The Difference Between Being ‘Colorblind’ and Saying You’re ‘Colorblind’

Years ago, I was watching an old television clip from the Oprah Winfrey show and she had anti-racist activist Jane Elliot on discussing her exercise of having white people try to understand what racism feels like for black people.

At one point, she, a shorter & older white woman, stands next to a taller & younger black man. She asks the audience what is the difference between the two of them? They make their way through the list of differences like height, sex, age, but then they make it to color. She remarks “See no one wants to say the ‘c’ word.” She continues “because we have a President who says I think what we need is a colorblind society now folks.”

Her next statement always stuck with me and whenever I think of the word ‘colorblind’ in reference to race, I believe most people today view colorblindness like this: “when you hear somebody say that you know you’re listening to a racist because what he is saying is there’s something wrong with this person’s color, so we just will pretend he isn’t this color.”

This article isn’t specifically about Jane Elliot because she’s far from the only person to say this or think this. The term ‘colorblind’ has been reframed as a pejorative and has been severely mis-characterized.

Part of the reason it has been demonized is because cultural Marxists made it their mission to redefine this term to become something that it isn’t and wasn’t supposed to be. It’s now suddenly a dog-whistle term used by people who you don’t like with white skin or by supposed white sympathizing black people.

When Martin Luther King Jr. stated that we should be treated based on the content of our character instead of the color of our skin, that’s being ‘colorblind’. To be even more specific, being ‘colorblind’ means that I am entering situations, to the best of my ability, without racial presuppositions for determining who this person is in front of me.

Now let’s address what colorblind isn’t. Colorblindness is not the ignoring of someone’s race. Colorblindness is not pretending that the person who is standing in front of you doesn’t look different from you. The way people speak about being colorblind is like if I’m standing in front of someone white, that this person magically can’t tell that I’m black. Of course, they can see this.

They aren’t pretending to actually be blind or make believe that my skin color isn’t what it is. They are trying not to make my race the primary focus in our interaction by focusing on my character. Focusing on someone’s character allows for people to find some form of commonality between each other because character is an individual trait.

But there lies the problem, individualism. Some of the people that disagree with being colorblind do so because they want there to be a collective agenda and how can we have one if we practice individualism?

Some people believe that colorblindness is what racists practice, but racists aren’t individualists, they are collectivists. Racists make group determinations regardless of personal interactions because they’ve already determined what your motives and capabilities are. Racists are irrational because they will stay with their preconceived notions regardless of what is in front of them. So, I disagree, racists aren’t colorblind, they have 20/20 vision.

Now, I have criticisms of the necessity to announce being ‘colorblind’. For one, I’ve seen in the past when discussing race, it’s been thrown out in conversation as a virtue signal when it’s unnecessary. If we’re talking about race, I don’t need you to project virtuous terms to determine your character; I can see it for myself. It’s much in the way today when someone says they’re ‘anti-racist’ to signal that they’re one of the good guys. To me, it’s like telling someone you’re a good person. Just show it, don’t say it.

Being colorblind and saying you’re colorblind are two separate things. I have no problem with someone acting in a colorblind fashion. If you are someone with good intentions, let your actions speak for your character. Stating your racial quality of vision does nothing for any discussion and it makes people suspicious as to why you’re saying it, even if you have the proper intentions behind it.

This is in part why people believe you may be a racist because most people who sum up their character in phrases or terms are typically not to be trusted. “I’m a good person”…can’t trust them. “I respect women”…don’t be alone with this guy. You get the point.

With this stated, I understand why there is this knee-jerk reaction to distrust anyone who says they are ‘colorblind’. However, we should not let this stop us from continuing conversations with people to see who they really are for ourselves.

In the end, the term has been hijacked, but it wasn’t worth saying out loud in the first place.

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