Does racial color blindness exist? The dangers of teaching the myth of racial color blindness

We didn’t know it but I guess I lived in what is now called a progressive family. I’m a first generation American and our focus was not on race as we understand it today. Our focus was on survival. The horror of World War II was still swirling around us when I was born. My parents experienced fear having just come out of the great economic depression to find out that Hitler was trying to exterminate all of my people and certainly we had lost most if not all of our relatives who remained in Europe. Until the end of World War II my family knew that death could be, at any time, at our door. I was raised to be a proud American forever grateful for the sacrifice of the nation in the war effort. I was, within reason, raised to relatively feel safe here. I was told the policeman was my friend and if I should get lost I should tell a policeman in uniform and he would take me to the police station and perhaps buy me ice cream. Today we know this blind trust in authority can not be shared by all. After World War II there was some good news though. Our family was a loyal Brooklyn Dodger family. Jackie Robinson was our hero. We talked about the fact he wasn’t treated right by the crowd and other players, but he was our hero and he withstood every test. We didn’t talk much about how he may have felt. In our mind heroes were above feelings of hurt, pain and fear. My favorite doll was soft, made of cloth and to an adult eye, of another race. Did I think I had a black doll? No, my doll was just something I loved beyond words. I think my family, without knowing it, was trying to raise me color blind. I went to an integrated high school in Harlem. I had friends who were varied in race and culture and when they came to my home their background was a non-issue. It was not discussed. They were just my friends and welcome. Today there is a different perspective. I would like to share this thought provoking article. Basically the thinking of this article suggests that by affecting the position that you are racially colorblind you deny the realities of what it is to be of another race and culture in our society. The article suggests rather than denying differences in race and culture we discuss and recognize it’s impact on our lives as a whole.

From Charlotte Parent, August 27, 2018—Liz Rothaus Bertrand ‘Why We Shouldn’t Teach Kids to Be Color Blind’ For many people, race is a topic that’s difficult to discuss, especially with kids. Avoidance, however, has complicated rather than improved our relationships with one another. In recent years, America has been rocked by the rising frequency of racially motivated hate crimes, deadly incidents of racial profiling, a resurgence of re-segregated schools and daily reminders of inequity. While families of color often feel compelled to have “the talk” about racial bias with their children for safety’s sake, too often white families are silent. One reason may be they don’t know how to start the conversation. Here’s a look at how we all can begin having fact-based, healthy conversations about race to promote understanding and positive change in our community. WHY SHOULD WE BE TALKING ABOUT RACE? We all have different physical features, cultural traditions and languages, but the concept of race is not biologically real. It is a system of power that has been reinforced over hundreds of years through social, political and economic means. “It’s basically been laws and practices that have separated [individuals] into people groups with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom,” says Dr. Lucretia Carter Berry, an antiracist consultant and educator. Perceptions of race affect the way we interact with one another and institutions, as well as our placement in society. “It’s related to every aspect of our experience whether or not we know it,” says James Ford, co-chair of the Leading on Opportunity Task Force. “Not just for families of color but white families as well.” Understanding how race has been used for the advantage of some people and the disadvantage of others is essential to make sense of many issues our community and country are struggling with today. “Even if you’re a good person, your experience within society will be radically different based on your culture and based on your appearance,” says Ford, who was also the 2014-2015 North Carolina Teacher of the Year. The idea that equality comes from ignoring difference simply isn’t true. “We should be color rich and embrace and celebrate all the ways that we can show up in the world,” says Janeen Bryant, founder of Facilitate Movement, a consulting agency that helps museums and nonprofits engage new audiences and build community. “… I think ‘color blind’ is a cop out for when people have difficulty talking about difference.” Ignorance is also dangerous because it can warp our worldview and prevent people from speaking honestly with one another. It can also affect our ability to build authentic relationships and feel safe around people who are different from us; it also devalues others with harmful consequences. “If children don’t see race, then they don’t see racism,” Ford says. “If you teach them not to see ‘color,’ what you’re really telling them is not to be attentive to difference. And they’ll start to grow indifference to injustice based on race because we made it taboo to discuss those things.” We also need to show children how to combat bigotry when encountered. That means speaking up even when it’s uncomfortable. We have to model what we want the children to become,” Berry says. “For children to be more actively antiracist, they can’t do that without us showing them how to do it.” We can also look to history for examples of people of various backgrounds who worked for social justice to serve as models for our children to emulate. Ultimately, the message to kids should be truthful, hopeful and empowering. Learning and acknowledgement are the first steps; continuous engagement and informed action can help to move us forward. As Bryant says, “We co-design the future we want to build.”

I hope you found this article enlightening. It was to me. When I realized that being born in the midst of World War II surrounded by fear did influence my growing up and my personality. I found I took nothing for granted. I learned to seek refuge in the ways that I could and realized that that need for refuge was a legacy of the horrors of the Holocaust. I also came to recognize this sense of fear and threat is not unique to my culture. It has a relationship to the sense of fear and threat shared by racial minorities in our country. I felt for a moment after World War II that we, as an entire nation, were going to be safe. The recent increase in anti-Semitism and acts of hate against other minorities; these horrific events , taught me that as long as there is hate in the world, where people are not seen as individuals, but rather, as members of a hated group, no one is safe, not the hated nor the hater. Fondly submitted  for the diversity committee. Stay warm, well and share love. Feel free to comment on this article at our DiversityBlog, https://aauwhhl.wordpress.com.

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