Hey folks! This is a chapter out of the book I’m writing called Racism 101 for White People: A Guide to Getting Woke! If you like it, check out my Patreon page for exclusive sneak peeks and rewards starting at just $1! Also every dollar gets me closer to dropping my workload down to three jobs instead of four, so you’d really be helping me out. 🙂 Thank you!!!
Please Don’t Say You’re Color Blind
from Racism 101 for White People: A Guide to Getting Woke
by Samantha Clarke
This well-meaning but at best, useless and at worst, deeply harmful quip is spread around like butter in Paula Dean’s kitchen. Unless people literally can’t distinguish between certain colors they have GOT to stop calling themselves color-blind. They’re not color-blind. If race isn’t the first thing they notice about a person, that’s great, but claiming they don’t see it at all is not helping anyone.
People of color have not been asking white folks for centuries to pretend race and ethnicity don’t exist, or that everyone is literally exactly the same. We’ve been asking to be treated fairly. We’ve been asking for the same respect and rights and safety and liberty that are afforded white people. We’ve been asking that our cultures and contributions and styles and ideas be acknowledged and included. We’ve been asking to be part of the conversation.
Putting aside the fact that I don’t believe for a second that a single white person has ever met, say, LeBron James and been like “oh, you’re black? I didn’t even realize,” I’d like to ask who this helps besides them, in their own conscience. Saying this is only an attempt to let themselves off the hook. “I don’t see color, therefore I can’t be accused of being racist.” Well, they can be, and they’re going to have to deal with that.
And that sucks. I wish there was a way to just turn off racism like a switch, but there isn’t.
This gets extra ugly when you realize it’s not just a personal mindset but more or less sums up the administration’s entire position on racism for the last several decades. Politicians switched from outright racism to racist dog-whistles; public policy shifted from blatantly racist laws to simply opening them up enough to allow the racism to happen itself. We hear about welfare queens, inner cities, crack addicts and “thugs” now instead of arguments about lynchings and Jim Crow; we have removed legal segregation and seen it only get worse under a system still designed for it. We have passed laws guaranteeing the right to vote and yet we still see voter ID laws (deeply racist in effect, but devoid of race in the letter of the laws themselves) flourishing the last few years. And the government can make an attempt to claim innocence when confronted about these things because they’ve, on paper, adopted a more or less neutral tone on race. This has convinced a major subsection of the white population that racism is dead, that affirmative action is unfair, that segregation is gone, and a whole host of other problematic perspectives.
I’m sorry, I really am, but part of being white and not being part of the problem is living with this burden–the white fragility burden, coming back to bite you again. Trust me, compared to the burdens of being brown or black it’s not much to carry, and you—you reading this book—you can handle it. I have faith in you. And I have faith that you’re too big and honest a person to use the “color-blind” excuse. You will have to live with the fact that sometimes you may be accused of racism and sometimes it may even be true, and you’ll have to check yourself (before you wreck yourself). And that’s okay. It’s part of the process, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. Most people will forgive you for a hiccup if you’re sincere about improving. I know this because I’m pretty patient myself, but also because a LOT of people have been patient with me too. We all have a lot to learn; you’re not in this alone.
And we have to get good at spotting this systemically too, as it’s part of the key to changing it. Learn how to avoid that thinking on a personal level, and then learn how to call it out on a higher one. This is an immensely helpful thing to start picking up on.
Please, again, check out my Patreon page! And feel free to leave your thoughts on “color blindness” in the comments section below!