Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by orangetea, Jun 8, 2013.
Jun 8, 2013
Great post Eurydike!
I'm going to have to disagree. I think many, if not most, white people are conditioned not to think about their race because whiteness is normalized and considered the default from which minorities/people of color are measured against, and there's no concern of racial bias. The only time it seems like, at least in the United States, whites consider their racial identity is when they're put in a position where they're the "minority" in terms of population or forced to come to terms with their own racial biases.
Basically, it comes back to having the privilege of being judged based on who you are as a person, whereas minorities/people of color always have to deal with being judged on their race and skin color first.
As a minority/person of color, race is a huge part of my identity, but that's not the only thing I base my identity on. I don't want people to ignore my race because, unfortunately, the way I'm treated is based on my skin color. Ignoring that and saying you're (general you) "colorblind" to me is like saying that you're not examining your individual racial biases and ultimately society's racial biases that affect me on a daily basis and need to be dismantled. To me it's saying that you think that everyone is treated equally on the basis of race when that's very far from the truth.
Also, just because people don't consciously change their behavior when around other races doesn't mean they're not doing it unconsciously. Or if they do consciously change their behavior (for example, a white woman who crosses the street because she sees a black man) they might feel as though those feelings are somehow justified by harmful stereotypes or "facts", or that it isn't an issue of racism if they're just trying to protect themselves.
Many, if not all places and societies deal with the issue of racism, and I think it's safe to say that everyone deals with internalized racist thoughts whether against other races or your own race. That doesn't make you a bad person because it's impossible to avoid internalizing those things. People just need to recognize their prejudices/racism and make the conscious effort to change their beliefs. That means a lot more to me than someone who claims to be "colorblind."
Summary (sorry, I'm not a concise writer): I agree that colorblindness does nothing to help racism and that it's more important to confront racial issues. Racism and prejudice is both conscious and unconscious; you might not consciously be making racial observations/judgments/assumptions/stereotypes of your students, but you could be doing so unconsciously. Finally, I have way more respect for someone who realizes that they're holding onto a racist belief and is working on dismantling it as opposed to someone who claims to be colorblind.
I'm a little lost with what you disagree with. I know many white people that do consider being white part of their identity.
I do, however, agree with what you brought up.
I think some people say, "I don't even see color!" because they're so afraid of being called racist. They want to be crystal clear that race doesn't "matter". As a white person, it's something I have to actually be concerned with. Umfortunately several black parents are known for accusing their children's teachers of being racist every year. It's scary, to be perfectly honest.
I am literally (quite) colorblind. Does that change anything?
My friends have a lot of differences- I have gay friends, straight friends, female friends, male friends, Catholic friends, Jewish friends, Atheist friends, etc... I respect all of their customs/traditions. It is not any different than race. I don't classify them as my 'gay friend' anymore than my 'black' friend. It doesn't mean I don't take into account their beliefs, customs, and traditions.
I guess I wasn't clear, sorry about that. I guess many white people do acknowledge their race, but they don't have to think about it on a daily basis like minorities/people of color do because they aren't negatively affected by it on a societal/institutional level.
But what if they are being racist? Are they not allowed to be called out on it? This is starting to sound like "the race card" argument. Instead of those teachers concentrating only on themselves how hurt they feel because they did something offensive and got called out on it, maybe they should concentrate on how their actions affected others. Sometimes people spend so much time reacting to the word "racist" as a way to derail from the action they did, or something offensive they've said, instead of acknowledging their behavior.
Unfortunately there are some minorities/people of color out there who do use racism to get out of who knows what, but I'm pretty sure that's a way smaller number than minorities/people of color who genuinely feel offended and hurt.
Like I said before, racism is so ingrained in our society that everyone holds some prejudice or racism whether internalized or towards others. Being told that what you did or said was racist doesn't necessarily make you a bad person, it just means that you said/did something offensive and you need to apologize, examine why it was wrong, and not do it again. Racist has been turned into such a bad word that it keeps people from acknowledging their actions. If you did/said something racist, you did/said something racist.
