Let me first address a couple of things. I am white. I am not trying to speak for people of color. The ideas in this article apply no less to me than they do to the next white person. We as a society need to do a better job of being conscious of the conversation at hand.
First of all, everybody sees race. Unless you are physically blind, you see race. Saying you don't see race is like talking to Megan Fox and after, saying you don't remember if she was a man or a woman, or talking to someone and not knowing whether they were 70 or seven. I get it. "Not seeing race" is probably just a metaphor for you trying to say that race shouldn't matter and while certainly people should not be defined or stereotyped based on their race, race isn't invisible, nor is it unimportant.
Race can be a core element to how someone identifies themselves. Different cultures make our society more diverse and unique. That's what the whole "melting pot" thing is about, right? Saying you don't see race groups every person of every different and unique nationality and culture into one assimilated group. We will never be able to learn, grow and advance as a society without the ability to express our culture and accept cultures that are different from our own. Bringing new ideas to the table is how we can collaborate and figure out what's best for all of us.
Look, we know you mean well, but saying you don't see race could do more harm than good. By saying you don't see race, you're unintentionally ignoring that there is a race problem and shutting down any opportunity for open discussion on race and culture.
Saying you don't see race is up there with "but I have a black friend" on the list of bad excuses.
According to Robin DiAngelo, white people suffer from a bad case of white fragility. It's so hard to talk to white people about racism because it makes us uncomfortable, and although the majority of us probably aren't racist, we are still benefiting from the systematic racism of other people of our race. When people of color try to talk to us about race, we break down. We're afraid to have a conversation that could make us seem like a bad person. Whether or not a person has racist viewpoints about an issue has become associated with whether that person is morally good or bad.
Saying you don't see race is just another defensive mechanism to get us out of a conversation. That's it. How does one continue a conversation about race with you when you outwardly deny that race even exists? On the surface, "not seeing race" makes you the epitome of being a moral person. You are so far advanced that race has so little meaning to you that you legitimately just don't see it all together. But if you dig a little deeper, we come to the realization that this is just another way to avoid the conversation.
We all want to believe that we are good, moral people who mean well. Participating in race discussions makes white people hyper aware of their privilege and scares us into thinking any slip-up could cause others to perceive us as racist and thus, immoral people. We have to be able to work through the discomfort and speak candidly because, without the opportunity for open debate, we are offered no feedback and the chance to change our biases is taken away.
We have to be able to talk about race in order to make any progress, and when white people shut down the conversation by saying things like "race doesn't matter" or "I don't see race," we're saying we want things to stay the way they are. These discussions are immensely important. When white people are not a part of the race conversation, we do not move forward as a society. Whether or not we chose to admit it, white people are privileged in some way, shape or form in our culture. White people are overwhelmingly a powerful group and have the power to do something about the racism.
It's time we start thinking critically about how we address today's race issues and learn how to deal with the uncomfortable feelings assoicated with discussing race. As a society, we need to do better.