Social Justice Usage
Source: DiAngelo, Robin J. White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018, pp. 41–42.
Consider color-blind ideology from the perspective of a person of color. An example I often share occurred when I was co-leading a workshop with an African American man. A white participant said to him, “I don’t see race; I don’t see you as black.” My co-trainer’s response was, “Then how will you see racism?” He then explained to her that he was black, he was confident that she could see this, and that his race meant that he had a very different experience in life than she did. If she were ever going to understand or challenge racism, she would need to acknowledge this difference. Pretending that she did not notice that he was black was not helpful to him in any way, as it denied his reality—indeed, it refused his reality—and kept hers insular and unchallenged. This pretense that she did not notice his race assumed that he was “just like her,” and in so doing, she projected her reality onto him. For example, I feel welcome at work so you must too; I have never felt that my race mattered, so you must feel that yours doesn’t either. But of course, we do see the race of other people, and race holds deep social meaning for us.
New Discourses Commentary
One of the primary reasons that Social Justice advocates are afraid of allowing a (liberal) colorblind approach to race and racism—which is likely to work very well in practice—is because they assume that colorblindness (not seeing race, meaning not placing social significance in socially constructed racial categories) makes it impossible to see racism when it occurs.
This is, of course, absurd, but it follows from the understanding that racism is ultimately a systemic problem that requires putting social significance in race in order to understand and address the problem (see also, identity-first, critical consciousness, critical race Theory, intersectionality, and wokeness). In particular, one is to be aware of the oppression that comes along with race and the ways in which whiteness acts to create, maintain, enforce, justify, and perpetuate that oppression and its own dominance (see also, white, internalized dominance, and white supremacy). Social Justice expects people to see the relevance of racial (and other identity) categories in all things so that it can apply critical methods to the alleged systems of power that it believes operate, more or less permanently (see also, new racism), along lines of identity (see also, critical theory and identity politics).
Colorblind; Critical; Critical consciousness; Critical race Theory; Critical theory; Dominance; Identity; Identity-first; Identity politics; Internalized dominance; Oppression; Race; Racism (systemic); Social construction; Social Justice; Systemic power; White; White supremacy; Whiteness; Woke/Wokeness
Source: Thompson, A. “Colortalk: Whiteness and Off White.” Educational Studies, 30(2), 1999: 141–160, p. 143.
Certainly there is some warrant for this equation of colorblindness with non-racism; in many everyday encounters with white people-in the grocery checkout lane, for instance, or when driving a car—people of color would indeed prefer not to be treated differently because of their skin color. But colorblindness is not always non-racist. In a multicultural and racist society, whites’ refusal to acknowledge color will sometimes mean refusing to recognize the obstacles facing people of color or to see that, depending on the context, different ethnic and racial groups may have distinct needs and interests.
Revision date: 1/31/20