Race and racism can be touchy subjects to talk about, but only because not enough people are educated on the topics. However, the reality is that race is mentioned in everything from politics to fashion and racist acts happen every day. Being uneducated about race and racism is an injustice to yourself and to the people that have to listen to you.
After interacting with different people on campus, engaging in open discussions in class, and hearing horror stories from my friends, I realized that there are common things said about race that are wrong, ignorant and simply offensive. Part of this problem is due to the lack of an open discussion about race and a growing number of people who are not willing to care enough to listen and to learn.
The list of reasons why people don’t talk about race is endless. For one, it’s easy to avoid talking about race when you’ve never had to think twice about your own. As a person of color, I am always conscious or made aware of my own race by the people I am around or by strangers I encounter everyday. Every so often, when the topic of race comes up in an open discussion, it usually goes one of two ways: either everyone gets super uncomfortable and someone abruptly changes the subject or one person eagerly exclaims, “I don’t see color!” Contrary to popular belief, saying that you do not see color does not excuse your racism. Color exists. Seeing color does not make you racist; however, negative treatment or thoughts of someone because of his or her color, is a different story.
In reality, when you say that you do not see color, you are dehumanizing entire races of people and erasing history. In an attempt to calm your own conscience, you are also negatively asserting your privilege, which, in turn, results in further oppression of the people you are referring to. It is true that most people I have encountered that claim “colorblindness” do so without ill intentions, but it is also true that this should no longer be used as a slogan for those that do not want to talk about race.
Delivering an offensive slur with a side of humor is a popular form of disguised racism. Going the extra mile to blame the offended and say something along the lines of “It was a joke!” or “You’re being too sensitive!” does not justify disguised racism. In similar terms, understand that there is no such thing as a “good stereotype.” For example, saying “All Asians are smart!” is not a compliment. Disguised racism is tricky; it often seems like a good or funny idea, but it most certainly is not. Unfortunately, it’s so popular in pop culture that many people don’t even realize it.
Before you cry out “Everything isn’t about race!” I invite you to think and look again. If you’re tired of talking about race or racism, pardon me as I roll my eyes. Your refusal to join in on the discussion only further reinforces your privilege and serves to halt the progress that needs to be made. Yes, it can be very uncomfortable to talk about racism, but it does no good to ignore it. While you may not be subjected to conversations about race very often, when you are can you honestly say that you are mindful of what you contribute to the discussion … if anything at all?