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September 4th, 2009


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02:07 pm - On Race & Being Supposedly "Colorblind"
Since the first recent fandom race blow up early this year, I've been reading a bit more about race and racism. Although my social circle includes no shortage of people of all manner of gender-expressions and sexual preferences, it's also exceedingly white, and so in many ways my awareness of racial issues is sadly that of most other geeky white progressives, which is to say, I'm fairly clueless about race. After reading yet another (albeit small) fandom racial kerfluffle, and seeing many of the same relatively clueless arguments that I've now seen many times before, it seemed useful for me to share the single most important piece of information that I've learned from reading about racism and race issues.

This information comes from this amazing post about one person's experience dealing with race, that I urge you to read in its entirety. While there was much of great value here, the bit that struck me most was about being colorblind. I've encountered the idea among progressives that being colorblind is the ideal state, and I'm not at all certain if this would be harmful in a society that was actually racially egalitarian, in the US, and pretty much every other first world nation, this is far from the case, and so it's an absolutely wretched idea. As the author of the post I linked to says
"At the beginning of Yelling Class, I also prided myself on all the work I had done to make myself "colourblind". It was in Yelling Class that I learned how incredibly racist that was.

One of the best vocalizations of how awful the term "colourblind" really is came back to the circle game, and how many of the students listed black (or Korean, or whatever they happened to be) as ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL, DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS OF WHO THEY ARE AS A PERSON. When you try to be colourblind, you are actually discounting an entire aspect of who a person is. For white people, who almost unanimously did not list their colour as a defining characteristic of who they are, this doesn't appear to be a big deal. But for someone who DOES, you are essentially saying "I dismiss this entire part of you that is integral to your personality and part of your definition of who you are as unimportant and of no concern to me."

It's a hard thing to realize that you are carrying something like racism around with you, however unconsciously. I mean, we're human. Most of us want very much to be good people, and try our hardest to be so. So it's hard when you come to realize that something you had perceived as being anti-racist was actually very, very much the opposite. Reactions to learning this can differ greatly, from horrified acceptance to vehement denial.

No, the point of Yelling Class was the opposite of colour blindness. The point of Yelling Class was to open the eyes of all the teachers, particularly those who had been living in privilege, and help them to see the inequalities that appear all around in society, in the schools, and in themselves."

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(7 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:autopope
Date:September 4th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
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It's a hard thing to realize that you are carrying something like racism around with you, however unconsciously.

Oh. Fucking Christianity again, with it's doctrine of Original Sin.

Fuck original sin!

I believe that we have an obligation to our fellow humans, whatever their skin colour, (dis)ability status, or number of heads, to treat them as they would prefer to be treated: and part and parcel of that is to be aware of how things must look through their eyes -- but I'm not going to have the fucking Universal American Racist meme pinned on me. (Not least because I'm not American, or Christian.)

Sorry to vent. But I think guilt-tripping people is the wrong way to tackle racism. The right way: get them to cultivate their empathy, and keep their eyes open for injustice to fight.

Edited at 2009-09-04 09:35 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:September 4th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
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I completely agree that guilt-tripping is not the most useful a tactic. However, it's equally true that there is no shortage of well meaning progressives who nevertheless be hurtfully and offensively racist in a wide variety of ways. For me, the answer is clearly not guilt, but it is careful self-examination and greater awareness.
[User Picture]
From:cericonversion
Date:September 5th, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
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I don't see it as guilt-tripping. I see it as becoming aware of weaknesses in my worldview that I can do something about when I know they're there. I'm diabetic, so I count my carbs and monitor my blood sugar. I have high blood pressure, so I take my medication and manage my stress and try to keep my sleep in order. And I'm white in a society that privileges whiteness, so I support laws and customs that try to equalize opportunity in real, practical terms, and pay attention to the experiences of people of color, and like that.

It's not a matter of guilt, but of responsibility. I owe it to the people who care about me not to croak prematurely for stupid avoidable reasons; I owe it to my values and the rest of my society not to help mess up any more than I must for those without my privileges.
[User Picture]
From:lupagreenwolf
Date:September 5th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
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It can be tough to not feel guilty; however, guilt is a sign that you're paying attention to yourself more than the other person: "Wow, I screwed up! I made a mistake! What must people be thinking about me because of this?" I counter it by shifting the attention from myself to the needs of the other person: "What can I do to make the situation better for the other person, armed with the knowledge I now have?" Instead of turning the reaction to the realization of privilege inward, you turn it outward in a constructive manner.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:September 5th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC)
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Well said!
[User Picture]
From:cericonversion
Date:September 5th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC)
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*underlines and circles the above* Yes yes yes.
[User Picture]
From:cusm
Date:September 8th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
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This reminds me of a lengthy discussion I had once on the topic. The gist of which was, its ok and even preferable to notice race and even identify it. Where it is not ok is to treat someone with automatic prejudice because of it.

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