I don't see color...

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by orangetea, Jun 8, 2013.

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  1. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Last week, I attended a diversity conference for teachers to help teachers create a welcoming classroom for all students, especially minority students. Most of the conference was focused on race, but we also talked about LGBTQ students.

    Anyways, in my group, most of the teachers were saying things such as "I don't see color" and "I don't care if my students are black, white, green, purple, etc." To be honest, both of these phrases are extremely offensive and just wrong to me. In society, we DO see color. It's often the first thing we notice about someone. Saying that we don't see color is like telling people of color that we do not see your color---which doesn't make sense, because why should we not notice color? Is it something "bad" that needs to be hidden? I don't think stopping the discussion of race today will help us end racism. I think colorblindness is good when it comes to hiring, for example, but I don't think ignoring race is helpful, especially in the classroom. As teachers, I do think that we often do have biases that change the way we interact with students depending on the color of their skin--and we should recognize that, not avoid it.The second statement bugs me because there are no purple and green people--so talking about that makes it seem like racism is less serious an issue than it really is.

    I don't know...this conference really upset me. After attending it, it made me realize how much farther we have to go.
     
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  3. Cicero

    Cicero Companion

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    I had a diversity training day as a part of my new teacher orientation and they actually spoke to this topic. They disagreed with the whole concept of color blindness, because race is a part of someone's identity. Seems like those teachers that were saying that are petrified of even appearing somehow biased. The thing is... everyone has some kind bias, and ignoring yours means that you can't make good decisions about confronting your bias.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I think that people are lying when they make comments like that.
     
  5. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I think when people say they don't care if a person is black, white, green or purple... they're trying to say that a a person's 'color' is just color, nothing else. Which is not true. I don't think that comment is definitely racist or ignorant, they're trying to be funny while making a point, which might not be the best choice.
     
  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    When I've heard this comment, I've never gotten the impression that the speaker was trying to be funny.
     
  7. Linguist92021

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    Maybe not all the time, a couple of times that's the impression I got.
    Either way, for a lot of people racism is such a difficult topic to discuss, a lot of them get politically correct, feel to defend themselves, etc
    In school, I've always noticed that students would say 'because I'm / he's black?', often not even having anything to do with racism, just to see how the teacher reacts. They could tell by the reaction how the teacher is.
     
  8. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Good topic, orangetea. That must have driven you nuts. Of COURSE people are guided by their visual and cultural perspectives. Getting away from that is incredibly difficult.

    Teaching from my online perspective is as close as you can get to being blind. I don't think I've looked up the ethnic backgrounds of my students since I had to for my Praxis III project five years ago. I can make guesses, but I've been wrong very often and don't rely on ethnic names or anything of the sort unless they flat-out tell me about that aspect of their lives. Unless I see them in pictures they send me, I have no clue what they look like until they cross the stage at graduation.

    Think of the way I teach as the way we interact here. Unless you have mentioned you are of a certain gender, ethnicity, or age, the only image I have of you is your avatar. I KNOW Caesar doesn't look like Captain Jack, but that's because I know from past interactions that she's female.

    Now, imagine that in a classroom setting. You have to look up whether Dakota is male or female so you type the correct pronoun in your notes. You call a student to find out why she hasn't logged in for two weeks to find out she's had a baby you didn't know she was carrying. Pretty wild, isn't it?
     
  9. Reality Check

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    Did you even consider that "I don't see color" is someone's way of saying, "I treat everyone the same?"

    They don't mean it literally.


    ;)
     
  10. BumbleB

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    This is how I interpret it as well.

    When a student walks up to me to tell me something or ask me a question, their race never crosses my mind. I speak to (and deal with) everyone in the same manner, regardless of race.

    Orangetea, I'm kind of confused as to why you are offended. Are you saying that I should I be taking race into account when I deal with students? This is an honest question. I came from a very homogenous community, and maybe I need more guidance in interacting with different races. I guess I just assumed that treating everyone equally would result in the most safe, secure, and unified classroom.
     
