“I don’t see race; I’m completely colourblind.”
The above is an unhelpful statement that is thrown around way too often. When people say this I often wonder why. Could it really be true that they don’t watch the news? Yes, race is a social construct but the implications of race are something that affects many of us. Race is a reality; the more pigmentation one has in their skin, the more difficult it can be to navigate society without a headache and much stress.
The “I don’t see race” comment doesn’t need to be stated to prove that one isn’t racist, or that one is open-minded or liberal. I acknowledge that we members of the human race are a diverse bunch but because of colonialism and other issues we have all had our minds colonized; we believe things about ourselves and about others that just aren’t true. And our beliefs unfortunately place people in a racial hierarchy (also gender, sexual orientation, religious hierarchies etc.).
Just looking back at recent news stories shows that race plays a part in people’s lives. Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman’s race, was hotly debated (proving the point that whatever race he embraced would have an impact on the judge’s sentence):
And what about the African refugees who have been segregated in Israel, 21st Century apartheid?
Or the fact that several Native Canadian women went missing for years (between 1969-2011) in British Columbia along the infamous Highway of Tears before the RCMP even bothered to conduct an investigation? In fact, the reason that the Canadian RCMP started to do anything about the missing women was when a white woman disappeared along the same highway in 2002; this woman received the first and the most media attention.
Or take this report showing that Canadians with “ethnic” sounding names find it a lot more difficult to get jobs than those with European names (and I have always gotten jobs easily because I have an English first name and my last name sounds racially-ambiguous to people. I recognize the “privilege” my name offers me).
Above are all examples of systemic racism.
I believe that those who are more privileged in society shouldn’t shrug off the issues and concerns of people of colour. Acknowledging someone’s racial identity isn’t a bad thing, nor is it racist. Saying one doesn’t see colour is actually a naive statement and anyone who is conscious of what’s going on in the world would know how wrong it is. At the same time, one shouldn’t assume something about a person due to their colour.
Saying one doesn’t see my colour means they refuse to see the issues that affect me, the issues that are important to me. They refuse to see that my location in society is different. Saying that means that the status quo will never change and we will live in a delusional existence believing we live in a racial utopia.
I’m not saying that I, as a black African immigrant woman living in Canada, experience all forms of racism ; I am actually blessed to live in Vancouver which is quite welcoming to immigrant; however, I am aware that people in other parts of the world, parts of the world that are not so welcoming of immigrants as Vancouver is, have it bad and I acknowledge their struggles.