Visiting an exhibit on race at a local museum, I was recently reminded that, only ten years before my birth, my parents’ marriage would have been illegal in several states throughout the union. My father is black. My mother is white. Ten years is not a long time. My own children, also products of an interracial union, are growing up mere decades from that historical reality. That is significant, and not something which can be neatly swept under the rhetorical rug of colorblindness.
“I don’t see color. I just see people.” That sentiment, or something similar, has often been articulated by conservatives when faced with issues of race in America. On its face, it seems like a reasonable goal in keeping with Martin Luther King’s dream. After all, a world where people are judged not by the color of their skin is a colorblind world, isn’t it?
While the notion of a colorblind society may be a noble goal, declarations of colorblindness, especially from those in the white majority, are often met with indignation by minorities. That’s because race has had a tangible effect on minority communities which cannot be dismissed as inconsequential.
Identity politics can be vile and regressive. But identity itself should be respected. As we continue to foster racial reconciliation in this country, we must recognize that a path toward a colorblind society will involve an ongoing journey, not an instant shift in attitude. By all means, see people as people. But realize that they may have good reason to see themselves as people of color for a generation or so more.