The Fallacy of “Colorblindness”

someone standing behind a young woman and covering her eyes with their hands

One of my pet peeves is the very white-culture concept of “colorblindness”. What irritates me even more is when white folks get bent out of shape when the topic, and it’s harmfulness, are brought up.

So, today we’re going to talk about “colorblindness”, what this means, and how its perceived by the people we’re supposed to be “colorblind” to.

Starting in the 80’s and moving up through the 90’s, US culture started seeing more and more racial integration in the media. Think about it…if you watched kids programming during this time there was a very consistent formula for those programs and movies that depicted integration: two white guys, white girl, a black person, then a brown or Asian person. It was a formula. It happened in a great deal of tv programming at this time: Kids Incorporated, Captain Planet, Power Rangers, Saved by the Bell, You Can’t Do that on Television, All That, Animorphs, Hey Arnold, and the list goes on.

On the surface…we can see what was going on here. I actually think that it was some kind of honest effort to be inclusive and champion diversity (as long as there were always more white folks in the formula than POC). It was also a really good marketing ploy…because face it, media is used to sell things. Whether it’s selling the actual movie or song…or whether it’s a tv program that sandwiches ads in the middle…something is getting sold. Money is being made and if you can draw in the black and brown demographic for Captain Planet you’re going to sell more action figures, backpacks, and t-shirts.

So yeah, this was a pretty nice time when we look back on it. What happened during this time, tho, is that we grew complacent. It became real easy to say “hey we show black and brown people on the Power Rangers” or “Will Smith is one of the most successful actors around” and we, as white folk, could sit back and be proud of ourselves for being so progressive. Since we invited Will Smith into our houses on a weekly basis, we, as white people who often may not have ever even had a black friend…well we start to develop this notion about black folk. We assume that things are great for black people. They’re getting their moment in the sun right? All of it is all good, right? Martin Luther King, Jr and Rosa Parks, right?

And then along comes Rodney King. Y’all know who Rodney King is? Remember him? He was the first very well known, recorded, and highly televised case of police brutality against a black man.

Los Angeles burned in April and May of 1992 as a result of what happened to Rodney King. I remember this so clearly. I was 22 and I watched the news for weeks as South Central LA neighborhoods erupted in outrage. I could not even imagine what it was like to be down there in the middle of all of it. It had to have been terrifying.

Other things were brewing at this time, as well: Ronald Reagan had popularized the negative black Welfare Queen image in the 80’s, Ice-T was under fire for his song “Cop Killer”, gangsta rap was gaining in popularity by the 90’s and young, angry black men became the boogeyman for white, suburban folk. Then along comes the Omnibus Crime Bill, of which Joe Biden was instrumental in.

It really did seem like a good idea at the time. There was a crime problem. There was an epidemic of crack and crank. The war on drugs was still going hot and heavy. The Clinton administration had shut down a lot of military bases. There was this huge surplus of military grade weapons for sale. All of this swirled together to form the catalyst to the Prison Industrial Complex that you may have heard about.

Much of this was festering in, typically, lower-income urban areas that had a preponderance of black and brown people. These black and brown people became the cash cows of the Prison Industrial Complex.

But things were good in the suburbs! You may have lived in a slightly diverse neighborhood. There might have even been a black family, maybe. By this time, Full-House had informed us that the black friend who lived down the street and who spoke like us and dressed like us and was really…white acting…like us…they were just like us. We liked them. So we didn’t see their color. We were noble and colorblind for them. After all, Zack the Black Power Ranger was a good guy, right?

But were we really as colorblind, tolerant, and accepting as we thought we were? What if they didn’t talk like us…or dress like us. What if they…y’know…acted blaaaack? What then? Are you still really “colorblind” my clueless Caucasian? Are you really?

Here’s the biggest problem with this racially “colorblind” business. You, most likely well-intentioned yet lazy white person who is either unaware of the big world outside or simply doesn’t want to be bothered with the conflict of all…HEY we live in a racist country. Now you “colorblind” folks may gasp and say “well no…no…look at Tyler Perry. Look at Lebron James…*gasp gasp*…we’ve had a Black president!”

For real? One out of 46 and we’re all good now with 500 years of oppression and systemic racism?

No.

The people making the bulk of the laws here in the US have proven themselves to be aggressively non-colorblind for most of the history of this country.

AND THIS IS THE PROBLEM.

You, lazy white person who wants to skirt the difficult conversations about race and culture, you choosing to be *colorblind* conveniently makes it so that you can’t see discrimination when it happens. You are the same person who scoffs when people of color mention that they’re being treated unfairly. You dismiss them with your “colorblindness”, but really, what’s happening here is that you are snowblind. You are blinded by your own whiteness.

This is how we ended up with cops killing unarmed black people in crazy proportions. 

This is how we ended up with a country that just blindly accepts and, often times, cheers on a disgusting, cruel, piggish, Nazi apologist president.

This is how we ended up with a country more fractured than it was 50 years ago…because white Yankees refused to acknowledge the deeper and wider racial tensions that were brewing because we’re “colorblind”. 

This is how we ended up with Proud Boys body slamming innocent young black women on the Salem Capitol plaza.

It’s true…a person is not defined by their race. They are not defined by their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. However all of these attributes of us as humans coalesce together and play a very large part in how we are able to move in this society, what we experience, and how we experience it. To select a piece of a person and just…disappear it…POOF…well what you’re doing is you’re taking a piece of that person away that is an inconvenience to you and you’re trying to shove it under the rug and pretend it isn’t there.

But it’s there.

Before you decide to try to build up an argument against this, feel free to read up on this phenomena a little bit. I’ve provided a little collection of different things you can start with. It’s actually a pretty big sociology topic that has been studied in depth. 

I’m done with opinion by the way. Opinion is like faith…it only truly means something to the person who holds it.

If you’re going to build up an argument against me, please come loaded with research. Give me something that has been tested, measured, and shows some level of critical thinking and scientific method. Prove to me that I’m wrong. Remember that you can’t prove anything with opinion, so come loaded with actual evidence or be dismissed.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/color-blindness-is-counterproductive/405037

https://www.oprahmag.com/life/relationships-love/a32824297/color-blind-myth-racism/

https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2009/colorblindness-the-new-racism

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culturally-speaking/201112/colorblind-ideology-is-form-racism

Published by Jonah Sheridan Fenn

Nerd herder, word wrangler, working on the next chapter...

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