So often lately in this conflicted world we live in I hear people say “We are not racist, I teach my children to be colorblind”. While I respect your good intentions, let me explain why the colorblind approach only serves to encourage inherent bias and actually promote racism. Now before you become offended and feel as though I am dismissing your attempt at raising a progressive little ray of sunshine let me explain why this type of thinking, while at time good natured, is essentially problematic.
Let’s break it down to its most simple form.
Merriam Webster defines Color as: a phenomenon of light (as red, brown, pink, or gray) or visual perception that enables one to differentiate otherwise identical objects.
Merriam Webster also offers this interpretation of the word Blind: made or done without sight of certain objects or knowledge of certain facts that could serve for guidance or cause bias.
Essentially being colorblind to race by definition, means ignoring the amazing phenomenon that makes someone unique and by doing so a person does not know how to properly guide their actions.
Now I know what you thinking… this is getting too deep. This is a mom’s blog, what does this have to do with kids? The answer is simply, everything. By turning a blind eye to what makes different cultures unique, instead of embracing the differences, we teach our children that the existence of those cultures has little value. When you ignore the distinct struggle and discrimination attached to a specific race, you allow that long standing bias to continue. If we never acknowledge our obvious differences how can we ever learn to respect them?
Children are extremely perceptive beings. They can make deductions and assumptions that will last a lifetime. Let’s look at some examples of how colorblind ideology can frame a child’s way of thinking.
- A child sees repeated acts of police brutality against men of color in the media. Without proper discussion the inference is made internally that men of color are dangerous and a child grows with that bias. Not because of what you said but because of what you didn’t say.
- A teenager who was never taught about the origins and impact of racial stereotypes doesn’t think twice to dress up in blackface for a college Halloween party. Which causes emotional damage to others and backlash against their own behavior.
- A young college applicant is upset and angry because they were passed up for a scholarship and blames the handful of minority students for stealing his/her place. On the surface, it is easy to come to the assumption that because special provisions must be made these students are inferior and underserving. Which is very far from the reality of what is happening.
I could go on with dozens more examples. What we say and do for our children has just as much influence as what we don’t say or do. As a woman of color I implore you please don’t teach your children to ignore the differences that make us all special or neglect how these differences effect the quality of life and opportunities of others. Now more than ever their future depends on it.