Colorblindness can be considered a new form of less aggressive but equally harmful racism, which generally entails a refusal or sometimes deliberate denial to acknowledge the racial differences and ethnic categories that exist in multi-racial societies (Beaman & Petts, 2020), and how these differences affect various structures in those societies and the opportunities which the people belonging to the majority and minority groups are exposed. The paper explores the idea behind colorblindness and looks at examples in French society. It also looks at how color blindness has led to various effects over time, how this affects people in both the majority and minority groups and their perceptions of themselves and others, and how this affects most especially children. The paper also looks at the religious system and structures and how various religious frames justify colorblindness in society. Religion is one of the few avenues through which people of different racial groups meet and interact.
Colorblindness, the new form of racism, has been taking over society worldwide, especially in Europe and North America. The two regions today have the highest concentration of socially diverse and multi-racial societies. Recent events have brought the discussion surrounding racism back into the spotlight after it had been allowed to float in the air unaddressed. The most significant of these events is the murder of the American citizen George Floyd, who was of African American descent and was, therefore, a member of the minority groups. Videos of his arrest and the brutal treatment he experienced at the hands of police officers inspired rage worldwide, and the racial issue that had been floating aimlessly suddenly had to be addressed. The fact that racism is still a big part of today’s society was made clear. Through this event and many others that had preceded it, revelations were made of how racism had evolved from the harsh outright, and inhumane discrimination that existed in the past to a more subtle and cunning form that has infiltrated systems and many other social structures. This new form of racism is also defended through various assertions and belief systems. It is, therefore, hazardous as it has the potential to easily cause minority groups to succumb to the silent oppressive nature of color blindness, and this may also spread to the consequent generations. This paper takes a deep look at color blindness, the various forms in which it is propagated, its effects on society, how it has infiltrated important institutions in human society and some possible ways it can be addressed.
What is color blindness?
Color blindness is a concept that generally aims to counter social injustice in terms of racial discrimination, which may occur through institutionalized practices, prejudices, biases, and just outright racism. The concept uses several approaches, one being the universalist approach employed by the French people and deeply rooted in French culture. Universalism among the French people aims at uniting all French citizens under a single French identity despite their geographical location, cultural differences, race, or even ethnicity (LaBreck, 2021). The central belief under which the universalist approach is founded is that cultural differences, historical occurrences, and variations do not influence human nature. Following universalism, instead of implementing policies and laws that would address issues among marginalized and minority groups, the French government instead implements policies. It pumps funding generally, influenced by socioeconomic and geographical factors. The main aim of this approach is to get a scenario in which the whole neighborhood or region(s) gets to benefit, and lives are improved holistically (LaBreck, 2021).
While this approach may seem very practical and accommodative initially, it has many downsides. It can easily lead to adverse negative effects on the development of society, especially in marginalized communities. Choosing to ignore the fact that there are racial issues that need to be addressed may affect how children in such societies, especially those in minority groups, end up growing up in those societies. This approach may cause the teachers to be subconsciously insensitive or unaware of the student’s differences in school. It can affect the teacher’s capability to understand the reasons behind specific students’ behaviors, personalities, and even confidence in the school environment, which is often quite competitive. It can also make the students feel isolated or confused about who they are, although their ethnicity or race is integral to who they are (Scruggs, 2009). The fact that they need to play it down or ignore this part of their identity to be accommodated in society despite the instances of discrimination they see clearly can be very damaging, especially for students who are developing mentally and socially. The color blindness approach also extends into other professions, such as in psychology, wherein an instance of a therapist who is not aware of the racial issues surrounding those among his clients that are people of color, which may not always be intentional, the interaction between the psychotherapist and the client can quickly turn hostile and unproductive as the psychologist may view a client’s allusion to the racial issues affective him or her or one of the people they are close to, as a deliberate attempt to step away from the critical issues or as an excuse not to face their problems. As such, it can be very damaging to both, as the patient leaves feeling very frustrated, and the therapist continues following his or her prejudiced mindset and feels justified to do so, not realizing there might be a serious need to review their perspective (Williams, 2011).
How is colorblindness important in analyzing the so-called ‘new racism’?
