Dear White People, Cut It Out With The ‘Colorblindness.’
Excerpt from the article…
During an interview with CNN last week, top trade advisor to Donald Trump, Peter Navarro shared a series of interesting viewpoints that made headline news – one of which was his perspective on race. Some argue that the interview quickly careened into a troubling conversation after John Berman inquired about White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany’s dismissal of Trump’s support of the Confederate flag as well as tweets that he recently fired off attacking NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, who is Black.
Navarro stated that because he lives in California, a state where residents “don’t see race”, he’s “race blind.” He went on to share, “I live my life in a race-blind world, and it troubles me that we have so much of this discussion when in fact we have got real problems in this country.” Real problems? Many would argue that systemic racism and racial injustice are real problems that have plagued this country for centuries, and instead of referencing manufactured fallacies about Californian’s colorblindness, people like Navarro should be concerned about these and other issues related to oppression.
Although California is more diverse than – let’s say, Iowa or South Dakota, the state is far from being exempt from recurrent bouts with racial injustice. However, Navarro is not reinventing the wheel with his is self-espoused colorblind ideology. Colorblindness has become a frequently used lens to discuss racial difference by many white Americans, and despite the overwhelming research that suggests that colorblind ideology further perpetuates white supremacy, some are having a hard time letting it go.
Navarro’s colorblind comments received harsh criticism for being out of touch and culturally insensitive. Especially, given the country’s current racial climate. Perhaps, the perspective of the 70-year-old White House advisor, Harvard graduate, and Emeritus professor is more in line with being a member of the wealthiest administration in U.S. history – with him bringing in up to $1.3 million a year. Navarro benefits from a profound privilege that only white men who occupy the highest echelons of societal wealth, power, and prestige experience. A privilege so steeped in affluence that although he has lived in Southern California for almost three decades, he is completely oblivious to the continued incidents of racism and racial injustice that has plagued the state.
Therein lies the problematic nature of colorblindness. It allows white Americans to remain devoid of the realities of systemic racism and posit themselves as colorblind superheroes. Meanwhile, issues related to police brutality, racial profiling, and racial disparities in healthcare, employment, and housing are dismissed, minimized, or flat out swept under the rug and ignored altogether. It’s one thing when everyday people choose to take this counterproductive stance about racial difference, but some argue that it is highly problematic and even dangerous when elected officials and key governmental decision makers choose to do the same.
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The truth about racism in California
People like Navarro denying the existence of race – and more importantly racism, does not eradicate it and claims of Californians being collectively colorblind are simply untrue. In fact, concerns about racial profiling and bias in policing have reached a crescendo in the golden state since the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent call to action to defund police. Less than 40 miles from Navarro’s home, Blacks made up almost 30% of all persons stopped by Los Angeles police in the first half of 2018 while they only account for 9% of the city’s population. A study that analyzed 1.8 million people stopped by eight of the largest police agencies in California found that Blacks are more likely to have firearms pointed at them by police and to be detained, handcuffed, and searched, but when searched — police are less likely to find drugs, weapons, or other contraband compared to whites.
Racial bias in policing is not the only issue of central concern for people of color living in California. It’s reported that Blacks (20%) and Latinos (17%) have the highest rates of poverty compared to 9% of whites. Relatedly, right in Navarro’s backyard — 21,509 Blacks and 23,000 Latinos were without permanent, habitable housing in Los Angeles County at the beginning of the year. These numbers accounted for over half of the Los Angeles homeless population in January.
Experts argue that those numbers will skyrocket in response to the pandemic, which is predicted to continue unleashing a torrent of unemployment and evictions once the Judicial Council of California lifts the eviction moratorium imposed on April 6. Gary Blasi, a retired UCLA law professor and homelessness expert, said that lifting the moratorium could catapult approximately 36,000 Latino and Black households, including 56,000 children, directly into homelessness. When examining potential causes for the disproportionate rates of homelessness in Black and Brown communities, the Los Angeles Homeless Services has cited systematic racism, growing housing costs, gentrification, and persistent stagnant, low, and declining wages as contributing factors.
Racial hate crimes also continue to grow in large cities, including those in California. Of the 7,120 hate crimes committed in the U.S. in 2018, 1,063 were reported in California and the majority of the national cases (60%) were motivated by racial or ethnic bias. Los Angeles recorded its highest number of reports of hate crimes in a decade with an almost 13% increase in 2018 compared to 2017. According to a newly released report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, the number of hate crimes driven by race and ethnicity climbed 29%, from 116 to 150 in California.
The truth about colorblindness
Some argue that colorblindness is the anecdote to ease white guilt and a tenant of post-racial liberalism that serves as a “kinder and gentler” form of racism. Conservatives have now also adopted and weaponized this school of thought. But colorblindness is not about partisanship. It’s about insulating white fragility and maintaining white supremacy while singing a chorus of “We Are The World.” Colorblind ideology is disguised as a noble perspective on how to view others as non-racialized members of humankind, but in reality, silences the discussion about structural racism and allows whites to not address their racial privilege.
Race blind perspectives are analogous to putting lipstick on a pig and they further complicate race relations and minimize the profound inequities that many people of color experience in America. The narratives and experiences of those who are exposed to racial oppression are then dismissed, silenced, and made invisible. Because whiteness is the norm in the U.S., rarely do white people recognize their race germane to their identities. Moreover, some live their lives completely unaware or resistant to the reality of their racial privilege and how it inadvertently oppresses people of color. This lack of awareness creates an emotional disconnect between some white Americans and issues related to race.
Colorblindness then exploits that lack of awareness and emotional disconnection. Simply put, race and issues related to racial differences can easily be ignored or dismissed by some whites because it has never been a barrier for them. People of color don’t have that choice. Although the U.S. has made some strides in addressing issues related to racial injustice, many argue that the country still has a ways to go and that colorblindness isn’t the answer. The goal is not to put up smoke screens of colorblindness so that some white Americans can appear to be “good”, but for our society to actually be good for everyone and to everyone.