  11. TeacherGroupie

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    Claiming not to see color amounts to claiming that one's own frame of reference is valid for everyone else, however, I'm afraid; it's a bit like the practice of defining "standard" as the 180-pound male and then being surprised when over-the-counter medicines calibrated to that build and gender work anomalously with smaller people and with women.
     
  12. Alizeh

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    I think the point is that colorblindness gives the idea that race doesn't matter and that racism is not relevant in society anymore. I completely agree that students should be treated equally. However, teachers do see race and that does affect how we treat students. I can't remember the name of the study, but there was a study that showed that if a teacher has a white student and an Asian student who were both struggling with the same problem and were at the same level, the teacher is more likely to give more help to the white student because it's assumed that the Asian student does not need the help. If we insist that we do not see color, then we will not be able to recognize any of the biases that we do hold.

    I believe that we can recognize racial and cultural differences and still treat everyone equally. We don't need to pretend that we don't see color in order to have equality.
     
  13. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I don't think that we should take race into account or treat different races differently. I just think we're lying to ourselves if we say that we don't see race or that we don't care about race. I think we do see race and that does affect our interactions with our students. I agree with Alizeh's post, especially about reducing biases.

    I also attempt to speak to my students and deal with my students in the same manner regardless of race. However, there are cases when I realized that I had different expectations of students based on their skin color, which could have been outwardly projected in some way. Not seeing race would not allow me to confront these biases, and hopefully eliminate them.
     
  14. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    I can honestly say without a doubt in my mind I've never had different expectations of students based on race. Yes, I can see the differences in their races. This year I have a white student for the first time. Last year I had an Asian student for the first time. I recognize and remember those things, I think it's impossible not to. But there's not a chance I held them to different standards based on their race.
     
  15. stampin'teacher

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    I get what they're TRYING to say, meaning that they strive to not use ethnicity as a cause for treating someone differently.

    However, as a minority (I hate using the phrase a person "of color") it comes off as someone who is scared to acknowledge someone's ethnicity for fear of being seen as racist in any way. I'm Mexican, my skin tone is different than some others, my culture is different than some others, and that's a fact. To say that it should be ignored makes no sense, and is a bit insulting, even though I know that's not the person's intention. I'm NOT just like the blond haired, blue eyed person next to me, and that's ok-our differences can be acknowledged & even celebrated.

    As far as the way I think they intend to use the phrase, I agree. Students should all have high expectations placed on them, support from the teacher, & lessons that meet their needs regardless of what they look like, their background, etc. But that doesn't mean I have 25 grey children in my classroom. Or transparent children....I guess grey is a color too, haha.
     
  16. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    Obviously, you SEE the color. However, I think people really mean that they don't THINK about someone's color.

    When I was in fourth grade, my (prejudiced) grandmother asked me 'how many black kids' were in my grade. I thought hard about it and told her there weren't any. One of my very best friends was black. I didn't even think of it, because she was my friend. I didn't care what color she was.

    Obviously, race has to be taken into account in certain circumstances (cultural beliefs and what-not), but overall, it is not something I usually think about.
     
  17. BumbleB

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    I get what you're saying. I guess if someone points it out to me, I am like, "Oh yes, that student is African American/Asian/Native American/Hispanic/etc". But it's certainly not something that comes to my mind without attention being brought to it.

    I guess I really don't agree with the fact that we're "lying to ourselves" if we don't take race into account. I can honestly say that I've never made a judgement about a student based on their race. I've never said/thought, "Oh, this kid does this because he's that race" or "He can/can't do this because he's that race". I think that for some people (and maybe more than you think), race really is not an issue.

    EDIT: However, thinking more about it, maybe my feelings about "color blindness" would be different if I were a minority...
     
  18. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    This has been floating around on Facebook over the past few days. If you think that most people don't see race (and base assumptions around it), you're kidding yourself.

    http://tinyurl.com/n69v69c
     
  19. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Was just about to post this!

    I like to think I'm unbiased, but I bet all those people in the video think that as well.
     
