Protests Continue in the U.S.
“Racism is so American that when you protest it, people think you are protesting America” is a quote that has circled social media platforms and accurately captures race in America. Thousands continue to protest police brutality and systemic racism in America, but a large portion of white America remains clueless to issues discussed at these protests. Issues of racial injustice in America have been brought to the forefront, and it is clear that there is a deep lack of understanding of these issues, and much of it can be summed up under the concept of colorblind racism. Colorblindness can be defined as the assumption that people live in a nonracial society where one’s racial categorization does not affect their life quality. Nonetheless, the United States is a country built on race, and assuming a colorblind racial perspective allows the oppressing class to take on a false “moral high ground of being ‘beyond race’” when disregarding movements for racial equality and issues of disproportional effect to people of color. Despite some arguments regarding the seriousness of racial issues in the U.S., injustices against POC are heavily embedded in all large structures and institutions and are benefited by colorblind racism that works not to disrupt white comfort.
What is Colorblind Racism?
Colorblind racism, as argued by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s book Racism Without Racists, supports an implicitly racially divided wealth of opportunities and equality hidden behind a morality trait of not seeing or judging someone by the color of their skin. It sounds helpful and desirable in concept to not judge someone by the color of their skin, yet the claim of color blindness fails to recognize the inherently racist composition of a society rooted in historical events and structural inequality. This halts a society’s ability to resolve these issues because it convinces groups of people that they do not exist despite evidence suggesting otherwise. An example of colorblindness is delegitimizing an issue that disproportionately affects black neighborhoods by arguing that it affects everyone and is therefore not about race. The person would refuse to acknowledge the fact that the issue is based on race because it would mean that they benefit from a system that helps them more than other races. Realizing this causes discomfort for white people, which Robin DiAngelo outlines as an issue in their 2018 book White Fragility. DiAngelo argues that evading discomfort is born out of a place of entitlement and the utilization of white power to maintain superiority. Assuming colorblindness excuses white people from discussing these issues while maintaining their power.
Historical Structures of Racial Injustice
It is unreasonable to think about most issues in the United States without considering the historical racial context of them. Racial inequality in America didn’t magically disappear after the abolition of slavery or the “dismantling” of segregation. Racism is adaptive and has continuously found ways to affect the lives of people of color in America. Experts argue that the history of race relations in America is dense and continuously changing, starting with slavery but not ending with it. It carries on with different racist structures starting with years of segregation, lynching mobs, and redlining, along with the erosion of black history in education, police brutality, wealth inequality, and cultural appropriation. Michelle Alexander discusses this in her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, arguing that America has birthed a new caste-system that maintains white power and persists due to the utilization of colorblindness. Mass incarceration is probably America’s largest race issue that it faces today, and it has affected black communities since Nixon’s war on drugs in the 70s. Evidence shows that black men are disproportionately being arrested at a higher rate than white people, destroying families and communities. By Arresting some white people and keeping them in the criminal justice system, the system preserves its colorblind image that white people eat up in order to avoid feelings of discomfort.
Why You Cannot Be Colorblind and Pro-BLM
Right now in the United States, protests are bringing to light issues of racial injustice that have been brushed under the rug for years. Colorblindness is the biggest barrier facing the movement on a social level. Those arguing that police brutality is not an issue of race are missing the point by engaging in colorblind racism. They are choosing to not only disregard the history of racial inequality in America that allowed this to happen in the first place, but also to ignore evidence that supports the rage of the black community. Arguments such as “I do not see color” or “I don’t see a black man being murdered, I see an innocent man being murdered” are birthed as a way to deflect any responsibility that may fall on the speaker to fight against a corrupt system. The ability to say “I do not see color” comes from a place of privilege where people do not have to acknowledge systems that disproportionately harm black people and not them. Additionally, the argument “if George Floyd was white none of the protests would have happened” or “white people get killed by the police too” disregards the fact that if George Floyd was white, not only would he have had a much lower chance of being killed by a cop this way, but if he was killed then I would expect his murderer more likely to be arrested and convicted right away.
How to Do Better?
Right now, you have a chance to do better and become a better ally to the people being affected by corrupt systems in the United States, starting by educating yourself on issues of racial inequality by reading books, listening to their stories, and using your privilege to change how it is. As a white person, you have the social power to speak and be listened to, and with that, you have the ability to change people’s minds and to amplify black people’s voices. Your allyship is significant. Now is the time for you to create change and be on the right side of history. I am calling on you to take the first step of re-educating yourself on issues of race in this country.