The Problem with Colorblindness
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
More than 51 years after Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, race issues in America are still difficult to discuss. A popular ideology today is the ‘colorblind’ approach—the theory that discrimination can be abated by ignoring or overlooking racial and ethnic differences. This theory aims to promote equality by creating a society in which we see past racial differences.
This is a problem.
There are good intentions behind the idea of a colorblind society. In theory, everyone should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, and everyone should have equal opportunities in the U.S. regardless of their race. In practice, though, adopting a mindset of ‘colorblindness’ does nothing to solve the racial problems facing America today.
Saying we don’t see color makes it easy for us to deny or disregard acts of discrimination and racism—it makes it easier to categorize them as isolated incidents or personal issues instead of the institutionalized racism that they are actually reflective of. White people have been privileged for centuries in this country, while other minority groups have been systematically oppressed and disadvantaged. It was never a level playing field, and it still is not today. In a ‘colorblind’ society, whites can effectively ignore the results of these years of discrimination and the persisting racial inequalities. Unfortunately, ignoring something does not make it go away.
While people claiming to ‘not see color’ are trying to embody the ideals of equality, they inadvertently send the message that being non-white is a bad thing. It implies that non-whites are somehow ‘other’, and that that ‘otherness’ is a bad thing that should be ignored. While race is a social construct, our different backgrounds, heritages and cultures are very real and important parts of our lives, and those should not be disregarded in an attempt to whitewash our society.
Adopting an attitude of colorblindness only serves to delay meaningful dialogue surrounding race. We should not be striving to see each other as all the same; instead, we should be able to recognize each other’s differences, understand them, and celebrate them. It is not colorblindness that we should be striving for, but equality.
Born and raised in a small suburb of Boston, Sarah is currently a junior at a boarding school in Massachusetts. When she isn't doing homework, you can find her rehearsing in the dance studio, browsing the library for a new book, or binge-watching old movies on Netflix. In addition to working with Her Culture, Sarah is a Her Campus High School Ambassador, Trendspotter for MTV, and peer mentor through the Girls Leadership Project at her high school.