  20. Jerseygirlteach

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    I don't understand why it would be offensive that people say they don't see color meaning they don't have racial prejudices. I don't think it's true for most people, but I think most people would like to think it's true about themselves and they try. I should not admit this but I caught myself once. I had an Asian boy in my class and I got frustrated with him that he was struggling with the work. I didn't get nearly as frustrated with the other students when they struggled, but I subconciously expected more of him. I finally realized that, without thinking about it at all, I expected him to be more capable because he was Asian. I promise, I didn't do this on purpose and when I realized it I was pretty mad at myself. But just the fact that it happened for so long without me even realizing it leads me to believe that it probably happens all the time with people and they don't even know that they're doing it.
     
  21. BumbleB

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    Heh, good point!

    Part of our "teacher standards" in my state deal with student differences. One of the standards says something like, "the teacher appreciates diversity but maintains consistent standards for all learners." Obviously, how do you measure that? So subjective. So I decided to give out an anonymous student survey that asked that question (along with other subjective ones from the teacher standards) to see if I was "proficient" in those areas, according to student perceptions. I get good ratings, and I trust that they're rating me honestly. However, with everyone saying that it's "impossible" to be completely unbiased, it does make me think....
     
  22. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    That's the problem, though. If you can't admit it, you can't fix it.

    Furthermore, race is a big deal, especially in this country. A person's race often does impact who they are, what they bring to the table, and how they perceive the world. If we as teachers can't or won't recognize that our students' life experiences, including their race and culture, shape who they are and affect how they will learn in our classrooms, how can we expect to be successful teachers?
     
  23. EMonkey

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    One thing I have figured out is that I and everyone I know is biased in some way or another. The question is how each person deals with their biases and how aware they are of their biases.
     
  24. physteach

    physteach Companion

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    I treat my students unequally, in order to give them what is best for them (I absolutely sent home a note when my top student cursed in class, but not when another student did because the top student needed a firmer hand).

    Racial inequality needs to be addressed head on. I would be doing a disservice to my students to not be aware of how their lives might be different out of school due to race. I have a student whose parents immigrated from a country that is well known for anti-American terrorism. I treat him as he (as an individual) needs to be treated, but I also am highly aware that stories about terrorism will hit him hard. In his mind, he feels responsible for the incidents and he is also worried about his family, should the US decide to retaliate. If I truly were "color blind" I wouldn't thing to offer support.
     
  25. comaba

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    Very honest, orangetea.

    I also believe that I have the same expectations for all my students; however, I also know that I grew up in a white, middle-class, prejudiced home. No matter how strongly I've rejected the negative values, it would be silly of me to believe that they've been completely erased and no longer affect my perspective. I constantly reflect on my actions and the way I interact with my students in order to prevent or correct any biases.

    The other important thing I keep in mind is that my life experiences are different from others. My school has a discipline policy in place. It reflects the values of most of the families in the school, as well as my own. It does not reflect the values of all. For those students whose family dynamics include behavior that is not acceptable in school (screaming, hitting, swearing to resolve a conflict), it is necessary for me to acknowledge the differences without judgment in order to facilitate the changes that have to be made to succeed in our school. In that way, I do not treat all my students the same. And though this is not a race-related issue, it is a cultural one.
     
  26. comaba

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    Great link, Caesar. I remember seeing this when it was broadcast.
     
  27. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I have friends from different ethnic backgrounds--and I do care what color they are. The color of their skin influenced their life experiences and will continue to play a role in their life. Ethnicity does not define a person--but it is a part of who we are. Not being colorblind does not mean that we are not friends with people of a different ethnicity from ours. And also, I don't understand what you mean by "I didn't even think of it, because she was my friend" because it makes whiteness what is acceptable and gives the idea that you were ok with her being black just because she was your friend.
     
  28. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    I was in fourth grade, as I mentioned. I didn't think about her skin color- it was a non-issue for me.

    However, even now, when thinking of my friends, I don't think of their race. I'm not- "Hmmm... Maybe I should call my Hispanic friend today." They have names and personalities. I don't typically think of their race.
    I live very far from all of my family. My best friend down here is black. We had been friends for over 2 years, with me often telling my mom stories about her. When my mom saw a picture of us after 2 years, my mom was surprised that she was black. I asked her why. She said that I never mentioned it or gave any clues that she was. My response- why would I mention it? It is not important!

