Over the past year, discussions about racism have become very common, open and more normalised. Young people, white people, POC, indigenous communities and victims of racism have all been engaging in developed conversations about race issues.
These discussions have been crucial, especially for the black community. We are raising awareness and spreading education on important matters, which is massively helping to find a solution and stop the issue.
However, as positive and effective as many of these discussions have been… there have also been many negative conversations and harmful social interactions. This is nothing new and it’s certainly not rare. But it’s doing a lot of harm to marginalised communities and the casual racism needs to stop.
Read: What Is Casual Racism?
Suggested: What Is Racial Gaslighting?
In May 2020, the death of George Floyd sparked worldwide protests against police brutality and criminal injustice. With millions of black people coming forward against white supremacy and racism, white supremacy pushed back. Racial gaslighting was often a part of the conversation – as it has been for decades.
Racial gaslighting is a conversational technique that’s used to discredit challenges to racism. Gaslighting manipulates black people into questioning their anti-racist stance and their understanding of racism.
For example, white people often ask, “Why do you always bring race into it?”. When you’re not white, your race defines you – almost everything we experience is a race issue. But these questions force black people to question their own experiences with racism.
This perpetuates white supremacy. White supremacy continues by shutting down the voices that challenge it. White people invalidate anti-racist perspectives, but simultaneously don’t understand race or even believe in racism.
What Happens When People “Don’t See Colour”?
When a white person is introduced to racism, they usually claim that they “don’t see race”. As a black woman, I’ve heard it far too often by white people trying to prove that they aren’t racist. Because apparently, if you don’t see race, it’s impossible to be racist.
As well as a personal defence, people also use “colour-blindness” to excuse cases of blatant racism. Police brutality disproportionately harms black people, but some claimed that it was merely a coincidence. They claimed the criminal justice system doesn’t target any race. Their colour-blindness makes them blind to racism, which allows a brutal system of oppression to continue to murder black people and children.
According to a 2014 study on millennials & bias (see here), 73% of millennials believe we shouldn’t see the colour of people’s skin – as if we have a choice. 70% believe that they have achieved full colour-blindness and don’t see BIPOC any differently to white people.
“Oh, I don’t see colour”.
But what does that actually mean?
White people are born oppressors. They are born with the upper hand.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that all white people are racist. But it does mean that white people are designed to be racist, and there are very few white people that actually aren’t.
White supremacy is an existing social system. Within this system, all people (regardless of race) are born and taught to uphold white supremacist values. The concept of race (black and white) isn’t a level playing field, to classify people’s appearance or ethnicity equally. White people created race as a hierarchy.
White people invented race to take power and justify the murder of black people. It was never about classifying different people based on physical features, appearance and ethnicity. Race is a social construct, not a science. Race shows white people as intellectual and human, and dark-skinned people as violent animals. Race cannot exist without racism.
This creates white privilege. Society is catered to the needs of white people. White privilege means that white people don’t have to worry about the obstacles that black people and people of colour constantly have to worry about. When black people live in a society designed for white people, there are even more adversities they need to overcome just to be “equal”.
For a white person to be “not racist”, they need to do more than sit silently. They need to be actively anti-racist. Their privilege protects them from the system that slaughters and abuses others. If they aren’t using their privilege to challenge racism, they allow white supremacy to continue. That is racism.
So, when a white person doesn’t “see colour” or claims that they’re “colour-blind”… actually, they’re just racist.
If you don’t see race, you don’t see the patterns of discrimination and hate towards black people.
If you don’t see race, you don’t see racism. If you don’t see racism, it will never be solved.