Let’s be real: pretending you don’t see color doesn’t actually help racism; it just helps you sleep at night.
Colorblindness belief that one treats everyone equally with zero regard to a person’s race. Colorblindness also simplifies the complexity of institutionalized racism and the history of race relations in America.
As I write this, I recognize some people may be thinking, “Damn Kayla, It’s not even 9 AM and you’re attacking me like this?” That is not my intention. I recognize that many people believe that being “colorblind” is harmless and have no ill intention when promoting this ideology. However, if 2016 and 2017 have taught me anything, it’s that we don’t do a good enough job of listening to each other, especially to those whose experiences are different from ours. So to my White friends, allies, and people who believe ignoring the blatantly obvious parts that make us different is helping, I’m here to say that you’re actually part of the problem. And I hope you’ll listen to my reasoning why.
How Ya’ll Treated My Color In The Past
If we look right around the corner in history, it was not long ago when it was very popular for White people to engage in extrajudicial mob action that would typically end in the lynching of a Black man. These were family events that White people would bring their children to see; kind of like, today, when we go to the fair! Instead of rides and funnel cake though, everyone gathered around to see a Black man (most likely accused of raping a White woman) beaten and hanged. From 1882–1968, there were an estimated 5,000 lynchings in the United States. This part of my history is often overlooked in middle and highschool history lessons. However, in the rare event that it is taught, the enormity of this part of history is reduced to a sentence or two before going into more in-depth chapters on Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., the only two Black activists I would have known if I hadn’t learned about the countless others from home. The Civil Rights Era was always discussed as though it were centuries ago because we like to distance ourselves from a time when it was perfectly legal to deny civil rights to Black people for simply being Black. Voting rights, housing, employment, respect, a sense of safety, were just a few of the rights denied to people of Color. The sole intention of Jim Crow laws were to keep people of Color second-class citizens. Even though these were eventually declared unconstitutional, policy and laws were enacted with a renewed focus on continuing to oppress Black people using different methods. John Ehrlichman, a Nixon advisor, stated,
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities, arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
You read that right. That was a Presidential Aide admitting that they sought to criminalize Blackness through other forms. The color of my skin was seen as super predatory and this idea had been perpetuated in every aspect of our history. So forgive me, but a society with such a rich history of fear, hate, and disdain for the color of my skin has a hard time convincing me that they have the ability to ignore color on command.
Tomi Lahren is still problematic. Though it has been several months since her fall from grace for admitting she believed women should have right’s over their own bodies, Lahren still retains quite the following on social media. She is opinionated, she has a large platform, and is anti-Black but will deny that until the day she dies. Tomi Lahren is like a lot of white girls I know, actually. On The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Lahren states, “I’ve never used a racial slur to address people, I’ve never looked down on someone because of their skin color. To me, true diversity is diversity of thought, not diversity of color. I don’t see color.” Ignoring the fact that I’d die for her to elaborate more on wtf “diversity of thought” is, Tomi Lahren is yet another example of a white person who claims to not see color but actively attacks people of color for speaking of their oppression. For Tomi, she accepts (rather, tolerates) people of Color who shut the hell up and accepts the ways that White America is run. To have an opposing thought or to take a stand against your “supposed oppression” is to be an “ungrateful victim with a chip on your shoulder.” However, for someone who doesn’t see color, she seems to only insult and criticize Black movements, Black celebrities, and Black issues. Tomi has millions of views on her videos condemning Black Lives Matter, The Black Panther Party, Beyonce, Jay Z, and Colin Kaepernick. She blames Black people for all the issues that surround communities of color and fails to acknowledge that institutionalized racism is a factor that oppresses Black people in almost every system that exists in the U.S. In her video about Colin Kaepernick, Tomi asks, “How are you oppressed? Is it because the black unemployment rate is double what it is for whites? Or the homicide rate? Or the drop out rate? Or the percentage of minority communities on food stamps?” Tomi, it is because these institutionally racist systems were created by and for people who never wanted to see people of my Color become equal (let alone POWERFUL) members of society. And those same systems are upheld by the racist rhetoric you continue to promote every time you open your mouth.
A Collective Blind Eye
I find it generally alarming that for people to accept the differences of others, they must also pretend that those differences don’t exist. When you choose to pretend you’re colorblind, you are choosing to feel better about your own morals and actions rather than taking a stand for those being oppressed. People of color can’t turn being brown on and off. If we could, trust that we would every single traffic stop. There are people who will always see the color of my skin as a threat. Race influences how you are treated in this country. The world isn’t colorblind.
When discrimination occurs right in front of your eyes, will you still choose not to see color? Time and time again, I see, either in person or in footage, white people harassing minorities and no one stands up for the victim. The harassment does not surprise me because I’ve been a Black woman living in the U.S my entire life. The shock factor actually stems from the collective blind eye I see white people turn when a person of Color is discriminated against, or even killed for the color they choose not to see. A video of a woman at JC Penny berating a Latina woman is a perfect example of this collective blind eye. The silent camera woman showed the rest of the all store (all white people) and they were so silent and still that I could’ve sworn they were doing the #MannequinChallenge. I wonder what they were thinking. Maybe they were thinking, “I do not agree with this woman but I feel too uncomfortable to say anything.” Or maybe they were thinking, “I, too, am a racist so I’ll let her go the fuck off while I just watch.” Unfortunately, no one knows what they were thinking because they stayed silent. In my opinion, to stay silent is to accept the behavior of the aggressor. Even the angry, racist JC Penny shopper took the silence of the rest of the store as acceptance and permission to continue. She says, “I think everybody here probably feels the same damn way I do.” Maybe if we made a point to acknowledge that different doesn’t inherently mean negative, we’d see more people stand up for minorities and people of Color in times like these.
What kind of society have we become that tolerates the erasure of a person’s race, history, and culture under the guise of ‘acceptance’? If we’re in the business of picking and choosing which colors we see then choose to see these: the red blood of the innocent black men and women killed at the hands of the police, the black and blue bruises left on Sandra Bland after being thrown to the ground, and the orange of Kaleif Browder’s jumpsuit that he wrongly sat in for 3 years before ultimately killing himself. Are you blind to those colors too? I thought so.