I recently was reading an article in the Atlantic about a common approach to dismantling racism in Hollywood titled The Case Against Colorblind Casting by Angelica Jade Bastién. As a consultant and educator on issues of diversity, inclusion and equity I am often addressing how colorblindness doesn't dismantle racism, but helps cover racism up so it can continue to fester and destroy People of Color.
Colorblindness, simply put, is the idea that race doesn’t matter. According to Adia Harvey Wingfield, colorblindness is “the idea that it’s admirable to profess not to see color, that it’s problematic to see oneself as a member of a racial group.” It is fed by a hope to be post-racial, unaffected by the distasteful racist practices and attitudes of the past.
So what's wrong with wanting to disacknowledge race? Well, when I think of colorblindness I think of the following analogy.
Say you want to complete the New York Marathon—it's a lofty goal that you think is truly worthwhile. You decide to put your effort, focus and dedication into completing this goal and begin researching how to make it happen. You start running every day, invest in some new shoes, go to the gym and spend the hundreds of hours training. You consider and reconsider your technique.
It's not going to be easy, but again, this goal is important to you. You may fall many times, scrape your knees, twist your ankles. But you get up, you keep trying. You even run several smaller or half-marathons in preparation. Some go well. Some do not. This is all part of the process as you work towards the big day when you finally cross the finish line. And when you achieve your goal you will know that the work you put in is what made the achievement worth something.
Now let's look at that goal with a colorblind approach.
Again, you see there is value in completing the New York Marathon, but instead of putting in all the hard work you decide you'll just start telling everyone you won. Hell, you may even go on eBay and buy a medal to put on the wall. Relax, and bask in your victory.
To invest in colorblindness is to state that you've reached a point where race doesn't matter, ignoring that racism continues to do significant damage to People of Color. And if you believe race doesn't matter, then you are relieving yourself of the continued responsibility to work to dismantle the racism that you've chosen to ignore.
To be for us to truly say that we "don't see race," we must first achieve racial equity. But this victory will only come if we put in the long effort it takes to achieve it. We have to set goals, organize, learn from each other, try out ideas that may or may not work. We may stumble, but we keep trying because the goal is so important.
It's okay to strive for a post-racial future. And it’s okay to work on challenging the notions of how we’re supposed to categorize peoples’ worth based on their race. But we’ve got a ways to go to get there.
In the meantime colorblindness is a dangerous falsehood that obscures reality. Race exists. It impacts all of us. It has damaging and dangerous impacts on People of Color, and cannot be ignored until we achieve racial equity. And we don’t get the prize without doing the work.