Skip to main content

Continued: Why Colorblindness Needs the No-Racism Axiom


I came up with the title for my last post before I started writing the text. When I finished writing I ended on a different point than the one I had set out to make. I concluded with a description of how "colorblindness" becomes racism. And while the reason that the No-Racism (false) axiom is necessary can be inferred from what I wrote, I never explicitly described why a denial of systemic racism is necessary for colorblindness.

Now that I've established "colorblindness" as racism, I can circle back make my original point. First, I'll note that racism is not accidental nor is it random in its occurrence. Rather, racism has always been used for the purpose of benefitting one racial group at the expense of another through the use of unequal access to political, legal and socioeconomic power. In our country, the group with the power to subjugate is and has always been white. The aim of racism is to maintain this supremacy of the white race at the expense of non-white people, with Blackness and Black people serving as the anti-white, the "fulcrum of white supremacy." 

The flip side of oppression is privilege. Not the privilege that comes from the wages of hard work (although the upper class definitely enjoy their own set of privileges). Rather, it's the set of opportunities, advantages and exemptions from disadvantage that are handed to people by virtue of belonging to the normative group. Through this lens, being of the white race is more than a census category. It becomes Whiteness, a system of beliefs, a specific view of history, an entitlement to justice, and an overwhelming availability of power—the ability to shape the life choices and outcomes of other groups of people. There can, nay, should be no denying that privilege is sweet, and it should be unsurprising that people resist giving it up. The first step of giving up something unearned is admitting that you don't deserve it.

Through their accrued privileges, white people in this country have amassed an enormous societal advantage over non-white people, as I detailed in my previous post. They are like a team who has run up the score in a basketball game by rigging the game—the officials are in on the fix, the game equipment adjusted unfairly, the rules have been modified, and then modified again as needed to acquire further advantage. With the score run up by 75 with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the subs for the white team are now saying things like, "I think that both sides are equally matched, and while the rules in the past were unfair, but I'm in the game now and everything is fair now. I don't see teams, I just see people competing!"

To acknowledge that the game is fixed would require the white team to forfeit the game. At minimum they would be acknowledging that their massive lead and eventual victory were not achieved in a fair manner, necessitating an asterisks in the record books. At best, the game would need to be cancelled, the officiating crew replaced, the rules rewritten, and the game played over again from the start. 

And therein lies the problem for colorblind people. The score is as it should be. It is a reflection of their Goodness and virtue, a result of their hard work and determination and destiny. So instead of cancelling the game and admitting that it was fixed, white people want to win. And to do so, they adopt a colorblind approach that rests on the No-Racism Axiom. This is, of course, a false axiom. But since white people set the rules they can declare it a proper, unquestioned, basis for their worldview and move from there. This illogical and unfair move carries no ill consequences for them, and it allows the game to stand. 

Which brings us back around to the conclusion I ended up with in my prior post: colorblindness is racism. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…

An annual note to all the (NSF) haters

It's that time of year again: students have recently been notified about whether they received the prestigious NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship. Known in the STEM community as "The NSF," the fellowship provides a student with three years of graduate school tuition and stipend, with the latter typically 5-10% above the standard institutional support for first- and second-year students. It's a sweet deal, and a real accellerant for young students to get their research career humming along smoothly because they don't need to restrict themselves to only advisors who have funding: the students fund themselves!
This is also the time of year that many a white dude executes what I call the "academic soccer flop." It looks kinda like this:


It typically sounds like this: "Congrats! Of course it's easier for you to win the NSF because you're, you know, the right demographic." Or worse: "She only won because she's Hispanic."…

Culture: Made Fresh Daily

There are two inspirations for this essay worth noting. The first is an impromptu talk I gave to the board of trustees at Thatcher School while I was visiting in October as an Anacapa Fellow. Spending time on this remarkable campus interacting with the students, faculty and staff helped solidify my notions about how culture can be intentionally created. The second source is Beam Times and Lifetimes by Sharon Tarweek, an in-depth exploration of the culture of particle physics told by an anthropologist embedded at SLAC for two decades. It's a fascinating look at the strange practices and norms that scientists take for granted.
One of the stories that scientists tell themselves, whether implicitly or explicitly, is that science exists outside of and independent of society. A corollary of this notion is that if a scientific subfield has a culture, e.g. the culture of astronomy vs. the culture of chemistry, that culture is essential rather than constructed. That is to say, scientific c…