Having A Color Blind Approach To Racism Is Actually Racist

Racism sucks. I think we can all agree on that; well, all of us who are aware that it is still a prevalent problem that affects everything from an average jail sentence to whether or not I’m going to be followed around in a clothing store. Unfortunately, some people who see themselves as very progressive and anti-racist are doing more harm for victims of racism than good. That’s why I’m going to talk a little about something that I think is the most destructive concept that supposedly anti-racist people adhere to: Color blindness.

How many of you have heard this: I don’t see color! It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or green or purple.

If you’ve used this line before, know this: You’re doing it wrong. Like, really, what are you doing? Stop, right now. Please.

I get why the color blind approach to racism is popular. Color blindness suggests that the best way to end racism and racial discrimination is by treating everyone the same. It sounds nice, right? We can all agree that people should be treated equally, so what’s so bad about color blindness?

Here’s what’s bad about it: Color blindness thrives on the notion that racism isn’t really a problem anymore, and that everyone and everything is judged purely on merit. The problem is that that’s a bunch of crap and isn’t true whatsoever. Studies have shown that color blindness actually makes people more racist. Color blindness is really just an easy way for people who don’t experience racism (i.e. generally white people) to feel a little less squirmy about the possibility that racism is still a problem. The best way to feel less squirmy is to ignore it, because we all know that the more you ignore something, the faster it’ll go away, right?



Source: Tumblr

Well, I’ve tried that plenty of times with dirty dishes, and it hasn’t worked yet. The same can be said for racism.

Our generation has been raised to embrace equality, but many of us take the concept so far that we fail to acknowledge basic facts. For people who embrace color blindness, fighting racism is no longer about acknowledging existing inequities in society. Nope, now it’s all about pretending that it is no longer a problem because we have a black president and because one of your best friends is Mexican and you really love Korean food, so everything is all fine and dandy and you can’t possibly be racist.

Does that sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me? Well, I’ve heard people say ” I don’t see color and my best friend is [insert race/ethnicity here] so I can’t be racist” so many times that it makes my head spin.

aunt viv fresh prince

Source: Tumblr

If you still don’t see what’s so wrong with color blindness, look at it this way: By claiming not to “see color” you’re refusing to acknowledge the fact that race still matters in 2013. For example, I’m black. Telling me that you don’t see me as black is not only a lie, but it is also incredibly dismissive of my experiences as a young, black woman. How am I supposed to share stories about dealing with racial insensitivity when I’m talking to someone who believes that racism is merely a product of the past, and that race isn’t important as long as I don’t make it important.

I’ve had to deal with plenty of friends dismissing my personal encounters with racial insensitivity. People say that I’m exaggerating, or that I’m only seeing something as racist because I want to. Newsflash: Nobody goes out of their way to experience racism. We don’t look for it, we’re not swapping stories about racism like they’re Pokemon cards, trying to one up each other for fun.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury to be color blind. I don’t have the luxury to ignore race. I don’t have the luxury to assume that everyone will see me as a fellow human being instead of a black chick. When I wake up every morning I see two things when I look in the mirror: First, I see Ashley. Second, I see a black woman.

Which brings up another reason why I hate the idea of color blindness: It suggests that acknowledging my blackness is shameful. When you say that you don’t see my color, you’re saying that you don’t see a pretty big part of my life. Well, despite all the negativity that comes with it, I like being black. So I don’t want it to be something that someone can decide to ignore because it makes them uncomfortable. My blackness isn’t like the wilted piece of lettuce you find in your salad and quickly discard.

If your non-white friend decided to open up to you about someone calling her a racial slur, telling her that we all bleed red isn’t helpful. You might think that coming up with arbitrary crayola colors (Robin’s Egg Blue, anyone?) is somehow making your friend feel better, but if they’re anything like me you’re making them feel worse. Dealing with racism is bad, but having your experiences dismissed is even worse.

Instead of being color blind, allow yourself to acknowledge the fact that racism is still a problem that hurts a lot of people in a lot of different ways. Some acts of racism are violent and obvious, others are more subtle and even unintentional. If you want to really be an ally for people who experience racism, listen to them. That’s all you have to do: Listen.


Source: Tumblr

And please, if you do happen to run into somebody who is purple, take them to the hospital immediately; they might be choking.


What do you think about a color blind approach to racism? Do you experience people dismissing your experiences with racism? Tell us in the comments!

