Discussions about color blindness often reference Martin Luther King’s dream of the day when his children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” However, how exactly to interpret this vision of King (and how he himself interpreted it), is a subject of ongoing disagreement and politicization. From one perspective, King’s vision was never about color blindness, anymore than feminists aspire to gender blindness. Thus his talk should not be so quickly used to support an idea that race shouldn’t matter. From another perspective, seeing individuals in a way that was more than skin-deep (i.e., more fully) represents a legitimate ideal of both King and the Civil Rights movement generally.
Recently, critical race theory academics and civil rights activists have come to challenge the use of color blindness for having skipped over the hard work of addressing inequities, and a new call for consciousness about institutional racism and unconscious bias has emerged and gained energy. At the same time, the political right is concerned that racial consciousness is missing the point of King’s original teaching - and being used to provide unfair advantages to individual people of color through quotas and other mechanisms.
QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:
-What do you think the relationship is between MLK’s work and “color-blindness?” Do you interpret Martin Luther King’s work as being an argument for color-blindness or not?
-What are the pros and cons of color-blindness? Is an aspiration towards a color-blind society a good or bad thing, in your view?-
- In what ways have you experienced color blindness as a good or bad thing? How have your experiences affected your views?