Colorblindness: Denial Is Not A Byproduct of Diversity


By Jaylin Paschal

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I want you to see a black woman when you see me. My blackness is a major part of who I am. It is my ancestry, my heritage, my culture, and my experiences. If you do not see black, you do not see me.

I find it interesting that so many people take pride in their self-diagnosed colorblindness. They seem to truly feel righteous when telling me that they "don't see color." It's almost as if they believe that this colorblindness is a gift, one that conveniently excludes them from falling under categories labeled "racist," allows them to turn their back to blatant racial discrimination, and means that they're never offensive--everyone else is just sensitive.  

I have always wondered how someone would think "colorblindness," or seeing everyone as the same, was a good thing. Especially in the "melting pot" that is America. How could citizens who pride themselves on living in one of the most diverse countries in the world be made so uncomfortable by this diversity that they feel compelled to reject it? What does it mean to welcome differences, if these differences are just to be denied? Blackness, and any other racial or ethnic identity, is a characteristic that is not to be overlooked. Denying simple identifying characteristics is an unnecessary danger--one that leads to assimilation instead of integration. Pretending that everyone is the same takes away from the point of diversity. Instead, these differences should be embraced and appreciated. However, there is something about blackness--perhaps its history, or its present, or its future--that people do not want to see; that they do not want to embrace or appreciate. Something about melanin variance and cultural differences that they would rather not acknowledge. That is their own problem. The negativity, controversy, stereotypes, or stigmas that they place on blackness does not grant them the right to deny it is there. I don't know what it is about blackness that they would rather not see. I don't know what place or mindset or mood it takes them to, and I do not know why. Exploring their discomfort is their task alone. People of color do not want to be invisible, we want you to see all of us--even the bad "colored" parts you want so badly not to be there, so that you may stop struggling with them internally.

Colorblindness is simply a way to deny racism or neglect the strife of people of color. Ironically, it is a form of oppression in itself--a counterproductive ideology. It is racism without the racists, where the conflict lies between me and people who refuse to even see all of me. 

Granted, colorblindness at first seems to follow closely and literally Dr. King's call to judge people by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin. The unfortunate truth is, colorblindness does not allow us to learn about one another, grow together, and heal past wounds. True progression exists where you can see differences and not impose your own negativity onto them. It exists where you see that I'm black and you accept my blackness, instead of discarding it. See black and don't discriminate. See black and don't lock your car doors. See black and don't follow it through the convenience store. See black and don't fear for your life. That is progress.

As frustrated as I am with the concept of colorblindness, in the end I pity those who claim it. They are missing out on all of the beauty before them--all of the ancestry, the heritage, the culture, and the experiences which help to make people who they are.