combating racism, but in actuality, are not comfortable being confronted with race. We call this mindset "colorblindness". The term refers to the underlying ideology of these statements which is "by not seeing race, I am combating racism". Well, my dear...I am here to burst your bubble.
Because that is just not realistic.
So here's the thing about being "colorblind"... ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. Never has, and it never will. Would you tell people to "look past murder and just see a human" in order to put an end to murders? Or "look past sexual assault, because we're all humans"? No, you wouldn't, because that is absurd. It's the same concept with racism. Nothing has ever been solved by "looking past it". The problem with most people who are "colorblind" is that they really believe they are doing something good. So I want to break down some key points as to why this is not helpful, and actually just contributes to racism.
You Absolutely Can See Color
Unless, you are quite literally colorblind, you can see color. Even people who are actually colorblind, can still see the difference between a black person and a white person. You know what color the sky is, you know what color your car is. You can see all the colors in a rainbow, you can paint with all the colors of the wind...you see color. Stop pretending you don't see skin color, you're not fooling anyone. You can see that my skin is blackity black and you can see what color yours is. Most people who are saying things like "I don't see color, I see people" are not referring to literal skin color. It's their cliche way of saying they don't judge people based on skin color, or they don't see people by their skin, they see them as people. While they may sound cute on paper, the reality is, you do see by skin color. There is no way you look at me and just see a transparent person. Whether you admit it or not, you absolutely categorize and make assumptions about people based on their appearance. We all do. You're not the special flower of the earth, who somehow didn't get conditioned to categorize and pass judgement. In order to truly combat racism, you have to accept that race exists and we all have unlearning to do.
It Dismisses People's Identities
For someone who never has to confront or think about race all the time, it may not seem like a big deal to just "see past skin color", but for those of us who, not only deal with racism, but also have our whole identities tied to the color of our skin, it's extremely dismissive and invalidating. "We're all humans!", yes, we are all humans, but all humans are not the same. We're not robots, we all have differences. Even if we we're all the same skin color, we still would not all be the same. We all have different upbringings, cultures, beliefs, brains, religions, education and other factors which make us unique. Race is also one of those things. Being black is an experience with both positives and negatives. An experience that no one else will ever know or understand unless they are black. To say you don't see race, is to say you don't see or acknowledge those experiences and identities, which really just says you don't see me. When I hear people say "I don't see color", to me it really means "please stop talking about race, my white fragility can't handle it and I'm so comfortable". My skin color is part of who I am. I would not be Rebekah, if I was a different race. I wouldn't be born to the same family, I wouldn't have lived the experiences I did, I wouldn't even be running this blog. I would have a completely different life. So while skin color may not mean anything to you, it means everything to me.
There's Nothing Wrong With My Skin Color
This is the biggest issue I have with "colorblind people". By erasing skin color and race, you are implying that race is bad, that my skin color is bad, that being different is bad. If it wasn't, why would you want to erase and "see past it"? I also notice, that it's only ever brown people that are erased. No one ever tells white people they are "looking past the white race". When was the last time a white person, and other white person we're chatting and we're like "You know Claudia, I don't see you as an 36% Irish, I just see you HUMAN". Never happens. White people's identities are always valid, but pocs are not. So why is my brown skin so horrible to you? Why does my skin make you so uncomfortable that you have to erase me? This is why we make the point that you're actually just contributing to racism. You are further demonizing my skin color, by erasing it. You should be embracing it, saying "You know what, I acknowledge your beautiful brown skin and your experiences as a ____ person, and I will treat you as an individual person, not a stereotype or as a representation for your whole race". See how that is so much different than "well I just don't see color". I'm proud of being black, I love my skin color, there's nothing wrong with my skin being brown. So don't demonize my brown skin, by acting like it's taboo and needs to be kept on the hush-hush.
This Is A Dangerous Mindset For Adoptive Parents
I have mentioned this briefly in previous posts, but many adoptive parents are in this mindset of "loving away racism". Which is we're a lot of the problems come from. While their intentions are not necessarily bad, it just isn't helpful and by ignoring the problem, you are in turn ignoring the experiences transracial adoptees are facing. In the terms of adoptive parents, I believe a lot of the colorblind mindset, comes from a place of not knowing what else to do. As white parents, you may not know how to address or combat racism because you never had to, so your only perceived option is just "look past" race and hopefully your familial love will be enough to protect your kids. While that is admirable, it's not reality. No matter how much love you shower down on us, we are still living as people of color in America, every day. While you're over there "loving away racism" in your own white corner, we're still being called slurs, being bullied, being murdered, receiving lower wages, and more. This all starts at a very young age too and we are left to deal with it alone. Imagine being 5-6 and being called the n word, and not understanding why you we're called that or what it even means, but you know that it's malicious and you instantly feel afraid. Now because your parents are off in "I Don't See Race Utopia Land", you have no one to talk to about it and you're just going about life terrified and confused. So all you've managed to do with all your parental "love" is ensure that we are facing this struggle alone and don't trust you to protect us.
The whole theme on my blog, is that we all have things to unlearn. If you haven't read my piece "You Can Say/Do Something Racist Without Being Racist", I highly suggest that you do so. That piece talks about how intent doesn't outweigh your actions, which relates to what we are talking about here. As I said before, I don't believe that most people who are "colorblind" are intending to be malicious, but it is. You can't fight an issue by ignoring it. So start to unlearn colorblindness, do better. Face racism head-on and start fighting for us, for your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors.
As the great Desmond Tutu said...