what does it mean to be colorblind?

When asked about their approach to race in America, many people will claim they are color-blind, meaning that issues of race simply don’t exist in their world view. At a recent diversity conference I attended I learned the following concepts to consider about the “color-blind” claim:

  • The vast majority who claim to be color-blind or completely neutral in regard to race are white.
  • A definition of “color-blind” is: “To claim that race is not important, even in those situations where race is important.
  • Correlated with the claim of racial colorblindness is the increase in what is known as “micro-aggression.” Micro-aggression can be defined as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.” generally happening below the level of awareness of well-intentioned members of the dominant culture. The result of micro-aggressions to those exposed to them are an increase of feeling discriminated against. It has been called “the new face of racism.”

It seems to me when whites claim that race is not an issue in their lives, the problem is that  the group historically the most racist and privileged in our society is now claiming race doesn’t matter and they are cleansed from any and all taint of racism. The danger is it is a form of denial which prevents the real work of eliminating racism and sexism from continuing as it prevents the issue from being discussed truthfully and openly. Rather, it becomes a subtle way of condoning and continuing social racism.

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