A Majority of Americans
A majority of Americans today would agree that “institutional racism has existed since the colonization of the Americas; slavery and segregation in the form of Jim Crow laws being prime examples. But many Americans today actually believe that we live in a “post-racial society, especially following the election of our first ever black president. The biggest questions to ask these people is when did it end? What policy was completely effective in doing away with white supremacy in America? In order to truly and fully understand how we as White Americans are able to consciously ignore modern systematic racism, we have to understand the ideology of “Colorblindness in America. (Dolezal, 2018)
Having a colorblind ideology completely eliminates the idea of race. But for many people of color, race is very much so a real thing. Talking about race is important because if we don’t, its as if we’re acting like slavery, segregation, and all our past and present mistreatments of people of color never existed. There are already racist systems and policies in place and if we continue to pretend race isn’t a real problem, if we continue to claim “colorblindness, there will never be a possibility of changing them. Who is it that benefits from the suppression of stories of people of color? Definitely not the people of color, who are forced to swallow their identities and bury their experiences. America needs to become a place where these things can be heard, valued and then actually addressed. (Greenberg, 2016)
Another downside to colorblindness is that it equates Color with something negative. The phrase, “I don’t see color, I just see people implies that color is a problem and that it’s being ignored. Not to mention, this is something that is never said to white people. No one ever says in reference to a white person, “I don’t see your color, I just see you. For people of color whose race is a pivotal part of their personal identities, the comment can make them feel invisible. The need for colorblindness implies that there is something wrong with the fact that God made people of color and the culture that they were born into is something that shouldn’t be talked about. The color of a person’s skin has nothing to do with who they are, it’s simply a genetically passed down trait that came about due to the geographical location of their ancestors. Color of skin doesn’t equate to character of person.
Racial labels and terms are complex and often problematic. But the problems associated with colorblindness are possibly far worse. Without being color conscious we would never be able to acknowledge the racial disparities in our society. Some examples are inequalities in income, health, and education. Let’s begin with the inequalities of income. The typical black household now has just 6% of the wealth of the typical white household; the typical Latino household has just 8%. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Income and Program Participation, the median white household had $111,146 in wealth holdings in 2011, compared to a much lower $8,348 for the median Latino household and $7,113 for the median black household. African Americans are at a higher risk of having health problems, but they also have less access to healthcare than white Americans. Black Americans die at higher rates from all major causes of mortality in the United States than all white Americans. The most significant differences can be found in deaths by heart attack between black Americans and white Americans. The rate of essential hypertension, a precursor to heart attacks, among black Americans (approximately 37%) is about twice that among white Americans (approximately 18%) (Dressler, 1993, pp. 325-345)
Colorblindness completely invalidates people’s identities. Racial oppression is only one side of “race. Race is also now very closely tied with people’s identities and signifies cultures, traditions, languages, and heritage it can be a genuine source of pride. Race has become a basic ingredient that makes up a person’s being, even if you don’t consciously notice its role in your life. Imagine being forced to suppress something that you openly acknowledge and value about yourself. Denying people of their identities isn’t racial progress, but actually, it pushes us back into our racist history.
True progress will come when White Americans no longer feel threatened by the racial identities of groups of color. When people say that they don’t see color, they’re ignoring all of the experiences that people of color have endured. It dismisses and invalidates their experiences with prejudice and stereotypes. Papering over the daily challenges faced by people of color doesn’t make them go away; it just sends a message that those experiences don’t matter enough to be acknowledged, that they don’t need to be talked about. (Castro, 2017)
Many sociologists today are extremely critical of the phrase “colorblindness when discussing race. They argue that as the mechanisms that produce racial inequality have become more covert than they were during the era of open and legal segregation, the way we speak about racism has also gotten more obscure. But they also fear that the refusal to acknowledge race actually allows people to ignore the constant appearances of discrimination in our everyday lives. For the first half of the 20th century, it was completely legal to deny blacks and other racial minorities basic rights that white Americans has access to such as housing, voting rights, and jobs. Civil rights reforms helped to make these practices illegal in present day society, but discrimination still persists through a combination of economic, social, and institutional practices and ideals.
The colorblind approach to race isn’t an accidental thing. Many of us are taught at a young age that talking about or even just acknowledging race is something that we don’t do. But this way of thinking, this idea, only hurts people of color. We must embrace the differences, we have to talk about it. Pretending that race and racism doesn’t exist won’t make it go away, it won’t save us from the horrors of our ancestors past actions. Colorblindness is just as big of a threat to racial justices as White Supremists. Claiming colorblindness isn’t a way to solve racism, its an attempt to shelter ourselves from the horrible reality that is racism in modern America. Promoting colorblindness is easy. Colorblindess eliminates the need to recognize and discuss extremely uncomfortable realities while perpetuating a culture of racism, injustice, and oppression. Acknowledging differences is not racist, but refusing to accept racism for what it is today is.
- Dolezal, M. J. (2018, February 23). How the Philosophy of “Colorblindness” Can Perpetuate Institutional Racism. Retrieved September 28, 2018, from https://medium.com/@matthewjohn_36675/the-philosophy-of-colorblindness-perpetuates-institutional-racism-9717e90608db
- Greenberg, J. (2016, July 21). 7 Reasons Why ‘Colorblindness’ Contributes to Racism Instead of Solves It. Retrieved September 28, 2018, from https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/02/colorblindness-adds-to-racism/
- Sullivan, L., Meschede, T., Dietrich, L., & Shapiro, T. (n.d.). Racial Wealth Gap. Retrieved from https://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/RacialWealthGap_1.pdf
- Dressler, W. (1993). Health in the African American Community: Accounting for Health Inequalities. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 7(4), new series, 325-345. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/649213
- Castro, V. (2017, April 25). Do You See in Color? Retrieved from https://www.diversitycouncil.org/single-post/2017/04/25/Do-You-See-in-Color
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