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Racially Oblivious People


More often than not, when someone says that they don’t notice the color of someone’s skin, that person is a liar.  Skin color is one of those things that are totally noticeable.  To walk up to someone and say that they don’t notice color is like walking up to someone and saying you didn’t notice their gender.  Nobody would think it’s cool not to notice that a person is a woman or a man.  Our gender helps to form our identity.  Why should it be different for skin tone?

But a lot of people claim that they are racial neutral and argue that black people should not want to change the status quo.  Everything is fine the way it is becomes the way things are developed naturally.  It is only natural that white people have a vast variety of white role models and white representation in their daily pursuits while black people are often considered racist or racial separatist for wanting more black oriented representation in our daily lives.  Often, someone defending the status quo will say something like, black people were well represented by some show with black characters either cancelled years ago or part of the BET or MTV network so that should be more than enough for impressionable black people to develop well rounded identities.  One black person in a crowd of a hundred is more than enough to be considered racially fair and equal.

When the absurdity of the argument from the person claiming to be racially oblivious is brought to light, it is only a matter of time before the bias of their true racial nature starts to manifest.  All it takes is just a paragraph or two to point out the inconsistencies of their argument and then their disdain for black people burst forth in all its fury.  All of sudden, the person who never sees issues of race is tired of seeing black people on the television.  The person who thought that the old black television shows were the exception because in general black people are immoral, have a propensity for violence, and/or have no decent work ethic.  People who claim to be racially generic will say that if black people want equal representation then black people need to do for black people what white people do for other white people.

A lot of people think they are racially neutral and support people regardless of their color.  But those are just flowery words with woefully little substance.  The same person that says the racial status quo is fine will turnaround and say if black people want jobs black people should get an education.  The racially prejudiced thinking is that the black person is not educated or does not have the experience for gainful employment.  There is an assumption that black people will always be unqualified or inherently inferior to their white counterparts.

Why is there an inherent belief that black people are unqualified and inferior?  Could there be a connection to the fact that we really don’t see very many images of qualified black people in a variety of well received role models?  True enough that the majority of the population is white and so it probably stands to reason that more characters in media will be white.  That’s a given.  But the scant few black characters in media do little to represent the black twelve point five percent of the population that is black.

White people make up seventy percent of our national population.  So it stands to reason that one in every seven professional characters in media is black.  It would stand to reason that one in every seven movie or television shows would be centered on the lives of black people.  It would stand to reason that one in seven of the pictures in magazines would feature black models or black subjects.

But instead of recognizing the racial disproportion for what it is, we have to assume that the deluge of white only images is an accident of the way things evolved naturally.  It is a natural evolution based on a foundation of racial discrimination that is part and parcel of America.

People who claim to be racially neutral are far from it.  All it takes is a brief exchange or two for the racist nature of their character to become evident.  These people protect their racial prejudices with the assertion that skin color simply doesn’t register in their psyche and that their racial discrimination is a happenstance of life.

But all it really means is that they are insensitive to issues of race and have yet to admit the depth of their racial animosity.  People who see and acknowledge a person’s skin color are about as racist as a person who recognizes and acknowledges a person’s gender is a sexist.  Racial obliviousness is not a virtue.  It is nothing more than an excuse to keep the racial status quo.

Thursday, December 18, 2008 - Posted by | Affirmative Action, African Americans, Bigotry, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Racism, The Race Card, Thoughts, White Privilege


  1. I used to think that people who claimed to be colorblind were dumb. Now i think they’re being passive/aggressive.

    Comment by Jon | Thursday, December 18, 2008 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Jon,

      Is it possible that they’re dumb and passive/aggressive?


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, December 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. I wouldn’t say I don’t notice, but I don’t make a point of noticing. This isn’t some conspiracy on my part to be insensitive, I’m just the daughter of an absent-minded professor type and typically have my head in the clouds.

    If someone has “different” features or skin, I rarely ask someone about it. People I know of color who are mixed race, like a half-Japanese woman I know, say they get asked all the time, and I think that’s a little weird.

    On the other hand, the last time I asked someone, she turned out to be Hmong (from Laos), and I learned something from asking.

    I had a coworker whom I’d always read as possibly hispanic, and then she showed me pictures of her daughter who was obviously black. I looked at the mother again, and realized she’d had African-American facial traits I’d simply never paid attention to, but they weren’t strong traits in her case. She also straightened her hair.

    Another friend, I took him as being white, though again, his skin was darker than average for white. I met his mother, who was much more obviously black, and so was his father. However, he was quite light-skinned.

    Neither of them were mixed race, and they both had features that, in retrospect, were distinctive.

    Comment by Deirdre Saoirse Moen | Thursday, December 18, 2008 | Reply

    • Thanks for the Deirdre Saoirse Moen,

      But I really doubt if you’re oblivious to the people around you. You do make note that someone might be different. You see someone and make assumptions about who they are or where they are from. That’s natural. You didn’t see the person with Laotian features and not notice that they were different. You didn’t see them and just assumed that they are some generic race of people. You noticed that they were different. And to make note that someone is different is to notice that they might have a different perspective on some things and understand why they may have that perspective.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, December 18, 2008 | Reply

  3. Color blindness = Consensual unconscious racism. Its funny Michael Baisden touched on this subject yesterday on this show. Only to to accept is to respect others cultures. Skin color is too false of a measure nowadays. Speaking of culture, come enjoy some BPM this Sat if you get the time bredrin.

