“I Don’t See Race.”

“I don’t see race; I’m completely colourblind.”

The above is an unhelpful statement that is thrown around way too often. When people say this I often wonder why. Could it really be true that they don’t watch the news? Yes, race is a social construct but the implications of race are something that affects many of us. Race is a reality; the more pigmentation one has in their skin, the more difficult it can be to navigate society without a headache and much stress.

The “I don’t see race” comment doesn’t need to be stated to prove that one isn’t racist, or that one is open-minded or liberal. I acknowledge that we members of the human race are a diverse bunch but because of colonialism and other issues we have all had our minds colonized; we believe things about ourselves and about others that just aren’t true. And our beliefs unfortunately place people in a racial hierarchy (also gender, sexual orientation, religious hierarchies etc.). 

Just looking back at recent news stories shows that race plays a part in people’s lives. Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman’s race, was hotly debated (proving the point that whatever race he embraced would have an impact on the judge’s sentence):

http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/07/The-Curious-Case-of-George-Zimmermans-Race.html

And what about the African refugees who have been segregated in Israel, 21st Century apartheid?

http://forward.com/articles/164511/seeking-asylum-sudanese-face-israeli-prison/?p=all

Or the fact that several Native Canadian women went missing for years (between 1969-2011) in British Columbia along the infamous Highway of Tears before the RCMP even bothered to conduct an investigation?  In fact, the reason that the Canadian RCMP started to do anything about the missing women was when a white woman disappeared along the same highway in 2002; this woman received the first and the most media attention.

http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/society/crime-justice/cold-cases-unsolved-crimes-in-canada/bcs-infamous-highway-of-tears.html

Or take this report showing that Canadians with “ethnic” sounding names find it a lot more difficult to get jobs than those with European names (and I have always gotten jobs easily because I have an English first name and my last name sounds racially-ambiguous to people. I recognize the “privilege” my name offers me).

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/how-an-ethnic-sounding-name-may-affect-the-job-hunt/article555082/

Above are all examples of systemic racism.

I believe that those who are more privileged in society shouldn’t shrug off the issues and concerns of people of colour. Acknowledging someone’s racial identity isn’t a bad thing, nor is it racist. Saying one doesn’t see colour is actually a naive statement and anyone who is conscious of what’s going on in the world would know how wrong it is. At the same time, one shouldn’t assume something about a person due to their colour.

Saying one doesn’t see my colour means they refuse to see the issues that affect me, the issues that are important to me. They refuse to see that my location in society is different. Saying that means that the status quo will never change and we will live in a delusional existence believing we live in a racial utopia. 

I’m not saying that I, as a black African immigrant woman living in Canada, experience all forms of racism ; I am actually blessed to live in Vancouver which is quite welcoming to immigrant; however, I am aware that people in other parts of the world, parts of the world that are not so welcoming of immigrants as Vancouver is, have it bad and I acknowledge their struggles.

 

 

 

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20 thoughts on ““I Don’t See Race.”

  1. Some people can be prejudiced against black or coloured people, but prejudice can only fully operate if the prejudiced themselves give value or find reasons (consciously or not) as to why they are prejudiced against. I’m not trying to minimize black people’s struggles : on the contrary, I’m trying to point out that sometimes they are their worst enemy, by unwillingly integrating the very racist attitudes into their lives, making them their own, poisoning themselves with others’ideas.

    1. I wrote something similar when I was discussing stereotypes and how believing stereotypes about one’s race is very damaging. However, racist attitudes definitely caused these stereotypes to form (i.e. everything noble is white, everything savage is black/dark). I’m not putting the onus on white people but this is a topic I’ve wanted to address for a while.

  2. Perhaps when people tell you they do not see color, it merely means that it does not enter into their personal appraisal of that person. I was raised in west Texas by and round racists. I would never deny the attitude exists. But, growing up, I had black pastors, black teachers, and black employers. Their inherent and obvious respectability made the racism I witnessed look ridiculous, ignorant and evil. Socializing and working with people from other cultures and races seems to me the only means of killing prejudice. And it truly does make you more “color-blind” in that you realize that divvying people up into categories and believing that means you “know” who they are is particularly meaningless if not downright perilous! One exception to your preconception means you can no longer safely preconceptualize.

    1. I appreciate your comment and insight, thank you:) I completely agree that being exposed to other cultures is a good way to kill prejudice. Perhaps one day we will live in a post-racial society; one can only hope!

  3. I feel all colours are beautiful too, and am very sorry my comment has been taken the wrong way, Rowena, please delete it if you find it offensive, that was certainly not my point.

    1. Hi there Alice, sorry I shouted at you. That wasn’t helpful! Rowena is a much kinder and calmer person than me in her approach as her comment makes clear, she took your words as you intended.

      I reacted because I feel it’s important to consider that ‘prejudice’ is manifested against people of colour in a way that those people cannot magically avoid with self-confidence, personal pride etc, and that we white people expecting them to try is a failure of empathy: if from early childhood you are sent overt & implicit signals that you don’t belong, aren’t quite human, are different, are inferior, that must have an extremely deep effect! When you used the phrase ‘own worst enemy’ I felt that was a victim-blaming attitude.

  4. This is a brilliant post Rowena and one close to my heart. As Asian woman married to an African man I often get ‘well intentioned’ comments from members of my community about love being colour blind and about how kind I am!! I’m always quick to tell them that our love isn’t colour blind, I chose a black man and he chose an Asian woman. In a world where people cast aspersions and judgements in the blink of an eye, it is definitely naive of people to say they don’t see race. It also, to my mind, infers that race or colour is something negative if by ‘not seeing it’ you think that you are doing something positive. Thanks for the food for thought 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, S! I can’t even begin to imagine some of the comments you must receive from your community, though the one you mentioned about how kind you are for marrying an African man makes it sound like you are seen as a martyr for marrying him:D And yes, you’re soooo right when you say people who say they don’t see race are basically saying colour is negative, or they are saying they see everyone as a default white human being!

      1. You’re welcome hun, I do get some shockers tbh ranging from outrageous to hilarious- (sometimes you have to laugh at the ignorance) perhaps I’ll write a blog post about it one day! I really am so glad I found your blog 🙂 Have you read ‘Decolonising the mind’ by Ngugi wa Thiongo? I’m sure you probably have, but i’ll be putting a review up about it sometime soon 🙂

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