Oh definitely — I’m not advocating colour blindness, it’s intellectually dishonest and can lead to racial tensions in society going untreated, and it is every citizens responsibility to address those challenges. And yes, I echo what you are saying regarding many whites not having the emotional vocabulary to discuss issues of race, anxiety about race and so on.
As an aside, I think that in large part the lack of understanding arises because many (mostly on the left) are too trigger happy in calling people racist, so recipients just retreat into their shells and think screw this. I’ve seen the insult flung around because they themselves are paranoid about being labelled a racist and want to fly a flag, by throwing another under the bus.
If people are going to open up about race issues in any society, it’s going to be helped if the environment in which they do so is not hostile. It looks like the work you are doing in this area is beneficial, ever more so as it tones down the judgement and turns up the playfulness.
But yes what I mean to say is, accept consciously that there are differences in skin tones, but then to put that in context, rank it by its significance. In my experience minorities don’t like being defined primarily by their skin tone, it’s a minor aspect of their character, even if it is the first thing a majority would notice.
Perhaps I’m being overly harsh on American culture, but I remember being in New York about fifteen years ago, and all the porters and bellboys in my hotel were black and all the management types were white. The same was true going into one of your CVS stores. There was an uncomfortable delineation by ethnicity, more so than in other places I’ve visited.
A colourblind approach would ignore that. What got me was that in the face of such clear division, very few were actually willing to talk about ethnicity or skin colour. There was a palpable fear of being labelled a racist, or it was seen as crass. I was scorned (by whites) for asking where our taxi driver hailed from. This for me is a go-to question I ask on many a drunken night out, but because he was American Pakistani, it was seen as potentially impolite. Tensions were much worse than in the UK or where I live, Switzerland (which can be a little xenophobic at times to say the least).
So I understand your approach in making the discussion about race more palatable — it’s about time! But I think we need to stay vigilant of knowing when the conversation has ended. Undercook the chicken it’s salmonella, overcook it and it’s burnt — the conversation should end at the right time.
If I had an action plan:
- Punish racism (morally wrong, economically inefficient)
- Punish false accusations of racism (stops conversation)
- Cross-expose ethnicities (increases mutual understanding)
- Stop affirmative action (morally wrong)
- Push a common identity ‘American’ (blurs racial boundaries)
- Stop talking about race unnecessarily (risks creating boundaries)
In any case, best of luck to you.