Have you heard (mostly white) people use the phrase “I don’t see color” when referring to racial discrimination? Like with so many things we learn to say, the intentions behind using that phrase are usually good. The person saying it is most often trying to communicate that they don’t consider themselves to be biased against people of racial groups different than their own. Well, color blindness is real. Racial blindness is a lie.
Everyone is biased.
The sooner we can all admit (at the very least, to ourselves) that we are biased, the sooner we can each address those biases. Awareness is a funny thing. It’s like a threshold experience. Once you’ve opened your eyes to an idea, it’s harder to turn your back on it again.
I grew up in Detroit (yes, the city, not the suburbs) in the 70’s and 80’s. White flight really ramped up when I was in middle school. It seemed like more than half the houses on our block went up for sale and changed hands. My parents didn’t want to leave the city. I don’t think there was anything particularly noble about their decision. My dad was a carpenter and my mom stayed home with us. I’m not sure they could have afforded the suburbs. The biggest factor was probably my mother’s deep resistance to change. She didn’t want to leave their beautiful home in their beautiful neighborhood and the city of both their births.
By the time I graduated from high school, I was one of a handful of non-Black students. To say I was colorblind would have been stupid. Of course I noticed that I was sometimes the only white student in a classroom. How could I not?
Being aware of your bias will help you. I promise.
Rather than focusing on trying to pretend we’re all the same, we should embrace the ways we’re different. Those differences make us more interesting to one another. They mean we can learn from one another’s experiences and perspectives. Everyone’s lives are improved from that. But not when white people continue to pretend they don’t see color. Everyone sees differences. The key lies in not centering your own experiences as “the best” or “the only”. Instead, try taking the radical position of listening to others, making no assumptions, and seeing everyone as valuable fellow human beings. Who knows? You just might learn something.