Understanding color blindness, its effects in misleading a whole society, and the consequent silent discrimination of minority groups are essential in understanding why color blindness is not a suitable method of addressing racial and ethnic issues and causes more harm than good. Though the idea behind instituting color blindness was a good one and was based on good intentions and the understanding that there is one human race and that people should not be divided or be exposed to prejudice based on aspects such as the color of our skin or where someone originally came from, the concept has been corrupted over time to the point that it is being used as a loophole by many members of the majority groups in many multi-racial societies, to escape racial responsibility and to ignore the challenges and discrimination that faces different individuals in the minority groups. It has led to the exploitation of the concept, which has slowly and silently allowed racist practices to sip into such societies. People in such societies end up using various phrases to justify their position, their feeling of being superior, the feeling of having a certain sense of entitlement over the minority groups, their lack of concern for the minority groups, or even their deliberate ignorance of the issues and discrimination affecting the minority groups.
As a result, color blindness has caused severe racial issues and methods of discrimination to emerge, in addition to creating a scenario where the majority groups’ identities and ideologies trample over those of the minority groups, and this leaves the minority groups being suffocated or feeling pressured to ignore their problems and to be ‘considerate and accommodative’ as the majority of the rest of the society is doing so. It is seen through the emergence of assertions and specific phrases such as “ I am colorblind, we are all the same, I see people, not the color,” among others, which are even taught to children (Bostick, 2016). While this romanticizes the idea of colorblindness and projects it as a concept that promotes unity, it causes some adverse effects in minority groups as these statements subconsciously create a sense of superiority. Most of the people making these utterances often belong to the majority groups. By making such statements, they often automatically view minority groups in the same light as people of their color and race. Thus, several assumptions emerge, among them being that they enjoy the same privileges and are exposed to the same challenges. They are exposed to the same competitive environments as they are. This is often not the case, and it creates a great sense of ignorance and disregard for minority groups and the challenges they are going through. This is often dangerous as attempts by minority groups to voice their concerns may be viewed as whining, demanding too much, or ungrateful.
Colorblindness also creates a discriminative and hazardous form of uniformity. If assertions and statements such as the ones stated above are repeated long enough, and children adopt the same ideologies, diversity is trampled. Many minority groups risk losing their identities and uniqueness completely (Bostick, 2016). As these assertions are repeated, it also affects people in minority groups, especially children, who are often very impressionable. The fact that the children in the minority groups may easily pick up this mindset can create resentment of themselves and their culture and create a need to emulate and belong to the supreme culture of the majority groups. The loss of identity and the emergence of self-loathing among minority groups, especially among the children and young population, may create a society among the minority groups that is generally lost or one that is full of despair. They have no identity, and no matter how much they try, they can never truly belong in the majority culture. The idea of people being the same, though a good one, often causes ignorance of the minority groups’ traditions, values, and culture, and this may eventually lead to the gradual decline of the minority societies, economically and even morally, and they eventually end up losing their uniqueness.
This idea being taught to children has an additional component of teaching them that members of minority groups are inferior to them. Children are not blind or foolish, and they can note the apparent differences in the color of their skin from that of another person, their speech, or even their possible ancestry. However, teaching the children to ignore these differences to accommodate the members of the minority groups starts creating a view of the minority groups as people who are deserving of pity and that, unfortunately, they are different from the members of the majority groups; they, therefore, have to pretend that are of the same race or they have to ignore their differences as that, supposedly, is the only way they get to co-exist which is a very discriminative idea to create amongst children. Eventually, this leads to many instances of deliberate ignorance of injustices committed against minority groups and their oppression (Bostick, 2016). The fact that colorblindness is introduced among children and is used as an alternative to helping them understand the differences between the different races and the situations they are exposed to is wrong and quite dehumanizing as children are forced to pretend not to see the injustices that surround them. It can be just as traumatizing to children in the majority groups as it is to those in the minority groups.
How does colorblindness contribute to structural racism?
