There are different ways in which a person can feel invisible. For example, people with disabilities feel invisible when the buildings and the streets that they frequent are not designed with their disabilities in mind, making it hard for them to move around these spaces. Teenagers feel invisible when their opinions are not heard just because they are considered too young to have one. And people of color feel invisible when they are told that their differences are not real and the difficulties that they experience because of said differences do not exist. This forced invisibility of race is what Mellody Hobson and Nayyrah Waheed describe as “color blindness.”
Color blindness is a phrase that many have used with the intention of expressing their believed lack of racism; however, as Waheed describes it, in reality the person using this phrase is stating his or her need for individuals of color to become invisible, even if he or she does not realize it. For many, their skin color is not only a diversifying characteristic but it is also a symbol of pride and an aspect that defines them. Turning a blind eye to a person’s skin color is erasing who they are.
Besides erasing people, using the term color blindness has other negative consequences, such as the ironic effect of fostering racism. Hobson explains this best in her TED talk presentation when she says, “Now, color blindness, in my view, doesn’t mean that there’s no racial discrimination, and there’s fairness. It doesn’t mean that at all. It doesn’t ensure it. In my view, color blindness is very dangerous because it means we’re ignoring the problem.” When racial differences are ignored so are the issues that people of color have to confront and the possible solutions to these problems, thus enforcing racism.
In response, Hobson offers a solution to stop this erasing of color and people. Instead of being blind to differences in race, Hobson argues, we should create more opportunities to reflect and talk about these differences. In others words, we should be more “color brave.” Being color brave, however, can be difficult, especially if other people are not ready for the race talk. I remember when I casually brought up the issue of race in front of a couple of coworkers. I was sitting at work—a summer camp that caters to a mostly upper-class population—with other coworkers when one of the children approached me and asked why my skin was brown. Without any hesitation, I explained to her that people come in different colors: tan, black, white. I could not finish my conversation as one coworker interrupted, trying to stop the uncomfortable discussion. Being a first-generation Hispanic and growing up in a racially mixed household, I have never found the talk to be an issue, but incidents such as this demonstrated that not everyone is as open about race. That is why I want to conclude this entry by praising organizations such as Youth in Action, which offers youth an environment in which they can interact with people of diverse backgrounds and express their opinions about issues such as race and racial injustice without the fear of being censored or reprimanded about their thoughts. We need more places where color blindness is not accepted and color bravery is embraced.