'Colorblindness' and the Deceptive New Way to Ignore Institutional Racism
"I don't see race." Those were the words uttered by Tomi Lahren on 'The Daily Show' with Trevor Noah recently where she made a guest appearance. A strange claim coming from a woman who has made a career representing the vitriolic, quasi-"alt right," angry side of conservatives in America who lash out at non-Whites on a daily basis. Claiming to be "colorblind" has become a tactic used by racists and apologists for racism as they creatively find ways to inflame communities along racialized lines. So they get to say racially-controversial things, while claiming to not be racist and anyone who calls them racist for saying something racially-controversial...are labeled racist themselves. You see how that works?
This claim of not seeing race is also coming from a woman who routinely makes inflammatory statements like "Blacks Lives Matter is the new KKK." A statement so historically ignorant and mentally brain dead considering everyone knows the history of the KKK. The statement wasn't made because it is accurate in any sort of way, it was made for the specific purpose of getting a rise out of people and is clearly racial in its intent. However because she didn't use a racial epithet or stereotypically mock Black people, she can claim to not be racist.
Colorblindness is a product of our so-called "post-racial" society. A society that isn't so much post-racial as much as it is blind to acts of racism, hence the oft used term "colorblind society." After the 1960's, white supremacists realized that they were going to have to be less obvious and blatant with their racism. This is because blatant, card-carrying racism is no longer something to be proud of in polite society, but of course this wasn't going to get rid of racism. It has only made racism more covert. Politicians in the Republican Party for instance now use coded rhetoric to get certain points across. As Michelle Alexander points out in 'The New Jim Crow," being so-called 'tough on crime' was essentially code for using the criminal injustice system to isolate and criminalize Black people, mostly Black men (but increasingly Black women too).
To my disgust, some Black people have even taken on this ideology. For Black people, I honestly believe some care more about feeling comfortable around White people than they do acknowledging that a system is still in place that doesn't see them as being equal. Some Black people have learned the wrong lessons from the Civil Rights movement and have essentially become compromised post-Integration. Some think that just because they can do business with white people and live in white communities, then their community cannot be targeted by systemic and systematic racism. It shows a complete lack of understanding about what racism/white supremacy is really all about.
What's worse, integration has literally integrated Black men and women into systems of racism that still exist today! So if you're white and want to ignore racism, then what better way to do it than to say for instance "well if the judicial system is racist, then why did the Black judge let him off?" How about, "you can't say the cops are racist because the cop who killed him was Black" or "you can't say the cops are racist because the police chief is Black." Words can't properly describe how compromised many have become in the Black community or how easily it has become for Black and White people to shut down discussions about racism simply by stating that there are Black people involved.
Now it's not to say that a number of people of all races aren't truly colorblind. Some are, and I think there are more truly colorblind people today than certainly a century ago when race theory and scientific racism were in full effect. Regardless of how much one thinks they don't acknowledge race, this is still very much a society defined by racial caste. So people who are not racist have to be careful not to project their unbiased views onto other people who may not be unbiased. I see this far too often in certain liberal/progressive spaces.
This reality of America still being affected by racism within its various institutions clashes with the notion of colorblindness and because of this causes cognitive dissonance. People are forced to acknowledge that either there hasn't been as much progress as we've led ourselves to believe, or there has been and people such as myself are the "real racists" because we talk about racism. Then there are those who try to have it both ways and call out racism while at the same time not fully acknowledging some of the worse aspects of our current society. You have to decide which one you are.
Another problematic issue with racial colorblindness is the fact that it ignores that there are unique differences and traits between people. These differences cause some to become apprehensive of people who don't share their own traits. If society at large were truly colorblind, then we'd have no issue getting a movie made with black Ancient Kemetians (Egyptians). White-washing wouldn't really be a thing. White-washing only exists because people do see color...whether the Tomi Lahren's or Raven-Symone's of America choose to acknowledge that or not.
The way to fight racism/white supremacy isn't to ignore race. That's like saying the way to fight crony capitalism is to ignore capitalism. Much like the concept of capitalism, race isn't going anywhere. If you really want to do away with racism, it's not to be blind to color. It's to expose the people in our society who not only see race, but pass policies that detrimentally impacts those who are targeted. It's to overturn laws that negatively impact the black community which includes everything from mass incarceration to voter suppression laws. Simply saying that you don't see race as you troll the same groups of people you pretend you don't have an agenda against is not convincing, nor is it believable.