Race and Colorblindness

>> Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I have been extremely busy but David has a link and post up on racial views of children that have implications for the way we treat race in society and i wanted to discuss it.

It is a very good piece, particularly because it explodes a lot of myths. One is that diverse schools are not a panacea that will lead to cross-racial friendship and understanding. Apparently not: students in integrated schools still tend to self-segregate dramatically. Of course, they do that in segregated schools too -- the article claims that only 8% of White kids and 15% of Black kids have a "best friend" of the opposite race -- but integrated schools don't seem to help.

Second, the article takes aim at what I have elsewhere called colorphobia: the fear of race as a conceptual category. The article opens by noting the failure of a study which sought to measure the effect of multicultural and egalitarian messaging by parents to young children. The problem was that the parents resisted engaging in specific race-talk as required by the study parameters. Some dropped out entirely, others just didn't say anything beyond extremely vague bromides like "everyone is equal". And, unsurprisingly, this had very little effect on the attitudes of young children.

The first step in treating a problem is admitting that you have a problem. This post goes directly to the heart of a major problem in contemporary politics and American Society--the failure to acknowledge race as a legitimate factor in decisions. The recent trend among conservatives and the public at large seems to be in favor of a colorblind system akin to that exacted in france where race and ethnicity data wasnt even collected until recently.

We see strains of this thought most often in reverse discrimination cases where the majority is discriminated against. Personally im not really in favor of protecting the majority with the 14th Amendment in the way that prevents all considerations of race. reading the 14th Amendment to prevent racial considerations is a way to prevent direct action aimed at eliminating systematic discrimination. While it makes sense in theory to treat equally qualified people with no regard for skin color in truth there is no complete equality in two candidates. Each will be better than the other at certain things and racial diversity itself has value.

The study David cites shows that children who are not given serious information on race pick up the generally negative and seperational tendencies of our society at large. By not recognizing that the differences need to be addressed and not papered over we are locking in the traditional systematic views that regard racial differences as being important. It typifies the problems of the colorblind system. Existing problems cannot be ignored and they dont work themselves out.

Im sure there is a ton of literature on this out there but i just wanted to make the colorblind legal connection explicit


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