Assuming America can promote a colorblind society by ignoring the issue of race is as irresponsible as parents who would leave their three-year-old to babysit himself because his imaginary friend is fifteen. Decent caretakers with an eye to the future make decisions based on reality, regardless, and sometimes in spite of the idealized world their charge has made up for himself. A society in which race is a non-issue is attractive to people of all races, but most appealing to those who are of a race typically stereotyped as inferior. The unscrupulous over-use of the “it’s because I’m black” defense was annoying to the whites, but the trend was particularly galling to blacks who experienced racial discrimination first hand, and were insulted by the belittlement of such a painful issue for selfish purposes. The solution was to swing away from any use of this stance, even in situations where it was obviously germane. Instead, Americans are going to pretend that race is a non-issue, and forge an all-inclusive history-kumbaya!
Theodore Roosevelt once made explicit the government’s desire for “the disappearance of the Negro question through the disappearance of the Negro himself-that is, through his gradual absorption into the white race.” In a hundred ways, and for a hundred reasons, the first being the use of the word “Negro,” the statement could not be made today. The rules regarding the issue of race have become so fraught with trivialities that more time is spent attempting to grasp effects, like why it is not correct to refer to blacks as “colored,” but perfectly acceptable to use the term “person of color,” than solutions. How can one expect to have an honest conversation when the speaker feels as if he is trying to navigate a field of land mines wearing snow shoes? When an offensive remark is made, regardless of its intentions (or its truth), a circus-like atmosphere takes hold until the guilty party makes a shamed public apology and the rest of us can be satisfied his career is in the toilet. Soon, everything goes back to “normal” and the subject of race is back off limits.
Many theorists approach colorblindness as a progressive stance, but I contend it is just another tactic in the same old race game the majority has been playing since the Civil War: step one, repeat Pledge of Allegiance, step two fake it, step three, congratulate self. Directly after slavery, most blacks found themselves in exactly the same (or worse) condition as before, and whites congratulated themselves for upholding the national ideal. In time, blacks found mobility and began to permeate into white society, but white America could not fool itself about equality while witnessing discrimination first-hand, so a “separate but equal” policy was adopted and congratulations went around for upholding the American ideal, yet again. The Civil Rights Movement made light of the farce and whites had no choice but to admit inequality and vow to take affirmative action against it. The practice of colorblindness is yet another attempt to imagine the ideal society and pretend it exists in the here and now while stashing unpleasant realities out of sight.
Guinier and Torres claim colorblindness leads to “paralysis rather than action (37)” because it “disables the individual from understanding or fully appreciating the structural nature of inequality (65).” I take their assertions a step further by introducing the Archie Bunker Approach, which assumes uncensored racism should be invited because it will implode on itself and end racism all together. Carroll O’Conner, a true American hero and visionary, sought to challenge prejudice with its own folly by bringing its bogus claims into the light for all to see. Not only is it necessary to have the discussion of race, it is just as important to move away from our censure of hate speech and allow for frank discussion, as uncomfortable and painful as they may be. Problems do not magically disappear just because we want them to, and the racist is not going to suddenly cease from being just because he can’t voice opinion. Issues left unchecked will certainly grow, while solutions untapped will surely diminish, and we will bequeath to our children the problem of racism with no idea how to even talk about it.