Why is Being “Colorblind” Harmful?

First, where does the term “colorblind” come from?

It was first used in the Plessy v. Ferguson case, in Justice Harlan’s dissent.

He argued that our “constitution is colorblind”, intending not to reject racial separation or segregation – or even prevailing notions of White racial superiority – but to challenge differential racial treatment. (63)

How is it used now?

White judicial and ideological systems use colorblindness to “mean that the recognition of race at all is a discriminatory and unconstitutional act”. (63)

Why is it harmful?

“Colorblind advocates often mobilize a superficial class analysis to suggest class organizes society and has supplanted race as a category of concern.” (64)

“The racist element of our national class system is erased and replaced with a neutral, non structural understanding of poverty. Meritocracy, the American Dream, and the achievement ideology are all reified by the colorblind attention to class.” (64)

So basically, it takes racism out of the equation when trying to solve poverty, or any other issue, for that matter. It’s blaming the class system, and taking it away from the true cause, systematic racism.

Of course, the color of one’s skin is not a determining factor of race/ethnicity.

But Colorblindness erases what makes the cultures that we come from different and beautiful.

It whitewashes all of that out.

It gives an out to not be diverse and ignores intersectionality which gives a voice to all different kinds of viewpoints and experiences.

Acknowledging that everyone has a different experience in this world that’s based on the color of their skin/sexuality/gender/ethnicity/etc. will allow us to identify and make changes to inequality.

But it will also help us see that we are all one spirit and celebrate what amazing human beings we are!


Quotes from Racism, Public Schooling, and the Entrenchment of White Supremacy by Sabina E. Vaught

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