Darrel Hicks, University of Pittsburgh
Should the United States be a “colorblind” nation? That is a question that has been present in the public consciousness for years. Color Blindness refers to race consciousness and how people should ignore it in order for perfect equality to be realized. When looking at this ideology at face value, “lower levels of race-consciousness aimed at treating people equally and eliminating discrimination sound like positive ideals to strive toward, yet it is problematic to claim these ideals as the reality when they do not reflect current conditions” (1). Racism is still very much prevalent in our society so for it to be ignored by the American people would mean no awareness or solution to current racial issues.
Creating a dialogue about the past and race relations as it relates to current issues makes the public uncomfortable. Most of the racism that occurs now is systematic; rules, policies, or laws that work to give a majority race an advantage within society. Entire ethnic groups are stereotyped causing them to lose opportunities for professional advancement and educational assistance based on cultural backgrounds.
With schools teaching equality they unintentionally teach to look at the world with a colorblind filter. According to Uma M. Jayakumar from the University of San Francisco, white students tend to be exposed to discrimination and segregation at a young age. Those experiences begin to affect them by manifesting into stereotyping and racial bias which then leads to institutionalized racism. Since colleges teach a colorblind ideology, students being exposed to racial stimuli will normalize it and be unable to perceive racism (1). With the number of minorities growing in this country, there is no way that the youth can be left with an inability of addressing race.
It is a sense of denial that drives the color-blind ideology; believing that there are no problems involving differences in race. But with that denial, comes a possible inherent belief that minorities are the lesser while whites are superior. It is best to acknowledge racial tensions than to ignore them because minorities willing to point out the issues in our society would receive backlash from those who take on this system. This backlash stems from feeling threatened; feeling as though the perfect and fair society they live in is being compromised.
Racial colorblindness only serves to maintain a status quo and to continue with the institutionalized racism that still occurs today. Though well meaning, the often misunderstood ideology only takes explicit racism and transforms it into implicit, making it harder to perceive. When this idea is taken on, many tend to embrace it and flaunt it, thus showing complete positivity towards the subject. That positivity can rub off on someone of a younger generation whether that be a younger sibling or a neighbor and then it becomes the norm.
As of right now, “White households are [generally] 13 times wealthier than black ones, the largest gap since 1989. Blacks are 21⁄2 times as likely as whites to be arrested for drug possession, even though about the same percentage of blacks and whites use drugs” (2). With the ideal being integrated into the education system, race issues often get treated as a joke. People of the younger generations typically think that because the negative intention is not present, its ok to create puns and comments that immediately feed into the racist stereotypes that keep minorities down. This also feeds into the color-blind ideology because it will make it more difficult for others to understand what’s offensive and what’s not. With this in mind, most people will believe that since the intention was not there, there is no offense given but that is not the case. Everyone is different; something that is fine to one person could be offensive to another.
For a solution to be found, there needs to be a willingness from the people to accept the fact that the world is not a simple place. That is why the only real solution to this is to have a dialogue with the younger generation.
By teaching children about race in today’s society, they will be able to formulate their own ideologies. The colorblind ideology in many ways is based on ignorance about the true nature of race relations in America. These young people are not being fully educated on the subject until college but by that time they’ve already made up their opinions. At home, many parents are not giving their kids that education either; they are relying on the schools to give them all the education they need. To go with that, many educators fail to see the relevance of the subject matter leaving their students with a lack of clarity. “Once teachers recognize that silence on these issues contributes to the problem, then they may be more likely to interrupt racism rather than ignore it” (3).
Though the intentions are good-hearted and without any disrespect, Colorblindness is not the way our country needs to go if the issues with race are to be eliminated. The ideology will only create generations of people who will be uniformed and in denial about the true nature race relations. By having early educators create a dialogue with their students, this country will see a change in where racism stands in our society.
(1)Jayakumar, Uma M. The Shaping of Postcollege Colorblind Orientation Among Whites:
Residential Segregation and Campus Diversity Experiences. N.p.: Harvard Educational
Review, 2015. Print.
(2)Boutte, Gloria, Julia Lopez-Robertson, and Elizabeth Powers-Costello. "Moving Beyond
Colorblindness In Early Childhood Classrooms." Early Childhood Education Journal 39.5
(2011): 335-342. Academic Search Complete. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.
(3) Luckerson, Victor. Millennials can’t afford to be color-blind about race.N.p.:Time Inc., 2015