    Comment by Rio | Thursday, December 18, 2008 | Reply

  4. I’ll just answer your question:
    “Why is there an inherent belief that black people are unqualified and inferior?”

    This, I think stems from the following:

    1. Racial minorities (exception: Asians) make lower scores on IQ tests, SATs, etc. on the average.

    2. Many get upset when racial minorities aren’t given breaks when it comes to things like college admission; the fact is that “colorblind” admission policies do end up admitting fewer minorities into the more elite universities.

    Basically: I believe that it is our natural tendency to be xenophobic; after all for about 50,000 years or so, we lived in the mortal fear that some “other” tribe might try to steal our water hole. 🙂

    In short, tolerance and acceptance is hard; it doesn’t come easily or naturally.

    Example; those test scores I talked about? Note that
    American blacks tend to score roughly what Turks in Germany score (and higher than what Australian aboriginals score) and yet, genetically speaking, American blacks have almost nothing in common with Turks or aboriginals. What they have in common is having been an oppressed group; it is well documented that being assigned a lower place in society and living in poverty has very real, physically measurable effects on a population.

    I should give a disclaimer: I am a brown guy and I sometimes cringe when I am viewed as the “affirmative action” hire, even though “affirmative action” did play a role in financing my graduate education (as did Veteran’s benefits)

    Comment by blueollie | Thursday, December 18, 2008 | Reply

  5. PS to last: I am NOT arguing that any group is inferior to any other group (I disagree with that for logical reasons), but I am stating where I think that this perception comes from.

    Comment by blueollie | Thursday, December 18, 2008 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback blueollie,

      But even if people have a lesser IQ score for whatever reason do they not deserve to be recognized? IQ scores in predominantly racial minority areas are lower due to inferior schools and inferior environments by every other social measure. But people seem to think that everything is equal and that it is just a simple matter of black people and other minorities, with the exception of Asians, are just inherently inferior.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, December 19, 2008 | Reply

  6. Here is a suggestion for winter reading: Andrew Hacker’s book “Separate but Unequal”; it is a 1990s book but many of his perceptions are valid even today.

    For example: a survey was done on white college students and they were asked: “how much money would you want to be paid in return for living the rest of your life with black skin (e. g., as an African American). The median amount asked for was one million dollars!!!

    In other words, on some level, people KNOW that things are tougher for AAs even if they won’t admit it directly.

    Comment by ollie | Friday, December 19, 2008 | Reply

  7. You obviously hit on a good topic here. In my work I deal quite a bit with theories about cross-cultural communication and relationships, and one of the MOST common stages of understanding between cultures is to deliberately minimize cultural differences because you assume to point out differences (even ones you can obviously see) either leads to a conflict or implies that you are judging the person on the basis of that difference. Usually people will use “color blind” language and “not notice” differences because in some way they want the other person to feel included or “just as good” or some other seemingly good motivation.

    It also, as you’ve pointed out, can be a way to try to disguise or hide or deny prejudice. But people who usually relate to people because of their similarities often believe it is so important to find those similarities that they train themselves to not pay attention to the differences, which they see as less important that what they have in common with the other person — in other words, with the ways that other person is “just like me.”

    Comment by Betsy | Friday, December 19, 2008 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Betsy,

      You have made a couple of points that I have not considered. People who want inclusion so bad that they try to bury differences in a self imposed consciousness where everyone in generic. However, I do believe that it is to deny who I am for someone to look at me and not truly see me for who and what I am. As I’ve said before, to hear someone looking at me say something like, “when I look at you I don’t see a black man, I see just a man”, is to deny me part of my identity. I can be included and black. I do not want to hang any part of my identity on the door hook when I walk in the room. I would prefer to stay a whole person when I walk into the room to be included. Differences can be assets that contribute to the whole and not weaknesses that should be left unacknowledged.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, December 19, 2008 | Reply

  8. I do notice skin color, and after couple good conversations it becomes just another fact, unless of course the person is constantly bringing up his racial identity in such away that it dominates the exchange, In that case I just get bored and eventually leave, weather is a black person acting too “black” a Spanish acting too “latino” or a white acting too “white”. It just becomes fake, since at the end we are all the same in a figurative, literal, symbolical, spiritual, physical, mental, etc etc way. I also believe racism in this world is a dominant force to blame for many of our tragedies.
    One of the great lessons I learn through divination is the universe demands an intelligent conversation. When someone is able to engage in one with another human being, race, sexual orientation, gender, nationality become much less important facts. That’s my experience with people of all races and with whom I’ve established a meaningful relationship….then I DO forget they are a certain color…

    Comment by Ivan "awolalu" | Sunday, December 21, 2008 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Ivan “awolalu”,

      People who focus on bringing attention to their race for the sole purpose of bringing up their difference are no better than people who subjugate on the basis of race. It is a way to say you are different and I do not respect your difference. We can be different and still be together.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Sunday, December 21, 2008 | Reply

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