If I say what you did was racist I'm not calling you an evil person. I just want you to apologize and accept that you did something wrong.
I urge you guys to please look up Abby Ferber and read her article titled I'm a Racist!. It explains so much of what I'm trying to say. Also look up Tim Wise and read his article titled What Kind of Card is Race?
Jun 9, 2013
I think that depends heavily on the region the white person lives in. I don't like to share this story, but as a child I was beat up because I was white. Interestingly, whites are not a minority in my area, but I was negatively affected by my race.
I realize that my experience is probably the exception to the rule, however.
I'm so sorry that happened to you - no one deserves to be the victim of violence.
I don't want to get into semantics, but people of color can still be prejudiced and act on that prejudice. In regards to white privilege and whites not having to really deal with their race, I'm speaking about institutional/societal racism that affects groups of people and deals with education, employment, the justice system, etc. While everyone can be the victim of personal prejudice, at least in the United States, institutional/societal racism negatively affects minorities/people of color as a group.
The truest thing here. Race affects people in lots of ways. Especially minorities. But your home is more important than your ethnicity.
I don't think anyone was advocating for classifying their friends...just not being colorblind to differences because that ignores the fact that racism is still alive today.
Also, I do think race is different from customs and tradition. People of color are constantly judged by the color of their skin in country because it is not something you can hide. I completely agree with your statement of not classifying friends. I just don't agree with being colorblind.
Of course people see color of skin. It is impossible not to notice differences.
I understand the reason why people say they are "colorblind", but colorblindness is an actual eye disability. I don't agree that it should be the term used for treating races equally.... Just my
This is a great post. How sad that the African American boy was singled out, but the truth is in the video....
I say this all the time and I will stand by it. It is what we call an "idiomatic expression." Idioms are not to be taken literally word for word. Yes, I do see color--I see blue, green, yellow, and white and black. But when it comes to dealing with and interacting with people, their color has nothing to do with how I interact with them.
This idiomatic expression does NOT mean one's race is unimportant or irrelevant, it simply means I don't treat anyone differently because of their race.
I also don't see gender/anatomical sex. I don't care if you are male or female in my classroom either.
I don't care what your sexual orientation is, I'm not gonna treat you any differently--even though I am in my personal life highly conservative on these issues, it has no place in my classroom or my interaction with my students.
I don't care what your religion is, I have strong religious convictions---I don't allow any religious differences to have a bearing on how I interact and treat my students.
Just because I say "I don't see color" doesn't mean that I don't address racial/minority issues in the classroom as a part of my instruction. I spend a considerable time in my own curriculum hugely emphasizing the colonization of Africa and Social Darwinist theories. African history is one of my fortes and a social studies teacher.
"I don't see color" only means that I do not interact with people differently according to their race. And I won't--actually, I can't--my own psyche will not permit me. I don't believe the classroom should be a platform for treating the students within the room differently for any reason: gender, race, religion, etc. That doesn't mean we ignore the treatment of women, racism, the marginalization or outright bigotry of religions or other groups, etc--as those are huge elements of the 7th grade social studies curriculum.
I do not see color does NOT mean I refuse to ignore ethnicity, race, (as well as religion, gender, sexual orientation) in my instruction. It simply means I don't take any of that into consideration when interacting with people. I'm not going to treat a black child different from a white child, I'm not going to treat a boy differently from a girl, etc. I clearly still see it and am sensitized to it but I can't show that to the students.
Thank you. Someone on the same page as me!
Of course people should be addressed if they did something racist. I am clearly not speaking of those teachers. But I can assure you there are people who claim every teacher their child has is racist. In my very close-knit team, it happened a few times in addition to other instances of one of us being called racist when there was no basis for it whatsoever.
