Please, start seeing the color. Please see gender, sexual orientation, and the difference in our pay checks which separates us into classes as well, but, I beg of you, please see the color. Lately, in light of Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Rumain Brisbon, Akai Gurley, Kajieme Powell, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Jordan Baker, and numerous other dead unarmed black men whose names I’ve actually forgotten due to these incidents being so numerous, I have read and listened to an almost equally numerous amount of commentary from (mostly white) apologists who have proudly declared that they “don’t see color” and “treat everyone equally.” That last part is fine, but these are misguided expressions that come from exasperation and a critical misunderstanding of the grievances minorities have suffered for years.
It is true that overt racism is immediately reviled and socially stigmatized. There are Ku Klux Klan chapters which promote themselves as inclusive and accepting of minority members with a new mission statement of resisting government control, while many radical racists have been forced to relocate to Europe to join like-minded far-right political groups. However, colorblindness equates to sticking your head in the sand and ignoring instances of inequality, secure in the idea that not being an active bigot automatically aligns you with the intellectual right side of history. However, it also leaves one unable or unwilling to confront instances of social disparity, usually accompanied by a token counter-example of straight white men also being treated unfairly.
The subtleties of institutionalized discrimination are lost entirely on those unwilling to think critically. The laundry list of sad facts include: 60% of people incarcerated are minorities, black males aged 15 to 19 have been killed at a rate of 31 to a million versus similarly aged white males at a rate of 1.5 to a million, white high school dropouts are just as likely to find employment as black college graduates, and even white ex-cons are likelier to receive a call back on an application than blacks who have no prior offences. The weight of the statistics contradicts any assessment that race is no longer relevant in our society.
A typical color blind response will attribute these statistics to non-racial dynamics. Perhaps people of color are likelier to internalize the “race card” and resign themselves to more destructive lifestyles, unwilling to “work hard enough,” and those who have fallen through the cracks are unfortunate aberrations in the narrative of the American dream.
To the color blind apologist, if we would stop focusing on “living in the past” and calling attention to imagined slights, we could move on toward a better world where everyone got along. This was even a rationale for President Andrew Johnson to veto the 1866 Freedman’s Bureau Bill, designed to assist recently freed slaves through basic necessities like food and housing aid, health care, education, and employment contracts; his justification was that such a bill would injure the “character” and “prospects” of freed slaves by implying that they may not have to work for a living. Thus, from the very beginning of civil rights modernity, a better life is clipped at the wings due to either a fundamental misunderstanding of the construction of society or malicious apathy for the burdens of another race. It is all too easy to justify the perpetuation of racial inequality under the shroud of fiscal conservatism.
I feel the solution to our society’s ingrained racial bias is to first confront it. We have to recognize the existence of these problems on a macro scale before we are willing to engage ourselves in self-reflection. The problem isn’t in overt racism but instead that subconscious tinge that a person of color is an other, someone whose life is measured against a different set of values. We are more alike than we think, but do not mistake our experiences as the same.