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  • Sandy

    Yes, race is most of the time visually a given. But that does not mean that’s the first thing I think about. When I say I am “colorblind”, I say it in the sense that I hold every individual responsible for their behavior. Society and social grouping doesn’t happen without individuals participating. So yes, I understand what is being stated in the article and it saddens me that racism still exist to till this day. What even gets me more upset is that some of the newer generation are still stuck in this disturbing mentality. I just believe that as we, as individuals can cut out racism by being “colorblind” to change our mindset as an individual and then grow on that mentality. Focus on what this individual has to offer regardless of race. At the end of the day we are all just humans with fascinating minds, kills me that of all the new developments we have inspired and built as human, we still fall victim into this issue as a society. I can proudly say I am color blind because I believe it will make a difference by example and not as an excuse to not deal with racism. I am not saying it to make myself feel better, I have been dealing with racism my whole life. Question is, we acknowledge the problem, how do we fix it? I do believe by changing mindsets one at a time we can get people to see people for them and not for their race. Embracing diversity and cultural differences instead stupid stereotypes. Even though this seem like rainbows and unicorns, I will continue to see people for their values and their mind rather then their race.

    • Ruby

      This is some major White-‘splaining! lol

      “Im white and I know what racism is better than a person of color!!!! Damn, people of color, you better listen to me, I’M WHITE!”

  • Swan

    im colorblind and biracial and unapologetic about it. i do not believe being colorblind means being unaware of racial problems, or ignoring the color of someones skin or how its affected their experience. it just means i do not place a value on the color of someones skin as one skintone being more desirable than any other, or that it really matters in how i see a person other than recognizing how their experience may be affected by the skin color in a racist society. saying that being colorblind is wrong is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. you can be colorblind and still be racially sensitive to other peoples experiences. to say that is not possible is an insult to thinking people. also a benefit to colorblindness is that is not perpetuating racial separations. and although im aware our society is not ready for a completely colorblind society im also aware it never will be until people finally are all colorblind

    • ghanderman

      Nah, i dont agree with you. And im not biracial, nor am i white; i just (apparently) have a phenotype that gets easily confused and have been read as asian, mixed black/white, mexican, arabic, even ethnic caucasian. People saying they are “color blind” is a crude and atrocious way to say you dont buy into racist ideology, period. Its like saying to a female-bodied individual that you “dont see tits”. Presumably you are aware that sexism lingers on, and im sure you would not express your solidarity with a female-bodied individual by saying you didnt “see her tits”….so why defend a meme that feeds into the denial of racism in so many ways when there are other words?

    • stubbikins

      You see the color. Stop lying. Not judging them by it is great, that is how it should be. But claiming their color and history does not exist is offensive.


      Exactly Swan. Preach!

  • Molly

    I would call myself ‘color-blind’! And it’s not because I don’t think racism exists! It’s because I don’t want to be part of the problem!

  • Hannah

    This is such an unfair article. Everyone knows ‘I don’t see colour’, isn’t meant to be some ‘line’ or insult. They’re just saying that they want to connect with others on a personal level, human to human, before anything else. Grow up- of course they realise you are black! But they are deciding to treat you no worse and no better than everyone else! THAT is equality and what decent people campaign for.

    They can still acknowledge that other people see colour and you might suffer for it. (As long as you’re not white. As the commentators on here can attest, black-on-white racism doesn’t exist silly. White people can be beaten up and stabbed for their race… but as long as it’s not ‘the system’ *which will never record this violence against them as racially motived*, it’s not racism)

    Some people are professionals at becoming ‘offended’. It’s certainly profitable these days.

    • Having a color blind approach usually isn’t intentionally insulting, but it is insulting to me nevertheless because of the implications that accompany it. I’m not saying that they literally forget that I’m black. I’m saying that the problem is that they feel the need to disregard a part of my identity in order to have a “human to human” connection. I think that that is silly. Why can’t somebody have a human to human connection with me and acknowledge my racial identity and the fact that that identity may have significant impact on the human that I am? I’m not sure what the point is, and I don’t think it is fair to erase something like that to ease their own discomfort.

      It’s fine if you think that this is just an example of being offended for the sake of being offended, but I think it is important to try to understand why people might feel the way they do even if you might not be familiar with that particular feeling.

