I would describe American racial colorblindness as an epidemic.
Growing up in an upper middle class, white, conservative community in northeastern Ohio, there were approximately four people of color in my graduating class.
I don’t quite remember when I heard the phrase “I don’t see color,” but I remember it in the echos of my memories from middle school and high school.
I never really thought about the phrase until college, when I had black friends for the first time in my life. I realized that for most of my young adult life, I had been fed this idea of equality based on this implied standard of whiteness.
“I don’t see your color. You’re just like me.”
Yet this thought process insinuates that not only is everyone just like me, the typical white person, but I am denying them of their ethnicity all together, because it’s not important.
This kind of thinking completely wipes out the idea of having an equitable society, rather than an “equal one.” It eliminates our ability to see each other as we are and recognize our privilege by casting everyone in the same role without seeing the difference. This simple phrase leads to the erasure of seeing peoples’ inequalities and assuming that everyone has the same opportunities.
To be blind is to be unable to see. To ignore and be blissfully ignorant of; to be unable to discern. To be willfully ignorant, because it doesn’t affect you.
The epidemic of colorblindness doesn’t just reach into the lives of black Americans, but also into other marginalized groups.
To the women, the disabled, the undocumented, the Jewish, the Muslim, and the LGBTQIA in our country, this trope is an all too familiar cop out to dealing with the problem. When we refuse to see someone for all of their parts and pieces, we are doing a massive disservice to a greater conversation about the American condition.
A denial of color is simply a white out.