The Problems with “Racial Colorblindness”

Maybe there is an irony that my first serious post with “Blind Injustice” has the word “colorblind” in the title.

Though when we think about what it means to be racially colorblind, and how racial colorblindness is an oft-discussed topic, maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Colorblind ideology seems good to some, on the surface. It was an especially appealing idea to me a few years ago because it seemed to reflect the idea that, if we ignore racial differences, we would no longer treat people with other skin colors differently.

However, through friends, life experiences, and reading over the past few years, I noticed some problems with racial colorblindness that all of us should be aware of:

  1. Being colorblind means that we are blind to how people are created. People are created with various skin colors, and denying that through racial colorblindness does not seem like a way of acknowledging, let alone giving glory to, the way each of us were created.
  2. If we take pride in colorblindness, then we will not be taking pride in the diversity of ways we were all created. It is pretty awesome that the skin of human beings was created in so many different ways! Through racial colorblindness, we would not appreciate the diversity of ways in which we were created.
  3. Colorblindness means that we don’t see ourselves and others for who we are. Skin color is a part of who every one of us is, so saying that we don’t see color means that we don’t see ourselves and others for who we are. In other words, the phrase of “I don’t see color…I just see people” is not really accurate because by not seeing color, we’re not seeing the complete person. Such views can actually be hurtful to ourselves and others, even if our intentions were ones of nondiscrimination.
  4. Colorblindness also means that we are blind to how skin color has a factor in what happens around us. In particular, colorblindness can help us ignore the critical role that skin color plays in injustices such as police brutality, housing, economic inequality, inequality of public services, and more. Consequently, colorblindness keeps us from getting to the root of many problems, let alone solving the problems (and in the process keeping forms of racial injustice alive and well).
  5. Colorblindness also blinds us to the ways that we might discriminate against people with different skin colors. I know this point goes contrary to the thinking that being blind to skin color is the way to treat all people equally. I also know that this point will lead people to the “But I’m not racist!” reaction. However, the messy truth is that if we remove our own defensiveness and colorblindness, maybe we’d find ways that skin color plays a role in how some of us might contribute to school segregation (yes, modern-day school segregation exists), housing inequality, financial inequality, racial stereotypes, or some other form of racial injustice.

This is admittedly not a perfect or complete list. However, this list shows how colorblindness takes away from the beauties of having different skin colors, and at the same time fails to acknowledge the role that skin color plays in the challenges we face.

By removing colorblindness, we can appreciate people for how we were created, hopefully embrace the diversity of ways we were created, and recognize the problems that exist because people with different skin color are still treated in different ways. This removal of colorblindness may not solve all our problems with racial injustice, but hopefully it can at least make us aware of the root of racial problems.