Most Americans today would agree that “institutional racism has existed since the colonization of the Americas; slavery and segregation in the form of Jim Crow laws being prime examples. But many Americans today actually believe that we live in a “post-racial society, especially following the election of our first ever black president. The biggest question to ask these people is when did it end? What policy was completely effective in doing away with white supremacy in America? To truly and fully understand how we as White Americans can consciously ignore modern systematic racism, we must understand the ideology of “Colour-blindness in America”.
Having a colourblind ideology eliminates the idea of race. But for many people of colour, the race is very much so a real thing. Talking about race is important because if we don’t, it’s as if we’re acting like slavery, segregation, and all our past and present mistreatments of people of colour never existed. There are already racist systems and policies in place and if we continue to pretend race isn’t a real problem, if we continue to claim “colour-blindness, there will never be a possibility of changing them. Who is it that benefits from the suppression of stories of people of colour? Not the people of colour, who are forced to swallow their identities and bury their experiences. America needs to become a place where these things can be heard, valued and then actually addressed.
Another downside to colour-blindness is that it equates colour with something negative. The phrase, “I don’t see colour, I just see people implies that colour is a problem and that it’s being ignored. Not to mention, this is something that is never said to white people. No one ever says in reference to a white person, “I don’t see your colour, I just see you. For people of colour whose race is a pivotal part of their personal identities, the comment can make them feel invisible. The need for colour-blindness implies that there is something wrong with the fact that God made people of colour and the culture that they were born into is something that shouldn’t be talked about. The colour of a person’s skin has nothing to do with who they are, it’s simply a genetically passed down trait that came about due to the geographical location of their ancestors. The Colour of skin doesn’t equate to the character of a person. Racial labels and terms are complex and often problematic. But the problems associated with colour-blindness are possibly far worse. Without being colour conscious, we would never be able to acknowledge the racial disparities in our society. Some examples are inequalities in income, health, and education. Let’s begin with the inequalities of income. Black Americans die at higher rates from all major causes of mortality in the United States than all white Americans. The most significant differences can be found in deaths by heart attacks between black Americans and white Americans. The rate of essential hypertension, a precursor to heart attacks, among black Americans (approximately 37%) is about twice that among white Americans (approximately 18%).
Racial oppression is only one side of “race. The race is also now very closely tied with people’s identities and signifies cultures, traditions, languages, and heritage it can be a genuine source of pride. The race has become a basic ingredient that makes up a person’s being, even if you don’t consciously notice its role in your life. Imagine being forced to suppress something that you openly acknowledge and value about yourself. Denying people of their identities isn’t racial progress, but, it pushes us back into our racist history. True progress will come when White Americans no longer feel threatened by the racial identities of groups of colours. When people say that they don’t see colour, they’re ignoring all of the experiences that people of colour have endured. It dismisses and invalidates their experiences with prejudice and stereotypes. Papering over the daily challenges faced by people of colour doesn’t make them go away; it just sends a message that those experiences don’t matter enough to be acknowledged, that they don’t need to be talked about.
For the first half of the 20th century, it was completely legal to deny blacks and other racial minorities basic rights that white Americans has access to such as housing, voting rights, and jobs. Civil rights reforms helped to make these practices illegal in present-day society, but discrimination persists through a combination of economic, social, and institutional practices and ideals. The colourblind approach to race isn’t an accidental thing. Many of us are taught at a young age that talking about or even just acknowledging race is something that we don’t do. But this way of thinking, this idea, only hurts people of colour. We must embrace the differences; we must talk about them. Pretending that race and racism doesn’t exist won’t make it go away, it won’t save us from the horrors of our ancestors’ past actions. Colour-blindness is just as big of a threat to racial justice as White Supremacists. Claiming colour-blindness isn’t a way to solve racism, it’s an attempt to shelter ourselves from the horrible reality that is racism in modern America. Promoting colour-blindness is easy. Colour-blindness eliminates the need to recognize and discuss extremely uncomfortable realities while perpetuating a culture of racism, injustice, and oppression. Acknowledging differences is not racist but refusing to accept racism for what it is today is.