      • Hannah

        Of course I see how you formed your opinion. But I really disagree with the implications you gather from the phrase, and the assumptions you make regarding the people using it.
        They’re not trying to take your identity away, or make it out to be unimportant. By being ‘blind’ to the colour of your skin, they only mean that they won’t judge you for it. They will take it so neutrally it will not impact their first impression of you. And why should it?
        Personality is much more important than looks, and what should really matter. Colour shouldn’t be what we use to form beliefs about anyone. It’s surely better to learn about the person’s identity and culture from them, not from levels of a pigment we all have.
        You say they’re motivated by ‘squeamishness’ over your skin colour. But the ‘blindness’ isn’t to ignore something obvious due to discomfort. That’s impossible. It’s accepting skin colour to the point where it won’t change your opinion of a person. You also said it implies they think racism isn’t a problem anymore. How can you possibly know that? And how are victims of racism harmed by an approach that seeks to see them as an individual, not by their levels of melanin or their genes? If everyone saw past them, no one would experience discrimination.
        And do you not think this approach extends to all skin colours, not just black? And that people from lots of different races, including black, have described themselves as ‘colour blind’ to clarify their opinion regarding their relationship with other races?

  • Marie

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. How do you want white people to treat black people? God forbid we all just see each other as Americans with different backgrounds and physical traits.

    • stubbikins

      Treat them like PEOPLE. Whole people with a rich cultural history.

  • Jane

    Are you serious dude? Most color blind people are only blind to primary colors and brown is definitely not primary. Racism has nothing to do with color but with ethnicity. Overcoming racism isn’t setting people apart but it’s coming together. Honestly, we are only one race anyway and that race is human. So when people ask me if i’m black, i tell them ABSOLUTELY NOT. I tell them my race is human, my ethnicity is African, my skin color is brown, and my “color” is pink with pretty sparkles. the color of skin has absolutely nothing to do with race. i can be polka dotted yellow but my race is still human.

    • ghanderman

      Can you try to be a bit more rational about the reality? Duno ifyouve been paying attention but we dont live in a worldwhere racism doesnt exist. We need pragmatic practical constructive dialogue not some fantasy platitudes. Last time i checked men like eric garner never benefited from “just being human” at the moment of their deaths at the hands of white folks

  • Beth

    Yes, sometimes non-white people pick on white people for being white. However, to label that “reverse racism” is to fundamentally ignore what racism actually is. Being bullied by individuals because of your skin color is only the tip of the iceberg of racism. There is institutional racism that is a deeply ingrained part of our society–like in our sentencing practices–where the numbers make the problem glaringly obvious. That kind of racism keeps entire communities down and ruins lives.

    I am white and I went to a high school where the population was about 4% white and 96% Mexican. I was picked on and called names, but then I graduated from that high school and got into a great college. Now I live in Hawaii, another place where a lot of the population are non-white. And I have white friends that complain that they receive poor service in stores here because they are white. But none of us have ever been accused of doing something we didn’t do, or followed around in stores or had most of the experiences the author of this article is talking about.

    So it’s true, plenty of people hate white people. And I suppose you can call that racism, but to define racism so superficially really ignores the vast majority of what racism really is.

  • Sierra

    I think that it is sad that this post has gotten so many comments unlike the other posts, It’s also sad that we are still dealing with racism and sexism in 2013 (and it’s still sad that we are hopeless about the environment too.) To lovely Ashley Reese who wrote this; it was a lovely article and I enjoyed it. To point out, yes Reverse Racism does in fact exist, I am white with very notable Russian heritage and when I go over the border to America, I am called a Comie. Racism is about basically not liking someone of another race. Which means a Black man who hates his white neighbor, is in fact racist. As is the Hispanic woman who hates her Japanese neighbor.

    • jbrown

      There is no such thing as reverse racism. Racism is a global SYSTEM of POWER + PREJUDICE. It’s the environment as a whole that is the primary problem for non-white people around the globe and not about one individual doing some silly name calling.

      • jm313

        A global system? So now whites are oppressing the whole world? Then what about Asia? China is becoming a superpower. Many Asian countries are similar to the West. Look at Asians in America. Here in America they perform statistically better than whites which makes me wonder if white America is so darn racist then why do Asians perform so well in America? The fact is blacks pull out the race card way too much. Its time they start to look at problems in there culture caused by themselves instead of making excuses and blaming whites.

        Also its just not some silly name calling. There is a bunch of black on white racially motivated crime out there. A much higher ratio than white on black hate crime. Yet why is it that white on black crimes are much more quickly to be called hate crimes than black on white. The national media suppresses black on white crime. Whenever a white person does something to a black person black people scream racism without any facts. People who tend to bring race immediately into things tend to have some racism in them.

  • Zoey

    If your non-white friend decided to open up to you about someone calling her a racial slur??

    So white ppl don’t deal with racism? Hmmm Ever think that Amusing whites are the main racists in the world IS IN FACT RACIST! I think ppl are just getting tired of the subject… I mean come on! Now you just trying to make none racist ppl feel like that are.

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  • Emerald P.