You're addressing the issue of those who are racist or who, while not "a racist", do or say something racist. I'm not speaking to that. My reaction was to the use of "I don't see color" and why some may be quick to say that.
I've only witnessed one racist event at school from teachers (administration, actually). One too many, but thankfully not as many to match the number of accusations (some of which I wouldn't have seen not being in the classroom, of course, but others, according to the parents, I should have but did not). I witnessed one racist event at my job prior to teaching (and it was VERY racist...the owner was a complete jerk).
I think the kids are often just as confused by how to address race as we seem to be. I've had many conversations about it during novel units when a character is described as having brown skin etc. There's almost always one, "That's racist, Miss!" followed by a discussion about the difference between using color as a description to paint a picture of what the character looks like and using it in a derogatory way to insinuate something about the character's personality. I ask if it's any different than describing someone as having blonde hair or if we make it different. I've had similar discussions about the word Mexican. It's a nationality like American. If you use it innocently as a nationality, you're not being racist. Now, if you're assuming someone's Mexican because of the way they look, and they're really Puerto Rican, then they'd probably be justified in being offended! These conversations usually go hand-in-hand with the "It's not always what you say. It's how you say it" lecture.
I don't know...maye it's not my place to have these conversations with my kids, but I don't feel it's right to just blow by it and ignore it when the issue comes up. I think the kids appreciate someone being willing to discuss it and respect me for it.
Interesting point. I think we DO need to have authentic conversations about racial identity with kids. It seems like so many people avoid the subject all together it's become taboo - in fear of not being "racist."
I worked in a majority Mexican migrant worker community for a few years. In a lesson, the word "immigrant" came up. The kids got upset because they felt the word was racist and offensive because in their lives, it always had negative connotations. We talked about what the word actually means and talked about some of those negative experiences. I think conversations like that are important.
So you're saying that if you are reading a story about a sensitive period in American history, and maybe a particular (n-) word comes up in the selection, you don't make sure that the proper level of respect is present? You don't discreetly move your eyes toward the black children in your room, to be sure they don't feel conspicuous in some way?
The original point was that there is a certain level of ignorance to a phrase with the term "blindness" in it... blindness indicating not recognizing something that is apparent. When the term should imply awareness (though I do realize that "color awareness" doesn't have the same ring to it ). On some level, I think it also does a disservice to us as thinking adults, when we try to pretend that we don't see things as obvious as someone's race.
Ohhh! Too true! I think the media in the United States is one of the greatest perpetrators of this societal racism. Frankly, I often wonder if the media changed if that would slowly trickle down to society.
More on your point, a few of my professors told us that if you're male or a minority, you're more likely to be hired as a teacher in our district. I even had one professor applaud a male elementary education student because he's so rare and that he'll have the school of his choice when he gets certified. But that would still be considered racism and sexism since administrators are going out of their way to search for minorities and men, correct? I would be pretty irritated if being a person of color or being a man was more of a selling point to an administrator than my actual philosophy of teaching. "Have to have that token male on our team!"
That professor in particular was kind of weird.
Ugh. I can't help but roll my eyes. The idiomatic expression does NOT mean we are literally blind to color. Do you not understand the sophisticated nature of idioms in that they are meant to be symbolic? There are plenty of idiomatic expressions in our language that are not meant to be taking literally. For example, if I say "I'm larger than life." Does that mean I am literally larger than life? No, it means I'm feeling great. Saying "I am colorblind" means I do not judge a person or treat that person differently because they are not a member of my race. Period. It does not mean I don't realize a black person is black. It does NOT mean race isn't discussed in my lessons. It does not mean I am not sensitized to the fact that if the n-word, black students would be offended. Actually I am offended by that word and I am not black. Or if the word guinea is used, offend Italian students, or if the k-word is used, it could offend Jews as well as every member of my classroom.
