Color blindness (race)


Color blindness (race)

Color blindness (sometimes spelled colour-blindness; also called race blindness) is a sociological term referring to the disregard of racial characteristics when selecting which individuals will participate in some activity or receive some service.

Put into practice, color-blind operations use no racial data or profiling and make no classifications, categorizations, or distinctions based upon race. An example of this would be a college processing admissions without regard to or knowledge of the racial characteristics of applicants.[1]

This article deals with the United States, although similar phenomena exist in other cultures.

The term is sometimes also used in a non-political sense; for example, love is often described as colorblind.

The name is by analogy with physiological color blindness, a genetic trait that prevents some people from distinguishing certain colors such as similar shades of red and green. The term is figurative, as most color blind people can identify race reliably.

Support of color blindness

Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute, has promoted and won a series of ballot initiatives in the states of California (California Proposition 209 (1996)), Washington (1998 - I-200), and Michigan (the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative - MCRI, or Proposal 2, 2006). California's initiative was co-authored by academics Tom Wood and Glynn Custred in the mid-1990s and was taken up by Connerly after he was appointed in 1994 by Governor Pete Wilson to the University of California Board of Regents. Each of the ballot initiatives have won, and Connerly plans what he calls a "Super-Tuesday" of five additional states in 2008.

Professor Carl Cohen of the University of Michigan, who was a supporter of Michigan's Proposal 2, have argued that the term "affirmative action" should be defined differently than "race preference," and that while socioeconomically based or anti-discrimination types of affirmative action are permissible, those that give preference to individuals solely based on their race or gender should not be permitted. Cohen also helped find evidence in 1996 through the Freedom of Information Act that led to the cases filed by Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter against the University of Michigan for its undergraduate and law admissions policy - cases which were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 23, 2003.

Some national bloggers and internet resources who favor the "equal opportunity" approach over "positive discrimination" include John Rosenberg's Discriminations, Tim Fay's Adversity.net, and Chetly Zarko's Power, Politics, & Money.

Actor-producer-director Kenneth Branagh frequently uses race-blind casting in his Shakespearean films. In Much Ado About Nothing, he cast Denzel Washington as Don Pedro; in his version of Hamlet, Francisco, one of the sentries in the first scene, was played by an African-American; and in his As You Like It, David Oyelowo portrays Orlando. There are also several Japanese actors in the latter film.[2]

Criticism of color blindness

In 1997 Leslie G. Carr published "Color-Blind Racism" (Sage Publications) which reviewed the history of racist ideologies in America. He saw "color-blindness" as an ideology being promoted in to undercut the legal and political foundation of integration and affirmative action. For example, in her book Privilege Revealed: How Invisible Preference Undermines America, Stephanie M. Wildman writes that many Americans who advocate a merit-based, race-free worldview do not acknowledge the systems of privilege which benefit them. For example, many Americans rely on a social and sometimes even financial inheritance from previous generations. She argues that this inheritance is unlikely to be forthcoming if one's ancestors were slaves, and privileges whiteness, maleness, and heterosexuality.[3]

Critics allege that majority groups use practices of color-blindness as a means of avoiding the topic of racism and accusations of racial discrimination, and thus hide their true racial views,[4] and that color blindness is used as a tool in attacking group legal rights gained exclusively by some minority groups.[5]

Critics assert that color blindness allows people to ignore the racial construction of whiteness, and reinforces its privileged and oppressive position. In colorblind situations, whiteness remains the normal standard, and blackness remains different, or marginal.[6] As a result, white people are able to dominate when a color blind approach is applied because the common experiences are defined in terms which white people can more easily relate to than blacks.[7] Insistence on no reference to race, critics argue, means black people can no longer point out the racism they face.[6]

Sociologists such as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva of Duke University and Ashley Doane of the University of Hartford describe color-blindness as a dominant "racial ideology", or as Bonilla-Silva explains, "the collective understanding and representation produced by social groups to explain their world".[8] He also explains that we have this new racial ideology because of events that occurred between the 1940s and 1960s that led to a change in the racial structure of the United States.[9] Thus he stresses that studying the ideologies of color-blindness is not about accusing or blaming individual people, "of finding good and bad people", but rather looking at the "collective" understanding and representation produced by social groups to explain their world".[8] Bonilla- Silva examines the most salient "frames" of these alternative racial ideologies and of color-blind racism. They are abstract liberalism (e.g. statements such as "I am all for equal opportunity and that's why I oppose affirmative action"),"biologization of culture" (e.g. "Blacks are poor because they do not have the proper values"), naturalization of matters that reflect the effects of white supremacy (e.g. "Neighborhood segregation is a sad but natural thing since people want to live with people who are like them"), and minimization of racism and discrimination (e.g. statements such as "There are racists out there but they are few and hard to find").[8]