    Print this out and given them to the plebeians!

  • Nobody

    One think I think more people need to know is that racism goes both ways. I’m the only Caucasian in a Hispanic and African American neighborhood and I am picked on mercilessly, when I was younger none of the kids wanted to hang out with me because of my color, I was called white trash and a red neck constantly. Everyone needs to stop with all of this it’s ridiculous (I’m talking about all racism, sexism, all of it) Why does everyone have to pick on people for things they can’t even help?

    • Sneha

      Racism is accepting privilege over other races due to the color of your skin. No person of color can be racist because they have never had the privilege!! Whites have never suffered from racism because they have never been less privileged than other races. That doesn’t make you a bad person; it’s plain fact.

      • Hikaru

        There are plenty of people who are picked on because they are white. Usually it’s because they have been a minority in a specific circumstance. For instance, just today I read that a Caucasian student was bullied in school because he was the minority in a primarily black school. He was called all sorts of racial slurs and beaten physically (as well as his little sister). Just because you don’t see it happening (yes, it is a bit rare), it does happen and it should be addressed that racism should be addressed as a problem for all races. Saying otherwise is just ignorant.

        • Ashley Reese

          Anyone is capable of holding racial prejudices. And if those students were assaulted because they were white then that is obviously terrible. However, I think it is worth noting how often anecdotes of “racism against white people” are, well, largely anecdotal. The fact is that there is generally no systemic racism in place against white people. If white people were getting disproportionately longer prison sentences than their non-white counterparts, were under-represented and reduced to static stereotypes in media, lacked privileges in this society based on their skin color, made less money than non-white people, were more likely to be racially profiled by law enforcement, etc…then I’d agree that racism is as much of a problem for white people as it is for non-white people. That’s just not the case though. Like I said, anybody is capable of being a terrible person and hating on somebody for something they can’t control, like skin color. But to act as if it is exactly the same as the amount of discrimination and prejudice that permeate the experiences people of color is simply untrue. As I said in the article, we’re raised to see everything as equal to a fault, to the point of tuning out the obvious fact that non-white people experience the full brunt of systematic racism.

          • Hikaru

            I totally agree with you. I just wanted to point out that it does exist and should not be ignored. Racism is something that many people have to deal with and that in itself is heartbreaking. By recognizing it in all it’s forms, hopefully one day we can get rid of it once and for all, even if it does take a few decades.

      • Anonymous

        Racism doesn’t have to be on a vast and nation level to be racism. Maybe it doesn’t happen as much, but yes- there is racism against white people.

  • Nasim

    Completely agree with this, I could not have put this in better words if i spent the rest of my life trying.
    Also, to those saying that this article is close-minded, stop and ask yourself why you think that. Is it maybe because you’ve claimed not to see colour before, and now have to justify it by countering it with some lame-ass excuse/reason as to how it excuses you completely from being racist instead of admitting to being offensive? Admitting that you do see colour and all its implications is much more helpful in fighting racism than denying it all.

    • Ali

      I see color and I think racism is extremely wrong. Its disgusting and I always stand up for those subject to it.
      But I’m a white skinny girl from Texas. And you can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve been called a redneck or a skinny white b*tch. Its a close-minded article because its suggesting that only african americans are subject to racism which simply isn’t true.

      • stubbikins

        Sure, when trying to show you are not racist, start talking about how hard it is to be a skinny white girl in Texas. You were called a name? boo friggin hoo.

        Were you arrested and locked up in jail? Beaten? Shot? Do you lose job interviews to people with half the qualifications because your name is “ethnic”?

        No. You get free drinks.

        • Erinn

          stubbikins, aren’t you bullying her?

          • stubbikins

            No. Being disagreed with is not being bullied

  • Leslie

    Excellent article. Even if the people who use the color blindness method genuinely aren’t racist, it’s just rude to straight up tell someone you don’t acknowledge their ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation as part of who they are. Yes, we are all more than our skin color or where our great-grandparents came from or who we like to sleep with, but these aspects of ourselves are still something we identify with. Race and ethnicity and sexual orientation form part of our culture, and therefore, out personality. Ignoring that I am an Irish-American from NJ is ignoring a pretty big part of why I am me, and I’m not even part of a marginalized group (at least not to most people, idk, one time someone called me a mick and I laughed so hard I cried), where it can be an even more important part of someone’s personal experience. We shouldn’t try and erase race, but accept all races as something different but good.

  • zeba

    some of the comments on the thread are so basic.

    and racist.

