Empathy Requires Confronting Race

Amanda Young, Business Editor

At 1st glance, the idea of being “colorblind” in terms of race seems ideal. This is the idea that people are people and that considering their race, ethnicity, and culture is unnecessary. We are all human, so why do we choose to divide ourselves in such a way?

This topic was brought up in my English class in a discussion about Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a novella that deals with human nature and identity. Gender, economic background, sexual orientation, relationships, religious beliefs, and race were all aspects of identity discussed by my classmates.

However, the comments about being colorblind elicited passionate responses because what this philosophy fails to acknowledge is that we are not all the same, and arguing otherwise ignores individual identity.

We live in America, where the majority of the population identifies in some way or another as Caucasian. Therefore, in a colorblind society, the “default” setting would be white, which would, in turn, erase the culture of everyone who is not Caucasian. When you refuse to see one’s color, I believe that you are denying their existence and heritage.

According to the Acalanes District, 36.8% of Campo students are minorities. Though this number is surprisingly high, in my opinion, it still reflects the fact that the majority of our community is Caucasian and experiences the privilege that comes with it.

“In a colorblind society, White people, who are unlikely to experience disadvantages due to race, can effectively ignore racism in American life, justify the current social order, and feel more comfortable with their relatively privileged standing in society,” Dr. Monnica T. Williams said in Psychology Today. “Colorblindness creates a society that denies [minorities’] negative racial experiences, rejects their cultural heritage, and invalidates their unique perspectives.”

Furthermore, promoting colorblindness inadvertently indicates that non-Caucasian races are inferior and that being a person of color is something to hide. If minorities were told to believe that they should be proud of their culture, then why would they also be told to blend in and “pretend” that they are the same as everyone else?

Being color blind also denies Caucasian people the ability to empathize with the struggles many minorities face. “After police shot and killed Philando Castile, a black man, the Governor of Minnesota asked, ‘Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver here were white? I don’t think it would have,” wrote HuffPost writer Dani Bostick in an article about colorblindness, “Colorblindness assumes that a white man would have been shot in a similar manner that day.”

We are conditioned to avoid talking about race and culture: it makes us uncomfortable, defensive, and anxious. But, we must be racially aware. Instead of simply averting our eyes to race, it is important to acknowledge and embrace the differences in our cultures.