Claiming Color blindness is Racism Denial, Complicity

Patheos.com

We're learning, a colorblind approach allows us to deny uncomfortable cultural differences.

Psychology Today - December 2011

"This is the type of racism that liberals tend to embrace. Being colorblind and "not seeing race" ignores the very real effects of white supremacy in dominant culture. Recognize white supremacy wherever it exists and confront it. Be anti-racist."

Colorblindness in a psychotherapeutic relationship

How might colorblindness cause harm? Here's an example close to home for those of you who are psychologically-minded. In the not-so-distant past, in psychotherapy a client's racial and ethnic remarks were viewed as a defensive shift away from important issues, and the therapist tended to interpret this as resistance (Comas-Diaz & Jacobsen, 1991). However, such an approach hinders the exploration of conflicts related to race, ethnicity, and culture. The therapist doesn't see the whole picture, and the client is left frustrated.

A colorblind approach effectively does the same thing. Blind means not being able to see things. I don't want to be blind. I want to see things clearly, even if they make me uncomfortable. As a therapist, I need to be able to hear and "see" everything my client is communicating on many different levels. I can't afford to be blind to anything. Would you want to see a surgeon who operated blindfolded? Of course not. Likewise, a therapist should not be blinded either, especially to something as critical as a person's culture or racial identity. By encouraging the exploration of racial and cultural concepts, the therapist can provide a more authentic opportunity to understand and resolve the client's problems (Comas-Diaz & Jacobsen, 1991).

Nonetheless, I have encountered many fellow therapists who ascribe to a colorblind philosophy. They ignore race or pretend its personal, social, and historical effects don't exist. This approach ignores the incredibly salient experience of being stigmatized by society and represents an empathetic failure on the part of the therapist. Colorblindness does not foster equality or respect; it merely relieves the therapist of his or her obligation to address important racial differences and difficulties.

Multiculturalism is better than blindness

Research has shown that hearing colorblind messages predict negative outcomes among Whites, such as greater racial bias and negative affect; likewise colorblind messages cause stress in ethnic minorities, resulting in decreased cognitive performance (Holoien et al., 2011). Given how much is at stake, we can no longer afford to be blind. It's time for change and growth. It's time to see.

The alternative to colorblindness is multiculturalism, an ideology that acknowledges, highlights, and celebrates ethnoracial differences. It recognizes that each tradition has something valuable to offer. It is not afraid to see how others have suffered as a result of racial conflict or differences.

So, how do we become multicultural? The following suggestions would make a good start (McCabe, 2011):

  1. Recognizing and valuing differences,
  2. Teaching and learning about differences, and
  3. Fostering personal friendships and organizational alliances.

Moving from colorblindness to multiculturalism is a process of change, and change is never easy, but we can't afford to stay the same. ...
Read full article at Psychology Today

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