The Color Blind Conundrum

Conundrum is defined as a puzzle or as something confusing. As an African American woman, HR Practitioner and Diversity & Inclusion Advocate I have often been confused by well-intended colleagues who tell me that they were raised to be color-blind and they don’t see my race or color. I’d like to discuss why this statement confuses me:

  1. Studies show that the first thing that people notice when they interact with another person is race & gender
  2. My race, like my gender is a part of my DNA it contributes to who I am, how I think and what I have been exposed to
  3. Can you really appreciate me if you do not see me?

Years ago when we first started Diversity training there was an activity where certain pictures were flashed and we had to rate without knowing anything what we thought about the person we saw. The scale was disdain, tolerate, accept and appreciate. Whether we want to admit it or not we make snap judgments based on what we see. The good news is for most of us those judgments are rejected or realized once we spend time with the person and get to know who they are. As a person who tries to be authentic in all my interactions I am very comfortable being described as a black or African American woman because that is who I am. People would also add other adjectives such as dynamic, inspiring, funny, helpful, smart etc…… (Or so I hope). My point is if you really don’t see my race than you really don’t see me. You may not really want to get to know me or empathize with my successes and my struggles. I respect people who are authentic not just politically correct. I am often humored when people try to describe someone but they avoid saying their race. I think being color blind is virtually impossible, unnecessary and is counter to what Diversity & Inclusion is all about. To include me you have to know me and to really know me you have to understand my journey: a journey that in the United States and the world includes race. To ignore my race is paramount to ignoring me and it makes appreciating me impossible. So let’s practice seeing people for all the diversity and beauty they bring to the world as unique individuals. I’ve attached a few links that reference studies that show the results of perpetuating color-blindness. How boring would this world be if we did not see color?

http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/10/05/being-colorblind-hinders-racial-equality/19114.html

http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-36-fall-2009/feature/colorblindness-new-racism

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6919.html

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