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“Although colorblind approaches to addressing the problems of poor people of color often seem pragmatic in the short run, in the long run they are counterproductive. Colorblindness, though widely touted as the solution, is actually the problem. Saying that colorblindness is the problem may alarm some in the civil rights community, especially the pollsters and political consultants who have become increasingly influential in civil rights advocacy. For decades, civil rights leaders have been saying things like “we all want a colorblind society, we just disagree how to get there” in defense of race-conscious programs like affirmative action or racial data collection.

… Far from being a worthy goal, however, colorblindness has proved catastrophic for African Americans. It is not an overstatement to say the systematic mass incarceration of people of color in the United States would not have been possible in the post-civil rights era if the nation had not fallen under the spell of a callous colorblindness.

… The deeply flawed nature of colorblindness, as a governing principle, is evidenced by the fact that the public consensus supporting mass incarceration is officially colorblind. It purports to see black and brown men not as black and brown, but simply as men–raceless men–who have failed miserably to play by the rules the rest of us follow quite naturally. The fact that so many black and brown men are rounded up for drug crimes that go largely ignored when committed by whites is unseen. Our collective colorblindness prevents us from seeing this basic fact.

… Seeing race is not the problem. Refusing to care for the people we see is the problem. The fact that the meaning of race may evolve over time or lose much of its significance is hardly a reason to be struck blind. We should hope not for a colorblind society but instead for a world in which we can see each other fully, learn from each other, and do what we can to respond to each other with love. That was King’s dream–a society that is capable of seeing each of us, as we are, with love. That is a goal worth fighting for.”

– Michelle Alexander. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The New Press, 2010. Pages 240, 241, 244.

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