“I don’t see race. I just see people.”
“I don’t care if you’re black, white, green, purple, or polka-dotted!”
“We’re all just people.”
I’m sure every single one of you have heard these sayings in your life. In a perfect world, a perfect society, these would be the most amazing phrases in the universe. The problem is, we don’t live in a perfect world. I don’t think we ever will. In this world, phrases that people think aren't racist, actually are.
What does it mean to have a colorblind society? And how is it rooted to white privilege?
Having a color blind society means that one's racial classification does not affect a person’s socially created opportunities. Many people who choose not to see race or skin color, are also choosing not to see the racial inequities, the history of trauma, and the current trauma faced in a racist society.
Do we have a color blind society? Absolutely not.
People of color (BIPOC) have been taught that we will not have the same opportunities or the same experiences as our white counterparts. We know this. Many will explain that race and ethnicity do matter, it affects our opportunities, our income, and so much more.
That is how, unfortunately, it has always been. No matter how hard we work and how much we are willing to give up, white people will never have to work as hard. They fit the social standard. They are expected to be successful, to have an accomplished future, to live a comfortable life.
“White people, who are unlikely to experience disadvantages due to race, can effectively ignore racism in American life, justify the current social order, and feel more comfortable with their relatively privileged standing in society.” Fitchburg State Library (Anti-racism resources).
A color blind approach to things allows an easy way to ignore or move past the talk about racism. Usually people who choose to ignore racism will address it by thinking, if you don’t talk about it, it will just go away, which is the complete opposite of what you have to do.
Color blindness in education and how it affects students of color
Color blindness has been rooted in education. Teachers do not want to acknowledge our race because that’s “not what matters.” We know it matters.
Race and ethnicity often play a very significant role in a child's life. It contributes to their behavior, their beliefs, and their culture. Teachers miss the opportunity to connect with their students when they wish to ignore race.
Though I understand why teachers say they are color blind when it comes to their students, recognizing that a student's race affects their learning allows teachers to be receptive to individual experiences. It also allows students to be more comfortable with themselves and more open to communication with their teachers and peers.
Confronting racism and color blindness
Teachers may feel hesitant to raise such a conversation about these topics but if handled correctly, educators can learn and easily engage their students in conversations about race. Whether they read about it, watch videos, or have small group seminars.
When opportunities like this arise, it would help if not just students but other educators understand the different perspectives of their students and help connect the past with the present. It will not only help educate, but it will also help set up a safe and respectful classroom environment.