On that short list belongs the concept of a colorblind society, a culture where racial differences are irrelevant. Many people will loudly proclaim that this is the ultimate goal of America. However, as with all ideas that are presented as flawless, it’s worth asking if pursuing colorblindness is noble or misguided.
Now, the idealists among us will sputter that it’s absurd to even float the question. A colorblind nation that ignores racial differences will, by its very nature, have eliminated racism.
The issue, however, is that we have just accepted the idea of a colorblind society as synonymous with racial justice.
But there is nothing inherently virtuous in promoting the myth of a colorblind society. In truth, the concept benefits the status quo.
For example, plenty of people who hate affirmative action or diversity programs aren’t too fond of ethnic minorities. But they appeal to the idea of colorblindness as a principled façade for their bigotry.
However, we’re not just talking about sneaky racists here. Many of the people who most fervently want a colorblind society are not bigoted. They just get wildly, absurdly, intensely uncomfortable when discussing racial issues. And because racial problems defy easy answers or quick solutions, the tendency is to shut down the discussion.
Witness the reaction to the Trayvon Martin shooting. Many people really want to believe that the incident has nothing to do with race. Nope, not here in twenty-first America.
So they strive for a culture where race never comes up. They plead with us to dismiss such talk, because “it only serves to divides us.” They will never have to be uncomfortable or acknowledge the dark side of human nature if everybody would just shut up and be colorblind already.
Still, there must be some kind of baseline. Is a colorblind society one where people speak without noticeable accents that might identify them as being from the hood or the barrio? Do we all sound, you know, suburban white? Most likely, that is how it is envisioned.
When it comes down to it, wouldn’t a truly colorblind society be devoid of ethnic celebrations, quirky neighborhoods, and cultural differences? Well, that sounds perfectly boring.
Many of us don’t want a racially homogenous world, or one where ethnic variety is avoided at all costs under all conditions.
So how about this: We strive for a society where racial differences don’t matter when it comes to issues of the law or basic fairness. But we approach each other with respect and even interest in our diverse backgrounds, rather than try to ignore them.
It would mean opening our eyes instead of actively wishing to be blind.