The Field Negro education series continues.
"How many times have you heard someone say that they “don’t see color,” “are colorblind,” or “don’t have a racist bone in their body?” Maybe you’ve even said this yourself. After all, the dominant language around racial issues today is typically one of colorblindness, as it’s often meant to convey distaste for racial practices and attitudes common in an earlier era.
Many sociologists, though, are extremely critical of colorblindness as an ideology. They argue that as the mechanisms that reproduce racial inequality have become more covert and obscure than they were during the era of open, legal segregation, the language of explicit racism has given way to a discourse of colorblindness. But they fear that the refusal to take public note of race actually allows people to ignore manifestations of persistent discrimination.
For the first half of the 20th century, it was perfectly legal to deny blacks (and other racial minorities) access to housing, jobs, voting, and other rights based explicitly on race. Civil-rights reforms rendered these practices illegal. Laws now bar practices that previously maintained racial inequality, like redlining, segregation, or openly refusing to rent or sell real estate to black Americans. Yet discrimination still persists, operating through a combination of social, economic, and institutional practices.
The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf recently argued that the academic left errs in attacking colorblindness. He suggested that encouraging whites to be color conscious and to think of themselves in racial terms would encourage the nativism embraced by some Donald Trump supporters—that a heightened awareness of whiteness would produce a sense of persecution, and encourage some to rally in defense of white rights. He contends that there is some merit to colorblindness that has been ignored by what he describes as “the academic left,” which spends too much time focused on nitpicking colorblindness rather than drawing attention to “macroaggressions” such as “racially tinged hatred and conspiracy theories directed at the first black president” or the convenience of labeling Mexican immigrants rapists “despite the fact that first-generation immigrants commit fewer crimes than native born Americans.”
This reminds me of the #PoliteWhiteSupremacy subject that was trending on twitter a day or so ago.
I, too, am suspicious of folks who like to declare that that they are colorblind. As a result I have to agree with the premise of the first part of this essay and not so much the reasoning by Conor Friedersdorf outlined in the second part.
I also side with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva who was named in the essay as someone who believes that colorblindness is "an ideology that legitimizes specific practices that maintain racial inequalities".
That's the problem with claiming colorblindness in a nutshell. And while I admire people who strive for that type of human perfection, given the social and societal imperfections that we are bombarded with on a daily basis, I believe that thinking we can see the world through colorblind lens is both naïve and unrealistic.
*Pic from timwise.org