In today’s society, race is at the forefront of a wide range of different discussions. When Trayvon Martin was murdered and his killer was subsequently tried, much of the debate centered on race. Likewise, the debate over a number of different political issues has a racial element. In television shows help to remind people of race, using either intelligent casting or listless stereotyping to get across a central message – we are different. In trying to understand the modern world, one cannot hope to untangle it from the context of history. We are largely shaped by things that have happened in the past, from the arrangement of social order during the time of slavery to more modern injustices, like the Jim Crow era, which closed black people out of voting and made it difficult for them to purchase homes (Trepagnier, 2010). With these things in mind, it is impossible for society to be colorblind today, though society could become more understanding that differences between people and cultures are not necessarily a bad thing.
Colorblindness is an impossibility largely because the institutions – both social and official – that power the country are still riddled with less visible, but no less harmful, racism. In Defending Whiteness, Wedding writes, “Racism should not be thought of as merely the acts of a few misguided individuals, such as skinheads and white supremacists, nor should it be defined only as those acts deemed as official hate crimes. It is neither random nor coincidental. Modern day racism operates like a wolf in sheep’s clothing: it looks innocent but it is not” (Wedding). What the author means is that racism has changed, but it has not abated. It operates under the surface, and often, it operates under the cover of legitimate law. Policies that are facially neutral can be discriminatory in effect, giving institutional racism the appearance of propriety while still producing the disparate results of the past.
Racial differences divide the nation, as evidenced by many of the messages provided by mass and popular media. The truth of the American experience is that people of different races often have different perceptions, and we are consistently reminded of these things in our daily lives. More than just being reminded of differences, a wide range of social and political forces seek to use those racial lines to divide people. The political branding of “reverse discrimination” operates this way as Wedding describes when she writes, “Reverse discrimination fuels new racism because it pits whites against non-whites” (Wedding). The almost-constant barrage of messaging makes it very difficult for a colorblind society to exist.
Colorblindness is probably not possible, but there exists a possibility that something even better could be attained by society. Colorblindness is not necessarily a virtue because it robs people of their culture identity, which they may very well be proud of. The experience of a black man in America, for instance, is not something that should be suppressed by claiming that all people are “the same.” Rather, society would be better off if each person tried to understand the challenges and hurdles faced by another person, taking into account a wide range of factors, including that person’s race. This, too, seems like a significant challenge given the current racial reality, where race is used less as an identifier of differences and more of a descriptive mark of stereotypical behavior. Until the forces that act upon people – including political and social forces – stop bombarding people with messages that poison the discussion on race, it remains unlikely that significant progress will be made in this realm.
- Trepagnier, B. (2010). Silent racism: How well-meaning white people perpetuate the racial divide. Paradigm Pub.
- Wedding, R.C. Defending Whiteness: Protecting White Privilege in Post-Civil Rights Society.