Color-blindness is a medical condition not a social excuse

Chessboard with Opening Move
Chessboard with Opening Move (Chessbazaar.com, 2019).

Look at the chessboard in the picture from Chessbazaar.com (2019). What colors do you see? If you said black and white, then you cannot claim color-blindness. Color-blindness is a medical condition not a social excuse.

Recently I had a conversation with a colleague in which they stated they were color-blind when it came to race. They asserted that when they look at people and speak with people, the color of the person does not come into play, but they look at that person as an individual and judge them based upon their merit, not their color. In theory, I would have liked to agreed with the individual, and probably would have had I not just finished reading White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism (DiAngelo, 2019), as part of a college wide read at the university I work.

As DiAngelo (2019) so aptly illustrates in describing a similar conversation between her black male co-facilitator during a workshop and a white woman who made the same assertion as my colleague, the black male facilitator responded, “Then how will you see racism?” (p. 42). Not seeing his color served only to affirm the white woman’s experience while denying his. Claiming not to see color, argues DiAngelo, continues the status quo of white privilege; albeit subtlety. It excuses the individual by fooling them into complacency because of their already achieved state of enlightenment. When, in reality, it only services to perpetuate racism.

White Fragility
White Fragility (DiAngelo, 2018).

If I don’t see it, then I can claim I am not a racist. Racial hate crimes are only committed by fanatical, radical contingents, of which I am not a member.  But if I do see, I acknowledge racism, and therefore must be racist. I must examine my own internal racist biases that I would rather not look at, yet even talk about. And talking about it is taboo in a to a white-centric society (Sue, 2013).

Returning to my story, as I sat listening to my colleague, I found myself more concerned with what they would think about me and fear I was judging them if I talked about how color-blindness is a white fallacy. Sadly, all I could do was mumble something about the college wide read of DiAngelo (2018) and leave it at that. I placed the burden of proof on a book, not on a relationship. But at least it was a start, however feeble.

Now look at the picture again and tell me the colors you see … it’s your move (and mine)!

References

Chessbazar.com. (2019). Combo of 2016 bridle series luxury chess set with wooden board in ebony wood / box wood – 4.2″ king [Photograph]. https://www.chessbazaar.com/combo-of-2016-bridle-series-luxury-chess-set-with-wooden-board-in-ebony-wood-box-wood-4-2-king.html

Diangelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.

Sue, D. W. (2013). Race talk: The psychology of racial dialogues. American Psychologist, 68(8), 663-672. doi:10.1037/a0033681

Author: Dr. Cook-Snell

PhD in Education, Instructional Design and Technology, and Lecturer at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA

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