THINKING ABOUT RACE (July-Aug. 2008) – Do we “notice color” when we look at people? Or do we not? Here is part of what Paul Kivel says about this, in his 1996 book, Uprooting Racism – How White People Can work for Racial Justice, pp 16-17:
“To avoid being called racist we may claim that we don’t notice color and don’t treat people differently based on color. However, we all notice color in just about every situation we’re in. It’s not useful or honest for any of us to claim that we don’t. It is too pervasive a construct of our society to avoid. When we say things like, ‘I don’t see color,’ we are trying to maintain a self-image of impartiality and fairness (and whiteness). Some of the motivation behind the claim that we are color neutral is to establish that we don’t mistreat people or discriminate against them because of their race. Ultimately, this disclaimer prevents us from taking responsibility for challenging racism because we believe that people who see color are the problem.
“The only way to treat people with dignity and justice is to recognize that racism has a profound negative effect upon our lives, and therefore noticing color helps to counteract that effect. Instead of being color neutral we need to notice much more acutely and insightfully exactly the difference that color makes in the way people are treated.”