The Colorblind Approach

Over the weekend in my EDUC 275 class, we had to read one of two pieces. I had to read a chapter from a book called Privilege, Power, and Difference, but just for kicks I read the other article, “Because Race Can’t be Ignored,” as well. It talks about how education, and American society in general, has taken the “colorblind” approach to race in schools. Like the racial version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” You just don’t talk about race in schools.

I can kind of see why. As a white person, discussing race always makes me feel uncomfortable and I just… don’t want to. You know, the whole “white guilt” thing, which is really depressing because I don’t like being made to feel guilty for something I didn’t do.

Anyway, the article was actually quite enlightening. It talks about how in the 1940s, teachers taught racial and religious tolerance in an effort to counter the Nazism overseas. I didn’t know that!

And it’s interesting because it makes a very valid point: race can’t be ignored. Even if we discard the idea of race (because that’s all it is, a social idea), humans would just find some other characteristic to separate us by, like what color your eyes are or if your middle finger is longer than your index or what size shoe you wear.

Maybe this is redundant to all of you. Maybe you already knew this or learned this, and I’m just way behind the curve. But I’ve lived in predominantly white northern Colorado all my life and attended predominantly white schools – even now – so when would I have learned this? What exposure I have had to other races or cultures is limited to rap music (which I don’t really like) and the fairly stereotypical portrayals on TV or in movies.

I think it would be interesting to look into how this idea is implemented in schools in Colorado, where I’d like to teach, because there isn’t a high minority population here. Is it awkward to talk about race, something that doesn’t really affect white people in general, to a class of nearly all white students? And I wonder if it was weird for Dr. Garcia to transition from almost no white students to almost all white students…

The other cool thing related to that I had to do was visit a website linked to this PBS video called RACE – The Power of an Illusion. I had to click through everything, but I thought the most interesting interactive activity was where you had to sort people based on their self-identified race and I was surprised by how difficult it was, and I didn’t do very well:

Yet the government claims to be able to do this very thing – “sort” people based solely on a skin-deep outward appearance – and get it right? Kind of messed-up, I think.

Sorry if this is kind of boring. I really wasn’t all that inspired this week…


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