I’ve heard various people throughout my life say, “I just don’t see color; it just doesn’t matter to me.” With a smile on their face, I’ve listened to others explain to me why the color of someone’s skin isn’t what they judge others by. I’ve never wanted to hurt them by telling them how much their words hurt me.
The “I don’t see color” or “colorblind” mentality does not and can not progress inclusivity and diversity. This mindset allows people to ignore the complexities of racial issues and minimize the struggle people of color go through because of their skin.
As a person of color, the list of people who have proudly said, “I don’t see color” or something synonymous include family members, close and dear friends, coworkers, teachers and classmates. I cherish many of these relationships, so I understand their good intentions and love for me.
The “colorblind” mentality was once explained to me by a friend as what Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted for society. The African-American civil rights leader’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech included his desire for his four children to “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
I personally believe the “I don’t see color” mentality and phrase is exactly the opposite of what King wanted. This outlook allows someone to ignore how being a person of color has affected and shaped my life.
Being a father or mother, spouse, entrepreneur or person of faith are examples of things that make up large aspects of a person. If someone took that aspect away from them, there would still be so much left to them. However, an important identification will have been unwillingly disregarded.
I understand for some, there’s a well-intentioned fear of being racially ignorant or unintentionally racist. “Not seeing color” may feel as the surest way to guarantee not being hurtful.
However, being “colorblind” means not acknowledging privilege and differences in life that come from color. This might start with assumptions that “different” can mean “bad.”
Recognition and acknowledgment
People who proclaim they are “colorblind” are not actively dismantling their prejudices that each person does have. Not everyone is willing to have tough conversations about these feelings or thoughts.
When somebody tells me they “can’t see my color,” it can feel as if they are saying, “I’m choosing to ignore this part of you because it makes me more comfortable.”
Janisse Gassam Asare wrote an extremely thoughtful article for Forbes on the ‘colorblind’ mentality. She said, “we all see color. To say one doesn’t is just not accurate. We have to first, recognize that each of us, no matter our color, have preconceived notions and expectations about different racial groups. Recognition and acknowledgment are crucial.”
I can attest to something other people of color have mentioned to me. We notice color all the time; we evaluate how our presence makes us or other people feel.
In the workplace, classroom or religious meeting, what about us will send a message to others? If traditional clothing is worn to church or if natural hair is let loose, what will others’ immediate assumptions be?
Asare advised those training to help individuals move past their racial biases to emphasize the importance of understanding the goal is not to be colorblind. “The goal is actually to see and recognize skin color but to control and regulate your innate impulse to make decisions based on such characteristics,” she said.
The culture of Christ
Race and skin color are incredibly complicated subjects. I don’t believe anyone has figured out the perfect way of tackling racial equality or social justice issues. However, it’s my simple hope that humanity can get to a point where skin color is celebrated and accepted as an innate part of the human experience.
Simultaneously, I hope the greater focus when we see anyone is the commonality we all share: we are children of a loving Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is our Savior.
Elder William K. Jackson of the Quorum of the Seventy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave a talk at the October 2020 session General Conference. He focused on what the “culture of Christ” is and how it is the original culture of all people.
He testified that the culture of Christ espouses the concept of equal worth. Charity is the bedrock of this culture of Christ and dispels prejudice and hatred, he said. The “I don’t see color” mentality does not fit within the culture of Christ.
“Latter-day Saints everywhere still celebrate and honor their own heritage and heroes, but now they are also part of something far grander,” Elder Jackson said.
When people see me, I hope they see a brown woman who has worth and offers a different perspective and life experience. I pray we see one another as members of the supernal culture of Christ which celebrates skin tones and all parts of us.
— Ingrid Sagers
Social Media Editor