Colorblindness Is Not the Solution

If we can’t even name race we become unable to name and challenge racism. As Kimberlé Crenshaw and Luke Harris argue in Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement, “color bound problems cannot be corrected by colorblind solutions.” 

As Erin Winkler writes about in Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race, if we act like race and racism aren’t meaningful, and ignore that racism was and continues to be built by white people on purpose, to hoard money and power--then children are left to their assumptions and may think racial inequality reflects people’s intelligence, capability, imagination, or skills, which is untrue.

          It is a lie to tell children that color doesn’t matter, when race is an enormous factor in where people live, how much wealth their family has, how likely they are to go to prison, being unemployed, getting suspended from school, living near toxic waste, being assaulted or killed by the police, to name a few.

Winkler writes, “Children also learn which social categories are important by observing their environments. They are likely to notice that the people in their families or neighborhoods are all different heights and have different hairstyles, but perhaps almost all have the same skin color. Therefore, children may assume that they should avoid or dislike people with different skin colors than their own, even if no adult ever says this to them. Similarly, children may notice when going to the store or the doctor’s office or riding the bus that height and hairstyle do not seem related to occupation or neighborhood, but skin color does. These patterns form what Bigler & Liben call a ‘cognitive puzzle for children to solve.’ When children notice these patterns, they often ‘infer that these are norms or rules’ and that the patterns ‘must have been caused by meaningful inherent differences between groups.”