    I respect and customs and traditions, but at the end of the day, I choose my friends based on who they are as a person. I could care less what color they are, and I don't classify them that way.
     
  29. BumbleB

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    Another not-meant-to-be-offensive question:

    Let's say that there are two students (A and B) who both engage in the same behavior (swearing at a teacher). Are you saying that if student A comes from a household where swearing is used to solve conflicts, you would not assign a consequence to student A but would assign a consequence to student B?

    This is where I'm kind of confused. I acknowledge that other students come from various backgrounds, but I don't believe their background excuses them from a consequence. When I discuss the behavior with the student, I say that I understand why he used a curse word...but I still give a consequence. For example, I have a student that comes from a very religious background and he believes that homosexuality is wrong. So when he uses a homophobic slur in class, I pull him aside and say, "I understand that is your belief, and you're allowed to have your own personal beliefs. However, when you share your beliefs with a large group, you have to be aware that you may offend some people and cause discomfort in the group. We don't want our classroom environment to make people feel uncomfortable. Do you understand where I'm coming from?" After that talk, I assign a consequence.
     
  30. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    This is exactly what I'm talking about. I don't think any of us purposely and knowingly form biases about students...but I do think it does happen more often than we believe. I understand that there are people who believe that they have never formed an assumption of a student based upon their race. This could be true but I would still urge us to constantly evaluate ourselves to ensure that we aren't making assumptions that affect the way we treat our students. It could be something like not asking a black student a challenging question during class because we don't think he/she will be able to answer it.

    And I would also like to say, it is much easier to believe in colorblindness if you are white since race isn't something that you need to think about often. I am of South Asian descent, and I do notice people forming assumptions of me based upon my skin. I cannot ignore race--it is something I will constantly have to think about when new situations arise. In college, I had a professor who constantly berated me for apparently rote memorizing my way through her math course whenever I had a question during office hours--but did not say the same to a white students with a similar questions. I was doing very well in that class, and she attributed my success to me memorizing the textbook rather than understanding the material. This could be racially biased or it could not be, but I believe it was. Experiences like these have made me more aware of racism in general, and have forced me to confront my own biases.
     
  31. stampin'teacher

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    Great post, Caesar
     
  32. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I agree--I do not choose my friends based on their skin color. I also wouldn't mention my friend's ethnicity when talking to my mother unless it was related to a story I was telling about that friend. I also don't think it's necessary that you mention your friend's race when you talk to your mom either.

    The thing is that I am not white. I have a different culture and different experiences because of it. And that is alright, we can take pride in our backgrounds if we wish to. I want my friend to recognize my background and care about it, just like I would care about my friend's background. I want my friend to learn about my background and experiences, just like I would learn about hers. I don't want cultural differences and different experiences to be ignored...which doesn't mean that I don't have a name or a personality besides my ethnicity. I do not want to be known as "the Indian friend", but I do want my friends to acknowledge that I am of Indian descent. Not seeing color emphasizes the idea that there is something wrong with not being white--so color needs be overlooked in order for everyone to be accepted. Recognizing color does not mean that it needs to be made an issue.
     
  33. Eurydike

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    There are many, many racial problems in this country and saying, "I don't see color," doesn't make them go away. In fact, saying things like "I don't see color" is counterproductive. How are we supposed to actually fix race problems in this country if someone refuses to believe that people are treated differently because of their race? I feel like people that say things like "I don't see color" are the people that seriously believe everyone is treated equally.
     
  34. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I am not a white woman. I am considered Native American, because 2 of my grandmothers were full-blooded "Indian" (one Choctaw & one Cherokee). However, the only outward signs of my "race" are my hair and my eyes, since my dad was predominantly of Irish and Dutch heritage. My sister is a red-headed, blue-eyed white woman, to all outward appearances. My grandparents were southern sharecroppers who had nothing, and were not educated beyond elementary school, because they had to help in the fields. My mom was bipolar, and my dad is a recovering alcoholic & compulsive gambler. I went to 18 schools before I graduated from high school, so I was always the "new kid." As a young adult, I was a single mother on food stamps, living in Section 8 housing, and working 2 full time jobs. I say all that to emphasize that I do not come from a privileged WASP-ish background.

