The rationale behind colorblindness is understandable to a point, but it’s like saying "The genders are equal." or "I’m completely oblivious to disabled people being disabled." when, in the real world, they clearly aren’t treated that way. When a POC discusses discrimination with their friends (particularly if those friends happen to be white), it’s often taken personally. Their friends get defensive, feel guilty, or change the topic onto themselves in an attempt to re-assure everyone they’re golden. Rest assured, we’re not interrogating anyone. We just need people to listen.
It’s very appealing to believe the best way to fight against racism is to pretend race does not exist, but in practice, that is extremely hard for most people to actually do that. It often ends up being a vain effort to appear politically correct, and in turn the underlying message we receive is our race is too offensive to even mention. The moment someone tells me “You know, I don’t see you as Asian…” it negates a part of who I am. the first thing that comes to my mind is “Well you obviously DO because you just brought it up.” We (POC) quite often get the impression that someone has something to hide when they’re acting strange or uncomfortable when refusing to mention a person’s race. If someone has a negative thought behind using race to describe someone, it can be perceived as discrimination.
It’s definitely noble of someone to want to judge everyone by their character and personality rather than their skin color, but that can be a real challenge if they don’t take the time to know each and every person they see. When people meet me in the flesh the very first thing that goes through their minds, whether they want to admit it or not, is my ethnicity. It’s a part of who I am. It’s a natural part of recognizing, identifying, and remembering who other people are.
When people insist they’re blind to race, it makes it difficult for POC to point out the racism they deal with on a regular basis. Taking a stand against racial inequality by ignoring race simply doesn’t work. Rather than celebrating our differences, some self-proclaimed colorblind people would much rather shout about how they’re "totally not racist at all!" Well… That’s great, buuuut segragation still exists in employment, housing, and education. Most Americans find it difficult to truly understand the problem simply because they don’t have direct contact with discrimination. It’s nice to imagine living in a world where racism is a thing of the past, but it’s far from being over. Saying "race shouldn’t matter" is not a bad thing, but that shouldn’t suggest race should be left out of the equation, even when expressing one’s full awareness of inequality.
Many POC would much rather live in a multicultural nation than a colorblind one, where everyone is respected and acknowledged for who they are, both inside and out. This ridiculous fear of mentioning and seeing races needs to stop, because there is nothing wrong with any of them. Denying race exists makes it even easier for people to deny the problems colorblindness unintentionally perpetuates. In the pursuit of social equality, we should fight to recognize racial and cultural differences that add great meaning to people’s lives and identities. Ignoring these differences rather than respectfully acknowledging them gives more power to negative stereotypes. Colorblindness, solely for the sake of receiving back pats, sounding open-minded, or avoiding the real issues, is very counterproductive.
One of the amazing things about the entire human race is that there ARE differences. Diversity, both racially and culturally, is pretty darn interesting. I believe in aknowledging and respecting these differences while avoiding pre-emptive negative stereotypes about race, skin color, and culture. Ultimately, our racial and cultural differences are not the problem. What people make of our differences (like those who are willing to dismiss or ignore race as if it’s the source of our problems) is a different story.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a futuristic “melting pot” where all the world’s nations, races, and cultures have fused into something harmonious. Right now, race and ethnicity still means a lot to people, and it’s often offensive when we hear other people want to sweep it under the rug as if it shouldn’t exist for the greater good.