  • Holly

    This is the stupidest article I’ve ever read on Gurl and I’ve been with you guys for 6 years. What the heck is this overtly feminist crap? Like calm down seriously. Just because someone says “I don’t care if you’re black/white” doesn’t mean they’re racist. This is literally the stupidest article I’ve ever read. Ashley Reese, you need to calm your hormones guuuuurllll, like please grow up. You’re writing like an angry 20 year old who’s pissed off at the world, the world isn’t perfect. But 9/10 if someone says they aren’t racists, they usually aren’t.

    • Freja

      Um….how is this feminist? The issue at hand is racism, and how we don’t address the issues that need to be addressed. Color blindness is about oppressing an issue that still effects people today, not about you skimming an article and assuming that some girl is just really angry with everything. It’s frustrating for such a huge issue in someone’s life to be dismissed in this way.

  • leyla

    I agree with Megan. Just because someone says they don’t see color doesn’t mean they are dismissing the fact that racism is still an issue.They just say color doesn’t mean anything to them personally. If I say it doesn’t matter to me whether someone is gay or not, does that mean I’m suggesting homophobia isn’t still an issue in the world? This article is very closed minded.

    • jo

      Uhhh, there’s a difference between saying you don’t mind what race someone is and saying that you don’t SEE it. If you can literally see a person, like, if you have functioning vision, you can see their race. You should know by seeing their race whether or not they’re from an ethnic minority and thus have probably experienced racism. Saying that you DON’T see that is dismissing the fact that racism is out there. Just because it’s not an issue to YOU doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter to them. Like, you should be saying “I see that you’re black but that doesn’t affect my emotions towards you” not “I’m just going to pretend I don’t see your race because that’s the only way I’m going be able to relate to you to being a human being”… like, it’s okay to admit someone’s an ethnic minority. you don’t have to reduce them to being ‘colourless’ to get on with them.

  • Ana Garcia

    I think that most writers on gurl are obnoxious and smug. Just sayin’.

  • Megan

    If someone said, “I don’t see color! It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or green or purple.”, they are trying to say that racism is not an issue for them personally, not that it doesn’t exist within the masses. They mean that they see everyone equally, not that EVERYONE does. They aren’t trying to dismiss anyone’s experiences with racism. You have basically made it seem like there is really no way NOT to be racist. Other than to listen and say nothing.

    • Ashley Reese

      Plenty of people use that line in a dismissive manner as well. And too often it’s the people who will swear up and down that they don’t have a racist bone in their body that get defensive whenever they slip up and accidentally offend someone in some racial capacity. They’ll use the “I don’t see color!” line as a get out of jail free card instead of treating their mistake as a learning lesson. Actions speak louder than words, which is why I emphasized how important it is to listen to others. Anyone can say they aren’t racist, but how many times have you come across somebody say, “I’m not racist but…” and follow up with something utterly racist. Those same people probably say that they don’t see color either. Too often people use color blindness as an excuse for their own ignorance–“What I said wasn’t racially insensitive, I don’t even SEE/CARE ABOUT race!”–and I simply find little comfort in people referencing non-existent green people or a Chinese sister-in-law when they defend their missteps.

    • Sahara May

      ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or green or purple.’ = doesn’t mean you see everyone equally. By choosing to completely ignore a person’s colour, you’re choosing to be ignorant. And by ignoring their colour, you are also effectively dismissing part of their identity. A part of their identity that they more than likely have to struggle with in this messed up society, and part of their identity that is probably very important to them.

      And in regards to racism, the best thing for white people to do when PoC are talking about it, IS to just listen. Asking questions is almost as important, but how can you learn if you don’t listen? White people will never experience the same kind of racism as PoC so how can they argue about what is or isn’t racist for us? (FYI, you can’t).

      • Dru

        And how can you argue what is or isn’t racist for others? Because you’re a PoC you get automatic say for the entirety of your race? What if somebody else in your race has a different view? Who are YOU to decide? On that matter, if somebody is black, are they allowed to decide what is or isn’t racist for Asians? Or is it JUST for your particular race that YOU are allowed to decide?

        On that matter, many white people can be discriminated based on color. What if I lived in Detroit? You think I wouldn’t be discriminated against? You don’t think I would have racial slurs thrown at me? Or even get beat up? I know many white kids who grew up in black neighborhoods and they were acted out against quite a bit, both vocally and physically. Don’t you dare dismiss “white people” just because you don’t think racism happens against them. How dare you think YOU get the final say in what racism is just because it happens to you and you snub “white people” for anything else.

  • Valen

    This is why I love gurl so much, it chages my point of view completly

    • Sierra

      I love gurl for that reason also <3