    In my classroom, I am the only "white" person, and have been for the entirety of my teaching career. I explain my heritage to my students, including the fact that my maternal ancestors were enslaved, tortured, deliberately infected with diseases, and forcibly removed from their homelands and relocated without recourse. I do not differentiate between my lighter and darker skinned students. I do differentiate between their abilities. I base my expectations of my students upon their actual abilities. Am I perfect? Heck, no! Do I sometimes wish for a more diverse classroom population? Yes. Does it change my love for my students? Absolutely not.

    I think home culture matters more than race. I have students who attend a religious service weekly, some who have 2 working parents at home, and receive help with homework at home. I have others who are "latchkey" kids. I have some who don't know where they will sleep each night, who have parent(s) in jail or selling drugs or themselves on the streets. Some students wear the same uniform three or four days in a row. I've even had a first grade student responsible for there younger siblings every day after school. Last year, I had a first grader who had been raped by an adult when she was four, and she was still dealing with that. All of the things I have listed can occur to students of any race. It just happens that my students are all classified as African American.

    I think those things matter oh, so much more than what color someone's skin is!

    (Please do not take my comments as angry... they are simply my thoughts as I type.)
     
  35. comaba

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    Not exactly. The consequence for student B, whose parent does not approve, would be a phone call to the parent. The consequence for student A, whose parent would see nothing wrong with the behavior, would be a one-on-one conference with me and/or the guidance counselor. There may also be in-class consequences for both, such as removal from group work for a time.

    Student B already knows that his behavior is not acceptable because his parents' values align with the school's. Student A may "know" what is expected, but his life experiences have taught him to respond differently. A phone call home would be meaningless. A different intervention is needed.

    I could write referrals for both, but Student A will suffer the same consequence without missing a day of class. Student B would only miss a day of class, and end up just feeling resentment.
     
  36. Ms.SLS

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    THIS.

    http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-36-fall-2009/feature/colorblindness-new-racism - this is a helpful article on the argument against colorblind racism.
     
  37. FourSquare

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    Lisa Delpit's "Other People's Children" is a great read on this topic.
     
  38. microbe

    microbe Comrade

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    I think I can perhaps clarify why people say this.

    I am someone that has always struggled with understanding diversity and the importance of diversity. Many people, including myself, do not see their race as part of their identity. People include many facets of who they are as part of their identity, and race has never been part of mine. This is not because I am white. Many people do consider being white as part of their identity. I believe this is a personal thing that largely depends on your upbringing and personality.

    Having said that, this is why people say things like, "color isn't important to me." Color isn't important to them as a person because they don't consider it a part of their identity. Is it offensive? Maybe - it can indicate large ignorance on the speaker's part. It took me years and years to understand that being "colorblind" is the wrong answer. You can't ignore someone's identity, because race is important to many people on a personal level.

    Some things that I identify strongly with:
    • Being a woman
    • My education level
    • My hobbies
    • Being an eldest child
    • Growing up in a broken home

    While I do not strongly identify with my race or heritage or ethnic group (too much family drama to even know where we're from, unfortunately) I do strongly identify as a woman. For me personally, that means I am more likely to support women's issues and even get along better with women.

    I'm not sure if this clarifies anything. I don't feel like those people meant to be offensive - a lot of folks are just in the dark about this sort of thing. I still feel woefully ignorant about these issues. I hope I can learn and one day be more open-minded about this sort of thing.
     
  39. Ms.SLS

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    Jun 8, 2013

    I agree that most people who make that statement do so out of the best intentions. I also sort of think it's an insidious form of inadvertent racism that can do more harm than good in the education realm. This is not to say that I think we should base instruction of children on their racial background, but I think culturally relevant pedagogy is very very powerful, especially for marginalized communities.
     
  40. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Jun 8, 2013

    I don't see colour... that's why I simply call the OP "tea"...

    :)
     
  41. comaba

    comaba Cohort

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    Jun 8, 2013

    I agree! "The Skin That We Speak" is also great.
     
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