Paul R. Lehman, Colorblindness in a biased society is impossible

October 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, blacks, Ethnicity in America, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 1 Comment
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On any number of occasions we have heard someone say something
to the effect that when they look at someone they do no see color. In other
words, they consider themselves colorblind when looking at other people.
Actually what they are saying is not that they are colorblind, but that they do
not regard color as essential to that person’s social value or that they are
not biased relative to a person’s color. While that might sound okay, the fact
of the matter is that being colorblind in a society that bases ethnic identity
on color is impossible.

When we look around society we recognize the part that bias
plays in our lives. We see that so-called black Americans with college and
university educations are unemployed two times that of so-called white
Americans. In addition, while so-called blacks represent a small percentage of
the population, around 12to 13 percent, their representation in prisons is
disproportionate to that of so-called whites. The statistics are not much
better if we look at the biases of Latinos in comparison with so-called whites.
The point being made is that color is a primary element of ethnic bias in
America society today.

Some people have tried to use the election of Barack Obama
as President of the United States as proof that color bias is no longer a
determining factor in valuing all Americans. Sally Lehrman, in an article
(2003) “Colorblind Racism,” states that “While many Americans agree that open
racial bigotry is generally a thing of the past, stark disparities in daily
life persist, as documented by academic researchers, the U.S. Census Bureau and
the Institute of Medicine.” More specifically, Lehrman notes that “when blacks
and Latinos are hospitalized with a heart problem, they are less likely than
European Americans (whites) to receive catheterization, be sent home with beta
blockers, or even be advised to take aspirin to protect their health.”

When a society continues to use color as part of an ethnic
identity, escaping the consequences of ethnic bias is impossible. The problem
does not rest with the color, it rest with the concept of race. The fact that
during slavery in America color was viewed as something of extreme value,
especially if one was considered white , and it still has meaning in today’s
society. People are still being recognized by their ethnic identity and the
amount or degree of so-called whiteness they have. Since color that
characterizes ethnic identity is not a constant entity, the question arises of
how amounts and degrees of color are measured in people. Fortunately, we have
an answer to that question. The answer comes from the Human Genome Project that
reported that race has no biological foundation as a way to categorize human
beings. In other words, a person’s color is insignificant when it comes to
being identified as a human being.

America has known for many years that color is not a factor
with respect to a person’s intelligence, physical and mental well-being.
However, because of the social value placed on color historically, many people
find it impossible to accept the fact that all human beings belong to the same
family. When some people who do accept that fact try to express it by saying
they are colorblind, they misunderstand the reason for the bias being present.
The problem is not with the person of color, it is with the person who tries to
disregard color. Unless a person identifies him or her self without a reference
to color, in other words, African American and European American, color still
remains are part of their perception. As long as the government allows people
to identify themselves as blacks and whites, the social and historical
significance of color will remain a part of the bigotry in society.

When one hears someone saying they try to be colorblind, the
statement rather than being interpreted as a compliment on their good character
of the person of color, actually reflects on a sense of superiority of the
speaker. This superiority is based on the judgment rendered in granting the
people of color some social value. In other words, if they do not consider
color a detriment in society, then the person of color is acceptable to them in
spite of his or her color. Anyone making the statement does no understand the
problem; they are, in fact, blind to it.

The problem is and will continue to be the false concept of
race and the association of color with ethnic identity. Prior to the 70’s the
color white had significance in society relative to privilege and special
treatment. Today in our culture of greed, the only color of primary value is
green, the color of money. The fact that the color white is being eroded strikes
fear in the minds of people who rely on that color as a source of their importance
and social value. When color as part of ethnic identity no longer has
significance in society, so-called racial bigotry will be forced to find
another home.

Being colorblindness was supposed to signal a sensitive and compassionate
feeling towards those of color by someone whose color was seen as superior. The
irony of colorblindness comes from the fact that if the essence of color is not
a factor in judging another, why would there need to be a reference to color
and blindness at all? If the person making the reference to colorblindness places
no value on color, then the statement actually shows ignorance, arrogance, and
bias because a person’s color is a factor in his or her physical identity and
as such should be respected and valued, not ignored. Accepting people as human
beings with no reservations to their physical appearance is the objective;
after all, we’re all human.


1 Comment »

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  1. Amen. The problem continues because the racial construct remains in place. It is difficult to dismantle because at the core of the construct is power. Power is not something people generally want to share.

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