It is literally no different than reading some of the Enlightenment literature, some of which speak disparagingly about women. It should offend everyone, but as a female myself and I'd expect the girls in my class as well---it is particularly offensive. However, I'm still gender-blind as well. I don't treat boys any differently than girls and vice versa. Doesn't mean I don't realize boys and girls are different sexes.
I don't think that any of us are actually on opposite sides of the issue. Rather, it just seems people are taking the expression too literally and not realizing the sophistication of using symbolic language--and I am not even an ELA teacher.
I think that everyone here understands the idiom.
In my opinion and experience, different people have different needs. Sometimes, yes, those different needs are based on race. Sometimes they are based on other factors like gender or age. To deny that those differences exist, to treat everyone exactly the same, may not always give everyone exactly what they need. As teachers we understand the difference between "fair" and "equal" treatment more than most.
Sometimes it seems like whenever race is brought into the discussion, some people just shut down and refuse to acknowledge that it's a real thing and worthy of discussion. It may be that someone out there doesn't view their own race as anything meaningful. Fair enough. But to many others, race is a big part of their identity. When I've done get-to-know-you activities at the start of the year, I've always had a few students who describe themselves as "a strong, black woman" or as "a proud Hawaiian". To those students, it matters. If it matters to them, then it needs to matter to me as their teacher. It doesn't mean that I focus only on their race or that I do/don't do certain things because of their race. Instead, it means that I take into account their whole person and do my best to be understanding and open-minded.
If it's impossible to understand the race discussion, maybe a more accessible comparison would be gender. Women are different from men. Their needs are sometimes different, as is the way they present themselves, make requests, and lead. I know that there are many hows and whys about why that is. It is still true, at least in my experience and observation. How would it help me or the people I interact with to not recognize that men and women are different and have different needs?
Reading this thread has been very interesting. All of the discussion about being color blind reminded me of an incident that occurred with I was an undergrad. I was taking an humanities class, and the professor began the first class talking about what it meant to be color blind. She hoped that during that class, we could all look passed race to the heart of the issues discussed. She had forgotten to take roll. So she stopped and took roll calling each name aloud (this was back in 1999). She said a name that would be considered ethnic and looked directly at me. And when I didn't answer she called it again still looking at me. As she said the name a person entered the class and answered "here". Imagine here surprise when she saw a blond haired blue eyed young lady. She said "Oh!" and continued with the role. When she said my name she didn't even look in my direction. Was she being color blind? No. Was she being racist? I don't think she was intentionally being racist. At the end of that class, she apologized to me. She had asked the class to look passed race to see the issue, but she could not look passed race to call the role. Maybe it was because I was the only brown skinned person in the class that she thought the ethic sounding name must have been mine.
Interesting story. Using Caesar's gender example, this is much like when a teacher anticipates a traditionally male's name to belong to a male (applies to female as well, of course) only to discover a female has the name. I wonder if that's offensive in some way as well, or the person just expects such reactions given the "facts" that the name usually belongs to the other gender.
It's funny that you mention that, because at the school I primarily subbed at, there were several girls with traditionally male names (i.e. Ryan, Michael, Decker). Unfortunately, students love to switch names with subs so I was extremely offensive when I was at first skeptical of their names (another reason why I wish this district used pictures for their students on the seating charts/roster).
The girls took it in good humor, thankfully. I still feel a little bad that I made the assumption they were playing a trick on the sub.
I'm sure I would have also thought they were playing. One, okay. But three?
Combining both issues (race issue and the substitute name issue), there is a Comedy Central skit where a sub who taught in the city for years thinks the students are tricking him because he pronounces names with a flare. Your story just made me think of that.
I was thinking of the same thing.
Jun 10, 2013
This thread is interesting and I'm glad to think more on this subject.
I am white, straight, cis-gendered, and christian so I have lived my life firmly in the majority. I am sure that when I was younger I would have said I was "color blind" as well and I would have meant that I didn't treat anyone differently. (which I'm not sure is entirely possible) I also would have dismissed the significance of discrimination. (That doesn't happen any more, right?) And while I have felt out of place before, I certainly had no concept of what it would be like to be a minority within a majority. A few situations have helped me recognize my ethno/theo-centric/ heteronormative mind frame.
