Imagine lollipops with lots of color but no distinct flavors. Red would be just red, lacking a strawberry taste or raspberry, cherry, or maybe something exotic such as pomegranate, gogi berries, or something strange like beets. They would just be red, yellow, brown, and black; and they would taste exactly the same—sweet.
There has been a colorblind zeitgeist the last couple of decades or more in America. Colorblindness is promoted widely – in workplaces; in the media; in movements such as “beyond race” or “post Obamaism.” In the performing arts and film, there is colorblind casting. Where there once was a sensitivity to racist remarks by people such as coaches or Rush Limbaugh, now, it’s spilled over to where racial comments and acknowledgements of differences of any kind are blasé or taboo. In 2011, Dr. Monnica Williams, Director of the Center for Mental Health Disparities at the University of Louisville, wrote an article entitled “Colorblind Ideology Is a Form of Racism.” An African American, she argues that “refusing to acknowledge the racial and ethnic differences of others is a form of racism.” It denies negative racial experiences, rejects their cultural heritage, and invalidates their unique perspectives.
Mark Benn, a psychologist and adjunct professor at Colorado State University is white, and in a 2009 Teaching Tolerance Article he describes incidents of racial “colorblindness” that some of his students insist upon, in which they believe that ignoring or overlooking racial and ethnic differences promotes racial harmony. In effect, the notion derives from Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 speech, in which he said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The problem is the focus has become about the denial of skin color and completely ignores what makes up the content of character.
This ideology has become so pervasive, it goes beyond race. People of color are just as likely to accept colorblind ideologies as are whites, and that’s one of the issues. We are undermining, no, we are surface mining; we are buying into one more thing that pulls us further away from exploring the depths of who we are as individuals and as richly different and adaptable peoples. Insisting on sameness and focusing upon similarities at the expense of what makes us unique is lazy when it’s not devious.
Recently, I was out with colleagues who are comfortable talking about a variety of topics including race. In this instance, the colleague was exploring gender – a politically correct way of saying men, women and relationships. The conversation was rich, the questions probing, the explanations nuanced, the exploration calling upon history, heritage, values, upbringing, psychology, morals, style, personal idiosyncrasies… The conversation drew young and old alike to join in, except for one person who said the exchange was too deep. He was in the mood for something “lite.” Nothing wrong with lite and nothing wrong with deep. But there is a problem when “lite” only is demanded. Let’s consider lollipops – purple without tasting grape, yellow without lemon or pineapple, orange without orange, and what would we do with brown without sinful chocolate that could be dark, milk or white?
I for one believe that we can do much better than strive for a colorful lollipop society with no flava.