Critics of color-blindness argue that color-blindness operates under the assumption that we are living in a world that is "post-race",[10] where race no longer matters, when in fact it is still a prevalent issue. While it is true that overt racism is rare today, critics insist that more covert forms have taken its place. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva suggests that racial practices during the Jim Crow Era were typically overt and clearly racial, whereas today they tend to be covert, institutional, and apparently nonracial.[9] Another criticism is that color-blindness views racism at the individual level (e.g. Lines of reasoning such as "I don't own slaves" or "I have very close black friends" to defend oneself) without looking at the larger social mechanisms in which racism operates. In an article in the journal New Directions for Student Services, Nancy Evans and Robert Reason argued that color-blindness fails to see the "structural, institutional, and societal" levels at which inequalities occur.[11]

References

  1. ^ Burdman, Pamela (2008). "Race-blind admissions". http://www.alumni.berkeley.edu/Alumni/Cal_Monthly/September_2003/Race-blind_admissions-_a_progress_report.asp. Retrieved 2008-01-18 
  2. ^ http://www.hbo.com/films/asyoulikeit/interviews/
  3. ^ Privilege Revealed: How Invisible Preference Undermines America By Stephanie M. Wildman. Published 1996 by NYU Press
  4. ^ Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo (2006). Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 53–54. ISBN 0-7425-4686-1. 
  5. ^ Chang, Michael (2004). Racial Politics in an Era of Transnational Citizenship. Lexington Books. pp. 104. ISBN 0-7391-0621-X. 
  6. ^ a b Parker, Laurence (1999). Race Is-- Race Isn't: Critical Race Theory and Qualitative Studies in Education. Westview Press. pp. 184. ISBN 0-8133-9069-9. 
  7. ^ Mark, Halstead (1988). "Mark Halstead on racism". University of California, Santa Barbara. http://aad.english.ucsb.edu/docs/Halstead.html#color. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  8. ^ a b c Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo (2001). White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era. London: Lynne Rienner. pp. 137–166. ISBN 9781588260321. 
  9. ^ a b Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo (2001). White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. pp. 137–166. ISBN 1-58826-032-1. 
  10. ^ Ansell, Amy E. (2006). "Casting a Blind Eye: The Ironic Consequences of Color-Blindness in South Africa and the United States" (– Scholar search). Critical Sociology (Brill) 32 (2–3): 333–356. doi:10.1163/156916306777835349. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/crs/2006/00000032/F0020002/art00007. [dead link]
  11. ^ Reason, Robert D.; Nancy J. Evans (2007). "The Complicated Realities of Whiteness: From Color Blind to Racially Cognizant". New Directions for Student Services 120 (120): 67–75. doi:10.1002/ss.258. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Color blindness — Color Col or (k[u^]l [ e]r), n. [Written also {colour}.] [OF. color, colur, colour, F. couleur, L. color; prob. akin to celare to conceal (the color taken as that which covers). See {Helmet}.] 1. A property depending on the relations of light to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • color blindness — 1844, replacing Daltonism (after English chemist John Dalton, 1766 1844, who published a description of it in 1794); in figurative use, with reference to race or ethnicity, attested from 1866, Amer.Eng. Related: color blind …   Etymology dictionary

  • color blindness — noun a) Any of several medical conditions in which the physical ability to see colors is impaired, especially Achromatopsia, Daltonism. Despite the fact that race is embedded in American social life, color blindness has recently emerged as the… …   Wiktionary

  • Color — Col or (k[u^]l [ e]r), n. [Written also {colour}.] [OF. color, colur, colour, F. couleur, L. color; prob. akin to celare to conceal (the color taken as that which covers). See {Helmet}.] 1. A property depending on the relations of light to the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • color-blind — adjective 1. unable to distinguish one or more chromatic colors • Syn: ↑colour blind • Similar to: ↑blind, ↑unsighted • Derivationally related forms: ↑color blindness (for: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • color-blind — adjective Date: 1853 1. affected with partial or total inability to distinguish one or more chromatic colors 2. insensitive, oblivious 3. not influenced by differences of race < tried to get the welfare establishment…to abandon its color blind …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Color Struck — is a play by Zora Neale Hurston. It was originally published in 1925 in Opportunity Magazine. Color Struck won second prize in the contest for best play. Color Struck was not staged during the Harlem Renaissance. Contents 1 Plot summary 2… …   Wikipedia

  • Accidental color — Color Col or (k[u^]l [ e]r), n. [Written also {colour}.] [OF. color, colur, colour, F. couleur, L. color; prob. akin to celare to conceal (the color taken as that which covers). See {Helmet}.] 1. A property depending on the relations of light to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Body color — Color Col or (k[u^]l [ e]r), n. [Written also {colour}.] [OF. color, colur, colour, F. couleur, L. color; prob. akin to celare to conceal (the color taken as that which covers). See {Helmet}.] 1. A property depending on the relations of light to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Complementary color — Color Col or (k[u^]l [ e]r), n. [Written also {colour}.] [OF. color, colur, colour, F. couleur, L. color; prob. akin to celare to conceal (the color taken as that which covers). See {Helmet}.] 1. A property depending on the relations of light to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English


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