Dear White Folk Who Say You “Don’t See Race”

Dear White Folk Who Say You “Don’t See Race”:

I am a white male, and when you see me, you should immediately notice both — because the parts of who I am are ultimately the whole.

To say to someone you don’t see race (or gender), you are in effect refusing to see the person, you are dehumanizing the person as somehow not worthy of being fully seen.

But there are also a few points of logic that make “I don’t see race” truly offensive.

First, the only reason to make the effort not to see race is the implication that once you see race you have racist or bigoted thoughts or actions connected to race.

Second, to consciously not see race (which is an odd concept to begin with since eyesight doesn’t allow us to filter) or to make a false claim of not seeing race also simultaneously prohibits you from seeing racism.

“I don’t see race” is admitting “I refuse to acknowledge racism” — and denying racism has a real evidence problem.

Those who claim “I don’t see race,” then, are likely either racists who are fronting (consciously or unconsciously) or people who consider themselves “good people” but by taking a so-called neutral stance are actually supporting the status quo of racism in the U.S.

Humans have recognizable nuances and differences, and it is ours to denounce equating surface differences as signals of deficits or stereotypes.

We cannot see each other as fully human by refusing to see any of our parts, including the social construction of race that we associate with how we look.

For those of us — especially those of who are white — committed to racial equity in the U.S., we must resist “I don’t see race” and instead seek for ourselves and others: “I see human dignity in all races.”

Originally published at radicalscholarship.wordpress.com on June 22, 2015.

Written by

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

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