Letter to the editor: Overlooking color
To the editor:
In response to Bill Klein’s letter of Jan. 17, 2020, “Our common color.”
Mr. Klein asks “why must we continue to identify humans based on the color of their skin pigment?” The answer is history. The phrase “people of color” evolved to describe a group of people who share a common experience of being systematically targeted for oppression, violence and exclusion by white people. The phrase is intentionally political and in reference to whiteness. When white people say “color doesn’t matter” or “I don’t see color,” they are in effect saying, “I don’t see the system of violence that people who look like me created and continue to benefit from.”
Like Mr. Klein, I am white. Like Mr. Klein, I used to think that it was morally advanced to try and ignore the color of a person’s skin, to instead focus on intangible qualities like intelligence, compassion and integrity that he mentions. Acting as if we are “color blind” makes the problem of white supremacy worse, though, for three reasons. One, it ignores implicit bias, the attitudes and behaviors we live out unconsciously based on stereotypes we hold. Two, it makes honest racial dialogues impossible. Three, it erases the diverse experiences of people of color and white people. Color blindness is, itself, a symptom of white privilege and supremacy because only white people can afford to pretend it’s possible.
Now when I see our school board reflect the racial diversity of our community, I celebrate that we have taken one small step toward loosening the knot of exclusion and systemic racism that white supremacy tries to perpetuate.