Economically and socially colorblind

David Jenkins

In 2004, America met Barack Obama for the first time and fell in love with him.

As United States senator of Illinois, Obama gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention and said the following words that gave him rise to political fame, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America, there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America, there’s the United States of America.”

He promoted the idea that the United States was a post-racial society. Sometimes, it’s fun to wonder if he looks at this statement and still believes it.

There are positive things that can come from this sort of thinking and there are negative things. It can be seen when analyzing both the political right and left.

From the political right we see this idea that racism is no longer an issue and that discussing race is considered taboo.

Then there’s the left, who see racism as a systematic problem and must be confronted head on by putting strong emphasis on a person’s race when dealing with their identity.

One side promotes the idea that being racially colorblind cures racism, while the other believes that in doing so only perpetuates it more.

What both fail to understand is that there is to be a distinction between ignoring ‘race’ and ignoring ‘racism’. These are two completely different things and many seem to blur the lines between the two.

Lets take two examples and critique them.

Lets say you own a business and you need to hire someone. There’s two resumes on your desk one is from a white american and the other is from a black American.

The white American’s resume is much lighter than the resume of the black american, therefore it is easy to conclude that the black American is much more qualified for the job.

It is in this case that the idea of being colorblind works for the favor of society. You hire this person based on their merits, not the color of their skin.

This is how the free market operates. Capitalism (despite many opposition toward it) is a colorblind system. In fact it only sees one color, and that color is green. It doesn’t care what color skin you have, if you can bring in revenue then you’re best for the job.

Now lets look at a presently hot issue. Police brutality.

In America, the movement Black Lives Matter has pointed out the the racial problems in the United States Police department.

Many young black Americans are either brutally beat or murdered by the police force for pity crimes in higher rates than that of any other race. One is more likely to get stopped by the police if they’re black.

This is obvious racism, and ignoring the race of these individuals will only continue these violent acts. This is when ignoring the race of the person is a negative thing. It isn’t just the race that’s ignored, it’s racism being ignored as a whole.

The conservative political right seem to make this mistake time and time again when speaking of the injustices of these fallen young black men and women, and come up with slogans that undermine the experiences.

And the former example is something that the liberal political left fail to notice about the free market.

Many companies in both Europe and in North America have by choice (or by law) decided to hire their employees based on racial diversity rather than individual merits. While doing so with good intention, it undermines the concept of the free market and it’s racial colorblindness.

There are extremes to both sides when it comes to acknowledging race and ignoring it. But make no mistake, both extremes allow racism to rise and settle itself in.

It must be noted that learning to differentiate someone’s race and someone’s racism is an important factor in this fight.

In conclusion, whether confronting or not, racial prejudices are never going away. What must be done however, is to combat it intellectually. Let not the emotions of the extreme triumph over reasoning.

Get comfortable with discussing that which is uncomfortable. Don’t fear that discussing race makes you a racist. And don’t fear that not discussing race assumes that racial prejudices no longer exist.