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The Colorblind Effect

Wouldn’t it be sublime not to think about another person’s skin color or your own skin color? You may think skin color is just a descriptor. And, after all, we’re all part of the human race, the only race that matters, right? Well, hold on… There have been considerable and damaging ideas about skin color throughout American history, and racists have used it as an excuse to disparage and oppress brown and black people. Blackface in the entertainment business in the 1920s-1940s and films rife with derogatory racial stereotypes have reinforced and fueled racist behavior, racial segregation, and violence. Today, “colorism” and “othering” are still found in media and other corners of everyday life in America and the world. Even some white people feel it's okay to don blackface on Halloween.

A Change is Gonna Come

Current research shows that America will become significantly more racially diverse in the next few decades, resulting in minorities becoming the majority by the year 2050. Will those "colorblind" folk still be "colorblind" when that happens?

Some people can deftly navigate through life being colorblind, but many others are still targeted because of their color, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, culture, and lifestyle. Colorblind people will deny there is systemic racism and that racist behavior and even hate crimes are isolated atrocities committed by a minuscule part of the U.S. population. They may even connect the murders of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) with people who are “mentally ill.” Furthermore, they may share quotes from their one friend of color who agrees with them that all you have to do is work hard in this country, and success will come to you. Color is irrelevant. Avoid making comments like, ‘I don't see color. I see people as human beings. We're all the same.’ If you're not seeing color, you're not seeing the total person. If someone is of a certain religion, sexual orientation, has a disability, or has a particular lived experience, this shapes who that person is down to their core. It is part of their identity, much like being a Christian is part of someone’s identity. Finally, you are missing out on another person’s rich “lived experience” that can be a source of enlightenment. If someone is from a particular racial group, their lived experience and background influence their viewpoints, shape their lens, and influence their actions. A black person who grew up in Beverly Hills probably has a different lived experience than a black person who grew up on the south side of Chicago. Being open to learning about another person on a deeper level will also bolster your ability to understand your clients and co-workers.

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