Beyond FACTS: “The Fallacy of Colorblind Post-Raciality” by Carmen Van Kerkhove
I’ve read Carmen’s writings since she co-founded New Demographic, a consulting firm that addresses race and racism in the workplace in unique ways. Also known nationally as a speaker and commentator on the complex issues behind race and racism, Carmen regularly offers thoughtful, blunt opinions backed up with specifics. While I don’t always agree with her, I always find the discussions she instigates well worth my time and attention.
In this column, Carmen addresses the recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that stated three in ten Americans admit to having at least some racially prejudiced feelings. “The other seven must be afflicted by ‘colorblindness,’” she writes, “that odd phenomenon that drives people to insist that they ‘just don’t notice race’ and claim that they don’t care whether people are ‘black, brown, green, or purple.’
“All of us,” she continues, “notice variations in skintone, facial features, hair texture, eye color, and the myriad of other phenotypic factors that cause us to draw conclusions as to what race a person is.
“Then why do people insist on claiming that they don’t notice color? Often, it’s because they are scared to death of being labeled a racist.
“But here’s the thing. Noticing a person’s race doesn’t make you racist. What does make you racist is if you make assumptions about that person’s intellectual, physical, or emotional characteristics based on the race you think the person is.
“When people proclaim that they’re colorblind, what they’re really implying is that race no longer matters in America. [But] race still matters because racism is alive and well. Pretending otherwise negates the everyday experiences of millions of people of color in this country.”
This is exactly the argument I make when I talk about my first book, One Sister’s Song. Racism impacts people of varied backgrounds, including those (like my husband and his sisters) of mixed-race heritage. I invite those who consider such assertions regarding racism exaggerated to read more about it through resources like the New Demographic newsletter, to consider the (highly!) intriguing viewpoints of the dozens of people who left comments about Carmen’s post on the AC 360˚ blog, to get to know a person of any race that differs from one’s own and take the time to note what he or she goes through on a daily basis. Race does still matter in this country, and turning any kind of blind eye to such an immense issue—especially during the current, historic election year—doesn’t do anyone any good.
Photo © Associated Press