In college we watch a similar hidden camera clip and my jaw dropped to the floor. I had no idea.
I visited the Philippines and I was treated differently (not badly) and stared at the whole time. This was probably the first time I had not just blended in and I hated it, I felt so conspicuous.
A couple of years ago I begain studying LGBT issuses in the Christian church. That has been a humbling, hopeful, and heart braking experience. (one I couldn't be bothered to even give a passing thought to not so long ago. [to my eternal shame])
When I attended a gay christian conference I spent the first day not pretending to be gay, but not offering the information of my straightness up. I didn't do this on purpose but it felt like if I mentioned my husband or said I was straight it would be like a big neon sign blinking DIFFERENT! THIS PERSON IS DIFFERENT!
I think understanding people who are different from you is not a passive process. You have to seek to understand them from their prospective not just yours. I think you also have to be humble enough to understand your limitations. We don't treat others entirely equally, our best defense is to acknowledge that and be constantly vigilant against it.
My policy is that I refuse to talk about race. Even when you try to say something positive, there are always people who will warp it and make you seem like a racist.
There are some tests at this website that will help you recognize whether you may have some subconscious biases against specific minority groups. I took it and was shocked to realize that I do have some internal biases against specific groups (even my own minority group). But it is helpful to know so that I can ensure that I treat everyone fairly.
I think the test is ridiculous but if I said why I'd probably be accused of being racist so I won't go there.
When I have to complete a class demographics page for admin in early spring, I have to stop and sometimes even look up what race and ethnic group my students' families consider themselves. I use the phrase consider themselves because it has changed from year to year on some kids' forms.
Yes, because everyone who brings up racial issues is doing so just to mess with people. No racial issues are legitimate - the only ones that are apparently only deal with burning crosses or racial slurs and everything else is just us PoC being oversensitive and emotional. There's no possibility that someone feels genuinely hurt/oppressed, or that it's important to discuss racial issues because racism has real and significant negative effects on people. We PoC just love to spend our time falsely accusing white people and making their lives difficult; we apparently have nothing better to do.
First of all, there are a lot less instances of PoC falsely claiming racism as opposed to those who really feel hurt/oppressed. Why don't you guys get this? As a matter of fact, minorities/PoC under report instances of racism because they're afraid of exactly what's going on in this thread - people thinking that we're just "playing the race card" and being overly sensitive.
Second of all, I don't think it's your place as a white person, a group who is not a part of a marginalized group, to tell a person of color who is a part of a marginalized group and encounters racism everyday - either overt or subtle - what is or isn't "very" racist. Not everything has to be "very" racist to hurt and effect people. As a matter of fact, the most insidious form of racism is racism that is extremely subtle (look up micro-aggressions). As a white person who has never experienced racism, you have no idea just how complex racism is, and what may not seem like a big deal to you can seem like a big deal to a minority/person of color.
Third of all, being called out for racist behavior is no where near as upsetting as being the victim of racism. So someone called you a racist? You're more than likely not going to get in huge trouble unless it is something huge and overt like calling someone a racial slur - it's more than likely that you might get a warning or a stern talking to, but overall the issue is swept under the rug and might not even get addressed because the incident was considered a non-issue. If anything, every time we PoC try to defend ourselves it backfires on us and we're instantly labeled as overly emotional, or in my case in this thread, I'm probably bring labeled an "angry woman of color" right now.
Finally, like I keep saying, racism is both conscious and unconscious. Your fellow teachers might not even know they are being racist even though they are, and if they're repeatedly being accused of racism (especially if it's the same teachers all.the.time), I think it's time for them to examine themselves and their racial biases. As a PoC, it's safe to say that I know A LOT more about racism than you and for you to dismiss racial claims as false that don't meet your criteria means to me that you feel like you're the authority. As a white person, you need to assume the very real possibility that you are wrong and that minority/PoC is right. You need to keep in mind that you might be looking at the situation(s) through a lens of ignorance and white privilege.
