Conversations about race and racism can be very difficult. Often enough, talk about race is avoided in the public sphere altogether. Comments such as “Children do not see race, so why bring it up?” and ” I don’t see race, I see people” are commonly heard. Colorblindness is seen as “camouflaged racism” in a socio-political context, says activist and educator Angela Davis.
In her book Race-ing Moral Formation: African American Perspectives on Care and Justice, scholar Vanessa Siddle Walker implies that “social “colorblindness” is parasitic on racism and that it is only in a racist society that pretending not to see race could be constructed as a virtuous act.” (2006) The impact of colorblindness on privileged members of society has been enormously detrimental, not just to the development of an authentic self, but also in the nation’s dealing with the legacy of racism. In order to practice true democracy, we must critically talk about racism and challenge the hegemonic norms of “whiteness”. We must hold these conversations in as many social venues as possible, as well.
Holding on to the mindset of “colorblindness” closes the door to citizens fully actualizing a just society for all children and future generations. The point is, that all children see race (even isolated white children) and they are affected by the conflicting messages they receive from the adults who care for them and the world at large. Messages that hinder both social and emotion development. (Derman-Sparks & Ramsey, 2006) Both black and white children internalize the racist and supremacist imagery prevalent in society, giving them a false sense of inferiority/superiority in which they judge themselves as well as others. Unchecked, internalized superiority, presents itself in adults as aversive racism. (Tatum, 1995; Derman-Sparks, 2001)
“In a racist society, black children cannot be protected indefinitely from the knowledge of racism. Yet white children, because they are not on the receiving end of racism, may remain more or less blind to it.” (Walker, 2004) Colortalk recognizes that “a persons’ color is not only a significant dimension of her or his experience, but of identity as well.” (Walker, 2004)
In order to overcome the silence that colorblindness burdens us with we must engage at each and every teachable moment in colortalk. Inviting all children and adults into the province of “colortalk” will benefit them in developing healthy attitudes and behaviors towards difference and themselves.