"Ever have men striven to conceive of their victims as different from the victors, endlessly different, in soul and blood, strength and cunning, race and lineage. It has been left, however, to Europe and to modern days to discover the eternal world-wide mark of meanness,—color!" W.E.B. Du Bois "The Soul of White Folk" Darkwater
Today, most white people don't see themselves as belonging to a particular racial group.
You're hard pressed to find a white person that will proudly proclaim that they are white. Exclamations of white pride are reserved for white supremacists and those that dabble along the fringes. It's sort of strange. It's not like white people are shy about other parts of their social identities: Political affiliation? Sure. Religion? No doubt. Geographic region? Check. But it's difficult to find a typical, non-racist, white person explicitly discussing their experience as a white person in America. You will not find the explicit, non-racist, white equivalent of One Drop Rule.
The notion that white people have no race is a relatively new phenomenon. The idea of a white civilized race and barbaric non-white races can be traced as far back as Aristotle's defense of slavery and from there through 15th century Portuguese exploration leading to European colonialism. Race, color, and the division of groups by ethnic background were explicitly championed by hegemons seeking to cement their group's power until the civil rights movement made explicit calls for white supremacy taboo. The end of the trend in America appears to have begun with Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech" and has continued through the inauguration of Barack Obama leaving us now in a strange place where many white people claim no race and deny that they see race at all.
Mention race today in the 21st century and you'll likely hear this curious response (particularly from white conservatives): they no longer see race; they are, so they proclaim, color blind. The simultaneous absurdity and reason in the stance is evident: of course you're not color blind, you live in the same country I live in with the same history of racial discrimination codified in law and cemented into our collective perception of reality since the 18th century. If you have eyes that see then you are not racially color blind. You could identify my race very easily if you saw me. It's not like the I Have A Dream Speech somehow rendered my skin color translucent. At the same time the position seems still reasonable: how can I be called a racist if I don't see race? If no mention of race is allowed there can be no racism; or at least no accusations of racism, which makes most people feel better, I suppose.
But doesn't it seem like you could address white race and culture without advocating for the supremacy of white people? In the same way that I can talk about hip-hop without advocating the supremacy of black people or even the supremacy of hip-hop [or disparaging any culture at all]. There are interesting aspects to particular cultures that are worthy of study, discussion, and exploration without contending that some aspect of culture is superior or inferior. Why do white people like country music? Not all white people, but many. What is it about hunting and gun culture that white people find attractive? Again, not all white people, but many. Arby's? Golf? Friends? Rhythm (or lack thereof)? Not all white people, but many. "Stuff white people like" jokingly makes this point. There is a white culture. Just like there is a black culture. Not all members of the group share or participate in the culture, but many do; enough so that when someone mentions Making You Feel Bad About Not Going Outside many white people can smile knowingly in recognition. In the same way, there is almost universal recognition among African-Americans of the two drawn out syllable affirmation "mmm hmmm". Not all black people recognize this affirmation, but many do.
Despite the incongruity of the position, many pursue colorblind ideology in policy and allegedly in their personal lives under some mistaken belief that they are living the words of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech".
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
And it does seem like an admirable position - "I don't see color." But, judging a man by the content of his character, not the color of his skin doesn't mean ignoring the race, culture, and history of said man altogether. Does it? Yet, this is exactly what colorblindness requires: a willful effort to ignore race. It is to say, "I refuse to see your skin color, your culture, your history."
This was antithetical to the beliefs of Dr. King.
Invisible Men, and makes expressions of culture seem foreign and bizarre. If I have no color and I do or say or write or dance something in a "black" way that most people (the majority) does not, then I am rendered an aberration. I don't see color, but I do see that you walk with a bop as opposed to the stiffness of most people. I don't see color, but I do see that you wear your hair in those dred lock things as opposed to the straight hair of most people. Therefore, you are strange and different and *bonus* I'm not at all racist for pointing out how different you are because you see, I'm colorblind!
What is it that the color blind person does see? A human being? But a human being devoid of culture. A human being with no history. The separation of African-Americans from history is troubling in policy and in personal interaction. Who are we without our history? What are we to make of our current status without a consideration of the process we went through to get here?
We've moved from treating Blacks as chattel, to acknowledging black humanity as separate but equal, to a refusal to see any blackness at all - color blindness. Can we now move to a place where we are seen as whole human beings with culture and history?
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