You might be right, these people might be falsely accusing their teachers of racism - it happens - but it's more than likely that you're wrong and you're not getting the whole story, or you're quick to dismiss the claims of the parents.
Look, I'm not angry at you or anyone in this thread, but it's just frustrating trying to explain racism - how it's an institution that has murdered people of color, falsely accused people of color, kept people of color from getting homes and jobs, and deeply (and sometimes permanently) affects the self-esteem and well being of people of color on a daily basis - and no one seems willing to understand. The only way to reduce racism is to talk about it - you can't avoid it especially if you come in contact with people of color on a daily basis. Trying to ignore racism and wish it away is doing a disservice not only to your students of color but also the other important people of color in your lives.
I'm not trying to argue - I'm trying to educate, but sometimes it hurts and it's hard when people try to disregard the very real experiences of people of color like myself. I urge everyone to look up "Racism 101 tumblr" and read every single entry on that blog even if it's hard.
We understand the language--that is not the issue here.
Racism is still very alive in society today. I strongly believe that we ALL hold biases that we can project externally in some way or other. Stating that you are colorblind and not racist implies that there is no way you could possibly have any racial bias or could ever treat someone differently because of the color of their skin--which I do not believe is true. Did you see the video Caesar posted? I'm sure many of those people would believe that they do not treat people differently due to the color of their skin...yet look what happened. I'm sure most Americans believe that they are not racist--but then why is society still racist today?? Saying that you are colorblind is often something people with white privilege say--because white people do not experience racism and do not see subtle forms of racism that people display against people of color, and that they most probably display themselves. I have had many people tell me that they are "colorblind"--and be racist to me the very next second. Many people think racism today means joining the KKK or something--but that is NOT what I'm talking about.
Also, saying that everyone in the classroom could be offended by the n word overly simplifies a complex situation. Can you honestly tell me that you do not make sure your black students are ok when reading sensitive literature? I am not black, and I am offended by the n word just like you are. However, I would never compare my experience sitting in a classroom with literature that uses the n-word to a black person's experience. It is completely different and much harder for the black person. I wouldn't believe that a white student would have the same experience in that classroom, even if the student was offended by the racial slurs. Not for one second. Also, saying that it is no different from anti-feminist literature devalues the problems that POC face. I have had so many white women tell me that they "understand" racism because it's just as hard as being a woman. It is not the same thing. Yes, there is still a lot of sexism alive today, but I do not like comparing the "isms" with each other.
Of course there is the possibility that you are being racist...
And I agree with Sweet_P's post. Here is a link about colorblindness and education.
I didn't do the race test, I did the sexuality one. Evidently I have a "strong automatic preference for Gay People compared to Straight People." Falling in with 3% of the people who did it.
Thanks for perfectly illustrating my point.
Your privilege is showing.
I feel like part of the issue (which I think is present in this thread) is that many people want you to understand their point of view, culture, etc but they don't entertain (I am using myself as an example) MY point of view, culture, etc and are completely dismissive of it.
Example: I moved from the north to the south. I grew up in a racially diverse area, but no outward racial hostility was ever displayed. Now, in the south apparently that is different (but I'm a northern person, I have no idea about anything like that except that it's present). I am taking to a diverse group and make a statement directed to the group: "if you don't like where I live then you people shouldn't go there." Apparently, one person felt like I was calling them the n-word because of the phase "you people." In MY culture, that means nothing. Instead of pulling me aside and explaining THEIR culture, I get labeled a racist. how am I suppose to know what's offensive if I've never been told and didn't grow up around that? I really feel like that is the issue, no understanding for me, but wanting me to understand you. I think we can all benefit from taking a step back and showing a little understanding.