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The Problem With The Phrase “I Don’t See Color”

When it comes to the discussion of race in America, there is a lot of hesitation. Some people feel as if it is one of those taboo dinner topics that one should never talk about, like politics and religion; however, that leaves many people in a state of complacency, especially when it comes to the phrase “I don’t see color”. 

As a person of color who grew up in the South, I was used to hearing this phrase from my white peers. Even at a young age, I understood that something wasn't right about this when discussing matters of racism. It was almost as if it was a subtle way to stop the conversation from going any further because it makes others uncomfortable or brings out prejudices that one didn’t realize they had. Since the start of social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate, I have been hearing this phrase a lot more than usual.

Why do I think this phrase is a problem? The answer is quite simple: if one can not see color, then one can not see the oppression happening against those of a different race. This phrase, in many ways, still alienates minorities and ignores the forms of white supremacy that have been embedded into society. Now, this is not to say that everyone who has ever used this phrase did not care about the lives of others or did not do their part in listening to the struggles of minorities; however, this phrase minimizes the seriousness of racism in America. 

Unfortunately, since racism is embedded into American history, this phrase can be taxing. Not seeing color means that the history of oppression can be ignored -- if it does not pertain to a particular individual. I can remember multiple times hearing this and feeling confused as to why seeing color would be a bad thing. Then I realized that this phrase is used to justify the microaggressions that happen towards people of color. Saying “I don’t see color” is a way to excuse and not address the problems that minority communities face and allow an opening to subtle prejudices derived from white supremacy. 

It is easy to become swept up in the idea, especially if one is not a person of color, that racism is no longer as bad as it used to be and that seeing color causes one to be a part of the problem. That is not the case. Being able to embrace differences can help address the problems happening in American minority communities and allow for a better understanding of how to be an ally. That goes beyond having #blm in an Instagram bio and educating oneself to understand that the difference is real -- and race plays a factor in systematically oppressed people's lives. “I don’t see color” is more than just a phrase; it is another way to ignore a problem that oppresses many. 

Ayanna Burgess is a junior at the College of Charleston, pursuing a degree in Communication. A native of South Carolina, Ayanna enjoys finding the best restaurants in town, browsing around local record shops, and writing poetry.
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