Why Colorblindness Is Not Okay
By Haley Norris
People from countries around the world have rallied together to protest and advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement. It is beautiful yet saddening, to see people march for this movement, since so many have lost their lives because of racial discrimination and police brutality. Social media has been flooded with stories and ideologies including colorblind propaganda.
Colorblind is when someone or something is not influenced by racial prejudice. Colorblind is someone saying that they do not feel any differently being in a group of primarily white people opposed to a group of primarily black people. Colorblindness is deceiving because having a community that does not categorize people by the shade of their skin seems ideal. It is a mindset that initially seems positive for our community, but it’s not. A colorblind space is not a safe space, it is an ignorant one.
If you promote or practice a colorblind mentality, you are negating the experiences of BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color). The truth is, people are treated differently based on the shade of their skin even in 2020. By saying you do not see color, you are telling people that their pain isn’t valid. The United States has become a place where a black man cannot go jogging without being murdered. His name was Ahmaud Arbery. He was labeled as a threat to two men just because of his black skin. If you don’t see color, you don’t see how wrong and hateful it is for someone to kill another based on their skin.
By saying “I don’t see color,” you have made yourself an unsafe place for BIPOC to share their experiences. I have a Bachelor’s degree from a state university, which I see as a great privilege, since I know many cannot pursue higher education for reasons beyond their control. I would not have been able to receive the education I did without a scholarship I received for being a high-achieving minority. It helped with my tuition and allowed me to feel financially confident in pursuing my Masters. This is an experience that changed the trajectory of my life. It is a happy moment that I would want to share with you, but wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so if you denied that the shade of my skin impacted my life.
If you do not see color, then you do not see culture and history. I couldn’t tell you about how proud I am of my great grandparents for being migrant workers or how my heart warms every time I hear my grandma talk about making tamales with her whole family as a girl. I couldn’t tell you how I cried after I saw a documentary in my freshman year seminar illustrating the conditions of modern day indigenous reservations. I couldn’t tell you how guilty I feel every time I see coverage about the ICE detention centers because I am a natural born brown citizen.
This isn’t about pity or empathy. It is about understanding. I want you to understand that our lives are different because I wear my brown skin everyday. It isn’t just me either. Every person wears their skin 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. We didn’t choose to not be white. It really hurts having someone hate you because of the shade of skin you were born with. I need you to understand and respect my brown skin, especially if you have never had a stranger tell you in a public place to “go back to your own country” because I have and I need you to see that it hurts.
I know you may have said, “I don’t see color,” with the best of intentions and that’s why I wrote this. Your parents or peers may have told you that not recognizing race is the best way to erase racism, it’s not. But it is okay to learn and grow! It is okay to change your opinion! It is okay to say, “I see that our skin is different colors and we live different lives because of it.” Now is the time to tell BIPOC that you hear us.