Color blindness is often used in several social structures to justify discrimination, especially against minority groups, or as a way for the majority groups to justify their ignorance or refusal to take part in effecting change and promoting action against the continued spread and growth of racial practices. A clear example of when and how colorblindness is used to justify racism in institutional and social structures is seen through religion and various religious frames. In a specific study, an Evangelical individual was asked how issues concerning racism in the workplace were addressed through the church he attended, to which he responded that if it ever came up, it was that they were all sons and daughters of God and that we are all one race. Despite this being considered a divine leveling of human beings and a justified representation of the human race, this assertion, by extension, supports one of the racial logics supported through the colorblindness ideology, which is that we are one (Mehta et al., 2021). This, therefore, provides leeway for various individuals in the majority groups o ignore the impact some of their actions or decisions may have on the minority groups, or it may lead them to turn a blind eye to the oppression and discrimination that they may notice them facing and justify their ignorance with such assertions as “we are one” or we are created equal, despite the color differences (Mehta et al., 2021). This assertion leads to the deliberate ignorance of racial issues by also creating a view of them as essentially interpersonal rather than deeply engrained in their history and their consequences being connected to their actions or those of their forebears.
Another instance of the justification of colorblindness is seen through an example of another individual who attended an Evangelical church that had recently merged with another Evangelical Church mainly made up of African American people. When asked about his thoughts on this, he complained that there had been increased discussions of racial discrimination and racism, which he said felt inappropriate to him and quite annoying. He pointed out an instance where his pastor talked about how a significant number of people in the black community were being unfairly arrested by the police and locked up. He felt that his pastor was pandering in doing so, and he found this annoying. He confronted his pastor with statistics from the FBI later and asked what was wrong with a police officer doing his duty in finding the people he felt were more likely to commit a crime, to which the pastor somewhat waved his hand. The man then considered the pastor’s reaction a good thing, as most black people often “feel this way” (Mehta et al., 2021). He then proceeds to explain that he felt that his pastor’s integrity was called into question by choosing to discuss racial issues in the church as that was akin to pandering to the black congregation specifically, and that was not what the church was meant for as politically charged issues should not be discussed in church as the church is meant to be a place of worship and communion. While this has a truth to it, the fact that he alludes to his pastor’s concern about black discrimination being political and he dismisses it as ‘how some black people feel’ draws attention to the extent of colorblindness and its justification in specific systems such as the religious system (Mehta et al., 2021). Centering the discussion around what the church should be and how we are created equal and we should not focus so much on our differences creates a view in which the oppression and the voicing of discrimination by one race should be viewed as whimsical, immoral and a defilement of what that structure should be. It also justifies the ignorance of racial issues as they make other people uncomfortable or because there is the assumption that addressing them favors only one particular group, which should not be the case.
Colorblindness is an excellent issue, and ignoring a problem will not make it disappear. It is clear from the above instances that ignoring colorblindness as the primary way through which racism is propagated in today’s society is very harmful as color blindness does have far-reaching effects on children in both the majority and minority groups; it causes misunderstandings between different people from different groups. It has also led to an illusion in society and also among the various social groups who find justifications for their actions through institutions that are rather sensitive and end up being exploited, and messages therein end up being misinterpreted to benefit a particular societal group or to justify or even outrightly ignore the problems and challenges that minority groups in the society face. Therefore, racial issues must be addressed instead of being swept under the rug for the sake of society as a whole and to ensure its growth. There is also a need to examine the perception that both the minority and majority groups have of themselves and each other and the effect that these perceptions have on their children and the potential impact these perceptions would have on the consequent generations, and the gap that exists as a result of the racism that still exists in the society today despite the denial and refusal to address it.
Beaman, J., & Petts, A. (2020). Towards a global theory of colorblindness: Comparing colorblind racial ideology in France and the United States. Sociology Compass, 14(4). https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12774
Bostick, D. (2016, July 11). How Colorblindness Is Racist. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-colorblindness-is-act_b_10886176#:~:text=Colorblindness%20suppresses%20critically%20important%20narratives%20of
LaBreck, A. (2021, February 1). Colorblind: Examining France’s Approach to Race Policy. Harvard International Review. https://hir.harvard.edu/color-blind-frances-approach-to-race/
Mehta, S. K., Schneider, R. C., & Ecklund, E. H. (2021). “God Sees No Color” So Why Should I? How White Christians Produce Divinized Colorblindness. Sociological Inquiry, 92(2). https://doi.org/10.1111/soin.12476
Scruggs, A.-O. (2009, August 24). Colorblindness: the New Racism? Learning for Justice. https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/fall-2009/colorblindness-the-new-racism
Williams, M. (2011). Colorblind Ideology Is a Form of Racism. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culturally-speaking/201112/colorblind-ideology-is-form-racism