Posts Tagged ‘race’

So-called color blindness.

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Before you read this post, read this post on the same subject. You will need it to understand what I’ve written. Technically this post is a reply to that one, but it’s pretty long and I have no idea if my original comment made it ( gives me a weird message when I try to comment there, and my university’s web server keeps disconnecting me). But I think the topic is important enough, race is often drastically oversimplified in America (and pretty much everywhere else). There’s this odd perception among some people that racism no longer exists, or that racism extends only to overt acts of hatred. The reality is that the system of social racism in America is alive and well, and often very subtle. The concept of “colorblindness” with regards to race is one such facet: only white people can afford to be “colorblind”, and the concept of ignoring race altogether actually serves to render issues of racism invisible (especially when one is being racist). The truth is race is not invisible, and if one thinks one is seeing past it they aren’t open to the subtle and often unconscious ways that they themselves are racist. The first step to fixing a problem is to admit that there is a one, and, in the case of white people and racism, admit that they are potentially part of and/or are contributing to it.

My original comment is below (remember to read the linked post first please):

You bring up a number of interesting points. On the “race-ignorant” end of things, I actually have specific (embarrassing) memories of being a complete twit in that area at a young age. In kindergarten I had an argument with a kid (who was probably dark middle eastern or Muslim Indian of some variety, I think his name was Mohammad or Mahmoud or similar) over whether or not he was black. I said yes, he said no. White privilege and the forcible labeling of others at age five woo! Race wasn’t discussed at home, but I picked up enough of it elsewhere to be stupid about it.

The note about the various countries/etc. We do have a tendency with any form of oppression to seriously oversimplify things. “Latin@” may be fairly unified in terms of language and somewhat common history, but a Chilean has a different identity than an Argentinian, for example, ESPECIALLY in their home countries. Even going by country is oversimplifying things, you brought up Africa where nations are split up as former colonies rather than by ethnic identity, and various groups don’t even have their own nation or necessarily want one. There is no Hmong nation, the Svan are not vying for independence from Georgia, and yet these are different from being Vietnamese or Georgian (I think with the Svan it’s complicated, because there is a huge post-soviet “Kartvelian” attempt at unified identity, even though the languages are different). People talk about “Chinese”, which really doesn’t exist as an ethnicity or a language, only as a nation and a writing system, in fact most people REALLY mean (even if they don’t know it) the Han ethnicity and the Mandarin language when they say “Chinese”, because those are the majority.

As for the monolithic “white” identity, I have never seen anyone identify themselves as white outside of some racist agenda. The KKK have apparently changed their goals from being racist schlobs to “finding/creating a white identity in America”, but I’m very suspicious of this rebranding. I think in terms of the “white American” label, it’s useful in describing power dynamics in terms of racism in society, but not useful in terms of identity, because people individually identify as “American” (there are non-whites who do this as well) or some white subset (I have a friend who, despite being many generations American, identifies as “Irish American” and my sister and I have very strong personal ties to our Scottish heritage). So personally, I will say I am white in a social context, because that is how society reacts to me and I most definitely benefit from white privilege, but I personally do not identify as a “white person” as a category. This might actually be tied up a little bit with the way race works in our society, white people in America aren’t expected or pushed to develop a racial identity outside of unifying to oppress other groups, while non-whites are almost forced to become somewhat cohesive due to the oppression they face.

Edit: my comment did go through, and in the link you can see responses to that and the original post.