The Problem with Colorblindness

What would the world be like if it were monochromatic? If we truly could not see color or if everything was one color?

So much of the world’s beauty would cease to exist. Our world would be void of colorful rainbows, the changing colors of the leaves in the fall, and the array of colorful features on various species of birds, sea life, flowers, and insects would all be limited in their appeal. What a shame it would be if we did not have so many colors in our world to appreciate and enjoy.

So why is it a problem when we see each other? Does beauty in our uniqueness cease to exist when it comes to people? Who taught us such a thing, which runs counter to all of nature? And why? No, color is not to be denied and avoided but to be embraced and celebrated. Look at God. What a magnificent artist He is. His color pallet is vast. What a beautiful sunset, what an incredible sunrise.

No, we see color. Some have just allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into buying into an unrealistic blindness when it comes to our fellow man.

The biological genetic-related condition of colorblindness is called Color Vision Deficiency or CVD. It prevents one from being able to differentiate colors or having a decreased ability to do so. This unfortunate condition falls into 3 categories: red-green, blue-yellow, and total color blindness. CVD only affects a very small population of people, with more males being affected than women.     

When the phrase, “I don’t see color,” is expressed by some well-intending “white” folks, they are dismissing, negating, or simply overlooking the richness of diversity in God’s creation. The intention seems to be based on a common misconception of their favorite MLK quote about being judged by the content of one’s character as opposed to the color of one’s skin. But color blindness is NOT what King had in mind.

When anti-racism activist Jane Elliott is approached by someone who utters that phrase, her humorous response is, “I can see that; otherwise, you never would have left the house wearing that/those skirt/pants with that blouse/shirt.”      

While our skin color should not be a factor in how we are treated, it is indeed a part of our makeup. In a color-based society like ours, it has direct ties to how we have been treated, and much of that behavior was put into law. Consequently, we cannot ignore skin color without dismissing the experiences of POC who have been victimized by a color-based society.    

It’s not that color should be ignored, but rather our response to color must be adjusted from what we have been conditioned to. We have been fed a host of stereotypes regarding people of color, and most of those stereotypes have not been flattering but instead very demeaning and offensive.

In addition, we cannot afford to ignore the reality that “whiteness” has been accepted and embraced as the baseline for which everyone else is judged. America has been called a melting pot of people and cultures when in reality, it has forced all other non-white people to conform and assimilate into the Western norm. Failing to do so has cost us everything from employment opportunities to actual loss of life.   

A healthier perspective would be to make America more of a tossed salad where each culture is maintained, respected, and celebrated. This gives us the opportunity to benefit from each other as opposed to feeling that the homogenous culture must dominate and force all others to dissolve and convert. It would be a pretty dull potluck dinner if everyone bought the same dish prepared in the same manner.   

Studies show that we are racially conditioned into embracing racial biases during our formative years, birth to age 8. Psychologist Dr. Kenneth and his wife, Dr. Mamie Clark, developed the famous Doll Test in the 1940s, which illustrated this reality that can typically function in stealth mode, going unnoticed until triggered or tested. The test demonstrated that children of various “races” would consistently attribute positive qualities and attributes to a “white” doll while attributing negative qualities and attributes to a “black” doll.

The test was instrumental in leading to the school desegregation ruling in Brown vs the Board of Education (1954). The test was repeated in 2010 by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, with similar results, indicating that the structure which produces racial biases and anti-black sentiments has yet to be dismantled and is still very much a part of our educational and societal system.    

Harvard has also produced a test known as the Implicit Association Test (IAT) which reveals an individual’s subliminal racial biases.

Proverbs 22:6 teaches us that if we, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This can work both in the positive as well as the negative. Subliminal racial biases can continue to function like a background application on a computer, going unnoticed, but yet continues to function in the deepest recesses of the brain and are brought forward when triggered.  

When someone says they don’t see color, they are ignoring both the realities of true color blindness and the psychological science of societal indoctrination.

Due to the negative baggage associated with the word “Black,” along with the proliferation of repeated misleading and false imagery, many people to this day still have a problem identifying Jesus as “Black.” They may compromise with “Olive complexion,” but associating the word “Black” with the Savior can be seen as being next to blasphemous.

Yet despite his geographical origins and African lineage, for the last several centuries, the global promotion of a “white” Jesus has met with very little pushback from any “racial” group. This can therefore become a litmus test for color deniers.      

So unless one is actually biologically color blind, we all see color very clearly. Seeing color is not the problem. Our response to it is where the potential problems lie. We can either embrace color variations as a God-given expression of beauty, or we can embrace indoctrinated negative manmade biases. The choice lies with us.  

By Tobias Houpe   

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