Have you ever referred to a person in your life as “warm-hearted”? Most of us have. However, nobody assumes we are referring to the actual temperature of that person’s heart as measured in degrees Fahrenheit. “Warm-hearted” uses a physical metaphor to describe the nature of a person. In this case, the person we are describing is likely open and nurturing. The same principle applies to being colorblind.
Nobody who pursues being colorblind actually thinks that they can avoid seeing a person’s race or skin color. Colorblind is a phrase that also uses a physical metaphor, but here describes an ethical principle. In this case, a person strives to treat people without regard to race, not blind to it. They would see color but choose to do the mental work it takes not to take that person’s color into account, if at all necessary. (Much thanks to Coleman Hughes for eloquently pointing this out.)
When people disparage the concept of colorblindness, it always feel as if they’re being disingenuous. They’re cheapening the very concept we have utilized for the process of equality across at least two thousand years. No argument for equality of human beings has ever successfully been made and applied outside of the recognition of dignity based solely on a person’s humanity. If they are human, they’re part of the in-crowd. That’s it. Anything that tries to diverge from that creates groups, which inevitably end up with conflicts.
And to be honest, I think at some level, people know it’s unfair to characterize colorblindness as blind to race. They’re likely just supporting whatever slate of ideas their chosen team has adopted.
Color consciousness is the en vogue term for what is popular today. Often people describe critical race theory as simply color consciousness. The concept being that we need to be aware of a person’s ethnic background in order to understand the cultural expectations that come with that ethnicity. Or something of that sort. As if ethnicity must be permanently tied to a person’s culture and background.
But here’s the problem with that:
- To be color conscious is to purposefully take skin color into account.
- To be purposefully aware of someone’s skin color, you must presume value in that process.
- In order for that process to be valuable, you must presume that there is something important about a person you can assess based on their skin color.
- Presuming something about a person because of their skin color is the definition of prejudice, as it pre-judges.
You cannot be color conscious without creating discrimination and prejudice.
At the level of individual relations, you are differentiating/discriminating your behavior and/or assumptions based on that color assessment. Otherwise, why be purposefully conscious of color?
At the level of populations, it necessitates actions based on categories that cannot account for all of the diversity within those groups. Especially today, individuals within groups based on the social construction of race are far too diverse to be lumped in together. And isn’t it actually more interesting to assume less and learn more about people?
The likely defense to this process of color consciousness is that it does so for a good reason. But focusing on the assumed outcome (that so far has zero positive evidence) without first identifying underlying principles is still a process based on poor fundamentals. What actually happens is we end up with bad principles and poor outcomes.
Or maybe you think this is an absolutely necessary process. Maybe you think that to be color conscious is a good thing. So, let me ask those of you who may think so. Take a look at my profile picture.
What does my skin color tell you about me that you need to know?
What does your skin color tell me about you that I need to know?
I hope for your sake you answer both of those questions with “absolutely nothing.”