North Tonowanda, NY
I honor your perspective but I find it naive and cognitively and emotionally dishonest. If you are color blind, does this mean you don’t see the color of flowers or a woman’s blouse, or maybe a blue sky or grey one? Being “color-blind” is an easy way to bypass emotionally deep, socially complicated, and politically charged issues that are influenced by race.
When a person says they are “color-blind”, I am concerned this is their way of avoiding grappling with the realities of race, especially for people of color. It is easy for white people to claim “color-blindness” because they don’t have a 450 year history of discrimination and slavery. People in positions of privilege often don’t understand the experience of people who are regularly affected by oppression. For example, many men don’t truly understand how women’s freedoms are limited (unequal pay or not feeling safe walking at night); heterosexual people don’t see how lesbians, gays, and transgendered people’s freedoms are limited (fear of being attacked when expressing affection in public, not being able to visit a partner in the hospital); Able-bodied people don’t really understand what it is truly like to move through life with a “disability”. Do you not see that a person is in a wheelchair or that a man may be gay.? If you don’t see this facet of who they are, how would you relate to them with sensitivity?
Black people are reminded of their race daily by racist police officers who call us the “N” word, people who follow us around in stores assuming we must be there to shoplift, professors who think we must have plagiarized our college essays because we couldn’t possibly be bright or possess exemplary writing abilities, taxi drivers who won’t stop to pick us up because they assume we are going to a dangerous neighborhood, parents who claim to be liberal or “color-blind” but then express anger and rejection when their child starts dating someone outside their race, white women who clutch their purse when blacks enter an elevator, residents in upscale neighborhoods who give us dirty looks or assume we are “the help” when we are in such neighborhoods. Shall I go on? Many whites remind us of their hatred and fear and our skin color.
“Color-blindness” also dishonors the rich heritage and culture of people of color. If you don’t see my color how can you be curious about my history? How can you emotionally metabolize how my African, Jamaican, and Native American ancestry has shaped my being and consciousness, attitudes, and beliefs? Will you listen to my pain when I tell you how I’ve been called a “N”, or my pain when a white college instructor assumed that I had received a poor grade and proceeded to pass back an exam that was not mine, not considering the possibility that I had actually gotten one of the highest scores in the class? Or how about my white 4th grade teacher who told me on the first day of class, “I have enough of you in my classroom.”? Turned out I was his best and brightest student and at the end of the year he apologized to me and my parents.
My hope is that you don’t use your “color-blind” philosophy to avoid dealing with the woundedness and frustration that so many black and other people of color feel as a result of racism. Such a philosophy makes many of us feel invisible.
White people pretend I’m not black
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