Monday, April 11, 2011

Life is Better in Color: Why Colorblindness is the Problem, not the Solution

The name of this blog is, "Life in Color" for a reason.  Colorblindness is a major problem in the world of multi-racial individuals.

In the backlash of the movement against racism, the civil rights movement, and most white people being scared of being racist, colorblindness has floated to the surface of society.  Most of the time, people think of the term colorblindness as a good thing.  If they want to commend an individual for their progressive thinking in the area of race relations (or more commonly exclaim that they are not racist) they will say that they're colorblind.  The truth is for minorities and racial and ethnic groups this is no favor.

But lets strictly define colorblindness first.  It is what it sounds like, seeing individuals or people without regard to their ethnic background, everyone is colorless.

I think that there are several things fundamentally wrong with this seemingly helpful solution to race relations.  For one, colorblindness can be directly traced a core belief that sees "whiteness" as a standard to existence in America.  The idea is that minorities should receive the same sort of treatment as white people.  That minorities should receive what is essentially white privilege.  It points to whites as the solution, as the goal, as the answer, but the truth is that this is going to bleach all the color, the life, and the individuality of a person.

I want to say, " NO, I am not white, and I am perfectly okay with that.  I do not need to conform the culture, the life, and the expectations that white America has set as the standard. Why can't I in my Asian Americanness be just as American, just as normal in my own skin as Caucasian Americans?  Don't tell me that I need to change, I don't need to be white to be American"

And that is the battle that we're fighting today.  Because the truth is that this is an underhanded form of discrimination that forces the minorities to change to be more like White America, essentially saying that our culture, our color, and our existence isn't valid until it becomes like theirs.  Instead of saying that we're "colored people" now, they're saying that everyone is essentially white through colorblindness, the same fight only an inverted statement.  And the saddest thing is that white people don't even know that this is a problem or that they're doing it!  It's just another part of white privilege.  You can't just pretend that a person isn't a minority-its an insult to them as a person: their experiences, their life, and their culture.

We don't want to become this white washed facade that White America creates so that they can sleep better at night knowing that they treated the Asian Americans like white people.  We want to be appreciated, not cast aside, not side handedly told to change.  Why would you want your country to grow duller and duller when we can add the spice of color and culture?  You can't pretend that people are all the same when people are different.  Eventually, those unacknowledged differences are going to arise and there are going to do be difficulties addressing them.

In fact, part of what I think can be pointed to as a Pro-Color movement that has unconsciously arisen for "brown people" and "yellow people".  There are many other ways to define yourself or name your ethnic group but this conscious colorful decision says something to the fight against colorblindness.

I know that while people mean the best, equality has been pushed so far that it crushes individuality which I believe is at the heart of true respect.  When equality is taken to the degree of similarity, you get stuff like the Cultural Revolution in China, dancers' feet being crushed and painter's hands being broken.  People are not all the same, nor will they ever be the same no matter how "post-race" you want a culture to become, trying to make it so that everyone is the same, is only going to break them.

After my first two semesters at my college, I felt like I was either only "That Asian Girl" or "white".  I need a medium between being a stereotype and deciding to become a faceless, colorless assimilation into white culture.  (the reason why the url is  The truth is that as much as people want to believe that they can be "colorblind" they can't because you see in color.  It just makes people awkward trying to do something that isn't part of their natural cognitive process.  As much as you try to be colorblind, your conception and consciousness of color is going to leak through.  Its better to just acknowledge that a person is who they are-its the only way to really build strong relationships.

and its hard, or at least its harder than the two extremes because it requires you to toss out stereotypes and standards on both ends and to actually take the time to appreciate and accept an individual as that, an individual.  I know that I've seen this naturally occur with really good friends of mine, they know me well enough to understand that my entire essence of being is not defined by my ethnic background, but they know and acknowledge that it exists and makes my life different than theirs.  I have different sets of knowledge, tastes, and personal experiences that they know exist.  They can love me, all of me-not just a  white facade that has been produced to simplify their relationship with me.

Life without color is just black and white, and it has left a wake of devaluation and destruction in its midst. Its not the real answer to multi-cultural interactions.  And I know that I am very critical in this blog, but I'd like to point out that America struggles with racism and race relations more than most countries because of the fact that we are so diverse.  Most countries have a very homogeneous population that has much smaller manifestations of minority groups.  The struggles that we face are just a part of living life together.  I know that it is cause for a lot of conflict and trouble, but I would like to believe that we are better for it in the end.  One of my core beliefs is that one's strengths are also one's weakness.  We just have to address the weakness that come with our strengths and be aware of them so that we can combat them.

I am going to finish with one of my favorite quotes from an interview with African American CCM artist, Nicole C. Mullen.  She is married to a white man, and she has a lot of perspective on what its like to live in a colorful, mixed world, as her children as biracial.

“‎People are valuable regardless of the color of their skin. You can be open about it and talk about it. You don’t have to pretend that you are not different, but you can learn about those differences… God didn’t say, ‘Ooh, I made you brown on accident.’ He made them that color on purpose. And if you do not have friendships with other races, then ask God to bring you some. He will.”- Nicole C. Mullen
I can't help but feel like this is a really big, real issue that we face in day to day life.  Please pass this on if you think I say something worth reading, something worth discussing.  I would like to see the approach to race relations change.  I know that it's had a part in changing me and the way I look at the world around me.

I can go on and on about my own anecdotal experiences with struggling with colorblindness when looking at myself, but I don't feel like this is the time or place for it.  If you're interested in hearing it, let me know, drop some contact info, and I'll be happy to talk to you about it.  Leave a comment.  What are your thoughts on colorblindness? What are your own experiences? That's all for now.

That Asian Girl

1 comment:

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