WHAT MATTERS

with Janee Woods

Let’s be honest, we can’t be colorblind because America is not post-racial.

Activists demand justice for Michael BrownIt is a matter of color. Photo credit: Reuters/Adrees Latif

As outrage over the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri further develops—around police brutality, First Amendment rights, and memories of a Civil Rights-era America—one primary criticism is that this isn’t a race issue. Some people believe that Michael Brown wasn’t killed by officer Darren Wilson because he was black and that the militarized police actions toward the predominant African American community didn’t happen because the police force is almost all white.

Rather, some people say that the issues at play are class and poverty, or police brutality more generally. They don’t see race as the epicenter of the killing and subsequent fallout because we don’t yet know all the facts. They seem to believe we live in a post-racial society now that we’ve enthusiastically elected a black president (twice!), most overt racism is banned by law, and the police are supposed to be trained to serve and protect all people, regardless of color. They say there’s a chance that race wasn’t a factor, so why are people looking to race first and pointing a finger at racism? This criticism reflects a growing sentiment that we should be colorblind and never see the color of a person’s skin but only the content of his character.

People who refuse to be colorblind, such as those examining Ferguson through a racialized lens, are accused of playing the race card and of being an obstacle to achieving a post-racial society. However, many of us who walk around every day in black and brown bodies know full well—from personal experience and from warnings handed down by generations about how non-white people need to act in public to survive—that our country is not post-racial and won’t be for a really long time, if ever. We know that colorblindness is a dangerous myth, one that lulls some white people (and some people of color) into thinking that if we ignore race and focus on character, then everything will self-correct. That we can finally start the intense healing our country needs to erase the deep open wounds and scars whipped into us by centuries of slavery, legalized racism, Jim Crow, and deeply embedded institutionalized racism. We know that, unfortunately, colorblindness simply doesn’t work. There’s more! Read the rest of this article on Quartz.
© (2014) Janee Woods, as first published on Quartz.
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4 comments on “Let’s be honest, we can’t be colorblind because America is not post-racial.

  1. Stephanie
    September 5, 2014

    I’m one of those who really don’t believe Michael Brown/Darren Wilson situation is a race issue. I simply mean that I don’t believe Wilson shot and killed Brown because he is Black. I’m not saying racism isn’t a problem anymore in American society or that we live in a post-racial society. Racism will always be a hot topic in America because it has such a bloody and hurtful history. The US has come a long way, but we have a long way to go. It’s great we have a Black president, but that doesn’t mean racism is a dead issue.Racism can show itself in different ways, sometimes more subtle ways.

    Racism has reared its ugly head in this situation with Michael Brown/Darren Wilson—for the simple fact of how the media has portrayed Darren Wilson as this rabid hateful cop simply because he is White. Right now, I am not convinced that Darren Wilson, as a White police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown because he is Black. There is no evidence of this. At least, not yet. Maybe he is a racist, maybe he’s not. I don’t know. I am not going to assume he is this horrible prejudiced person simply because of the color of his skin, his gender, or the profession he has chosen–in this case, a White male police officer.

    I went to college where it was taught that blacks and people of color can’t be racist because these groups don’t have power. It was the idea that racism=prejudice + power. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that. Anyone, no matter what color skin they are, can be racist. Anyone can be judged, boxed in, stereotyped, or mistreated–based on their skin color. It’s time we face reality and admit that anyone can be racist (Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc). and anyone can be the target of racism (Whites).

    Darren Wilson has been the target of racism during this entire thing. MLK Jr. wanted people to be judged by the content of their character, not on the color of their skin. And Wilson has been judged over and over again simply because he is White. That is racism in itself. I sincerely believe that if Darren Wilson were Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American—race wouldn’t have been brought up. Ever.

    The other thing is…and I’m only speaking for myself…I don’t think it’s a race issue because I do think it is possible that Wilson may’ve stopped Brown for other reasons that have nothing to do with Brown being a young Black teenager. It’s possible he stopped him for jaywalking or because he heard about the alleged assault and robbery at the store Brown had been in earlier. I think those scenarios are totally plausible. It shouldn’t be assumed that Wilson encountered Brown and shot him just because he’s Black. I can certainly understand why many assume it’s racism due to so many past events, but at the same time, I believe we should be objective and wait for the facts to reveal themselves before we assume about Wilson.

    What’s going to happen in the future, if, let’s say, a Black or Hispanic or Asian person really presents as a physical threat to a police officer who just happens to be White? What if that White police officer decides they have to defend themselves or others around them—or even the alleged perpetrator? Is it always going to be assumed to be racism? Police brutality? That’s so one-sided.

    And while we’re on the topic of police brutality..yes, that’s a real issue. However, the community (any community for that matter, not based on race) is a part of the problem with “snitches get stitches” etc. So many want to point their fingers at the police, but yet ignore that the community engages in their own corrupt behavior. So just like racism can go both ways, changes with the police have to come about, but so do changes in the community.

    And if it really matters–I’m mixed. My father is White and my mother is Puerto Rican. I’ve experienced prejudice from both sides–not recently, but in my adolescence….

  2. Angela Grant
    September 15, 2014

    Reblogged this on Failure to Listen and commented:
    “However, many of us who walk around every day in black and brown bodies know full well—from personal experience and from warnings handed down by generations about how non-white people need to act in public to survive—that our country is not post-racial and won’t be for a really long time, if ever. We know that colorblindness is a dangerous myth, one that lulls some white people (and some people of color) into thinking that if we ignore race and focus on character, then everything will self-correct. “

  3. shunpwrites
    September 17, 2014

    Perhaps you don’t see the issue through the issue of “race” because you’ve haven’t had to contend with it as those who are intently impacted by it over the course of their respective lifetimes. Additionally, it is true that people of color do not possess the infrastructure and wherewithal to be “racist” however, being prejudiced as it pertains to people of color is what you are describing.

  4. Pingback: Let’s be honest, we can’t be colorblind because America is not post-racial. | Miss Sarah Radio

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