“I am reminded every day when I walk into lecture and I am the only black girl,” said sophomore Lauren Merriweather when asked what role race plays in her life. “And when I walk into a store and have workers tailing me. I wake up every day acknowledging the fact that I am not only a woman, but a black woman.”
To be perceived as being without racial bias some white people claim to be “colorblind.”
They use this term to claim they do not see color or race when interacting with others. This might sound positive but it is not. It is delusional and problematic.
People who claim colorblindness do not acknowledge their race or the races of others because they do not have to. Privilege is blinding to those who have it.
Just like some men claiming gender inequality is myth, race can enable benefits and privileges that are so normal that they aren’t seen as privileges. White people can have issues and face barriers but systematic racism will never be one of them. How often are they stopped by police officers due to the color of their skin? Are they denied opportunities, or followed in department stores?
In an informal poll of more than 100 San Diego State University students this summer, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos and other ethnic groups were more likely to say race plays a large part in their life.
Junior Melanie Tong said she was frustrated by how she is perceived due to her race.
“Being Asian comes with stereotypes,” Tong said. “Not only are we bombarded with the model minority myth, but we are expected to measure up to society’s standards of what Asians are supposed to act like. Just because I am Asian does not mean I am good at any particular subject.
It is exhausting waking up every morning having to live up to (these) standards.”
White people can also face prejudice and be hurt by offensive words, no one disputes that. However, offensive words are not the same as the institutional racism and systematic oppression that plagues people of color every day.
“White people are not directly affected by racial oppression even in their own community, and because it does not affect them locally, it has little chance of affecting them regionally or nationally,” John Metta wrote in a column in the Huffington Post. “They are supported by the system, and so are mostly unaffected by it.”
The term “colorblind” is used by white people to feel more comfortable with their current standing in society. At the same time, it allows them to ignore the prevalence of racism and how it affects people of color.
Psychologist Stephanie Fryeberg said the term was harmful.
“(It) creates a society that denies the negative racial experiences (of minorities), their cultural heritage, and invalidates their unique perspectives,” she said.
It is natural to see race. People should stop running away from the discussion by feigning colorblindness. It is a very real experience for many.
Discussing race and racism might be uncomfortable, but avoiding it only contributes to its continuation and the erasure of individual identities.