Is Being Colourblind the Answer?
What is the path to healing in our racially divided world?
This is one of the most important questions our modern society needs to answer. The current solution that is being offered comes from a Critical Race Theory perspective. CRT, as I have written about before, is a philosophy that understands culture to be inherently racist from top to bottom. Popular proponents of CRT teach that racism is normative and so embedded into the customs of society that if someone simply lives an average life, they are actually perpetuating racism without even knowing it. Thus, CRT proposes that in order to fix the racism in society we must raise cultural awareness of racism and seek to actively undo it.
It is important to understand that Critical Race Theory fundamentally encourages people to both (a) see race and (b) value it greatly in decision-making. The following are some examples of significant cultural voices stating this in plain terms:
“Critical race theorists hold that color blindness will allow us to redress only extremely egregious racial harms… Only aggressive, color-conscious efforts to change the way things are will do much to ameliorate misery.” -Delgado and Stefancic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, p. 22.
The argument here is that a colourblind approach to race issues will only see obvious racism but fail to notice it in more subtle forms. Therefore, it is said, the real way to address racism is to be intentionally more conscious of people’s skin colour and the dynamics around it.
“The idea of a color blind society, while well intentioned, leaves people without the language to discuss race and examine their own bias…Color blindness relies on the concept that race-based differences don’t matter, and ignores the realities of systemic racism…[color blindness] helps to uphold racism instead of rendering it powerless” – Oprah Daily Magazine.
Again, the argument here is that being colourblind allows racism to flourish unchallenged, rather than reducing its power. Being colourblind is said to be counterproductive, actually upholding racism while claiming to diminish it.
“The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” – Ibram X Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, p. 19.
Lastly, this line of thinking is similar in that Kendi argues that the colourblind approach (which is an attempt to stop discrimination) is not preferable. Instead, he contends that the way to combat racism to be intentionally discriminatory towards white people so that past discriminations against people of colour can be corrected. Again, you see that he is advocating for seeing people’s skin colour as significant and treating them differently on purpose because of it.
To summarize, the mainstream cultural narrative around racial issues promotes intentionally seeing a person’s skin colour as an essential component of their identity and treating them accordingly. If you are white, you should be discriminated against to reduce your white privilege. If you are a person of colour, you should be given special treatment to make up for past ills committed against your race by whites. This line of thinking explicitly rejects the approach of being colourblind and promotes the idea of being colour-conscious in its place.
Let’s define our terms here. Being “colour-conscious” simply means treating a person differently according to their race—specifically, granting them advantages if they are a minority and disadvantages if they are white. It means that you are aware (ie. conscious) of their race and what that means historically for the way society has treated them in the past.
On the other hand, “colourblindness” is often characterized simply as “not seeing race”, which gives off the false impression that people are claiming to literally not notice the skin colour of individuals. This is not true in practice or in principle. Obviously anyone with functioning eyes can see skin colour. Claiming to be colourblind isn’t saying otherwise; rather, it is claiming to not allow a person’s skin colour to influence how one thinks of or treats other people. Being colourblind is a “term used to describe personal, group, and institutional policies or practices that do not consider race or ethnicity as a determining factor. The term ‘colorblind’ de-emphasizes or ignores race and ethnicity as a large part of one’s identity” (source).
What we have here are two significantly different approaches to the same problem—polar opposites, in fact. If we want to rid society of racism (and what moderately moral person doesn’t?), then we must decide between a colourblind approach or one that rejects colourblindess in favour of colour-consciesness that (in Kendi’s words) is intentional “discrimination”.
My contention is that the “old” way of being colourblind is absolutely the right approach to take. I believe this for three reasons.
The first Scriptural. The common values that “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” and “don’t judge a book by its cover” are consistent with biblical teaching. Perhaps the most prominent example comes from 1 Samuel 16. In this passage, God is choosing who will be the king of Israel among the sons of Jesse. Samuel takes one look at Eliab and immediately assumes he will be the chosen one, but God rejects him. He explains why in verse 7, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
The dichotomy is clear. Putting value into the things we can physically see about people is a human way of thinking. God does not operate this way. God looks past the surface to see the inner person. Though not explicitly stated in this passage, it is implied here and elsewhere that this is a value we should adopt from God. If we are to grow in godliness (ie. becoming more like God and his character), then it follows logically that this would be one aspect of that growth.
Again, being colourblind does not mean that you literally don’t see physical features such as race. It means that they carry little to no value in how you treat others. It means that you care more about who they are as a person than what they look like. If this is how God himself operates, then so should we. Intentionally seeing race in order to intentionally discriminate is absolutely antithetical to a Christian worldview and should be rejected by believers.
This line of thinking would be supported by numerous other passages. The parable of the good Samaritan comes to mind. It is well-known that Jesus chose a Samaritan to be the one who helps the beaten Jew specifically because these two people groups hated one another. Jesus is demonstrating that we are to love our neighbour no matter how different we perceive them to be. Many other Scriptures would contend similarly, that the hostility between people groups is broken down by the love of God so that we no longer treat each other differently or as less-than but rather love one another. This is basic Christian doctrine.
The second reason for accepting colourblindess is historical. Perhaps the most famous line from Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech is “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.” There is a reason this sentence has had such an enduring impact on society. It resonates with godly values and common sense logic. It is the obvious antidote to discriminating against people because of their skin colour. It elevates our shared humanity and makes us all equals in the sight of God and others, as it should. Though modern so-called experts on racism would absolutely contest this, I see it as undoubtedly true MLK’s vision made huge strides for the advancement of Civil Rights and the erosion of racism in society. No better example exists than that of children, who don’t seem to care one bit what another child looks like so long as they enjoy each other’s company and treat each other well. The fact that this ideal is increasingly being seen as a weakness, and that we are now training children to see and care about the skin colour of others is completely backwards and appalling.
The Civil Rights movement was based on seeing all men as equal. This helped to end segregation and start to bring together the races. Though there is still much work to be done, it laid the foundation for that to happen. Racism still remains an issue, to be sure, but to deny that being judged by character rather than skin colour has made things better is a conclusion outside the bounds of reality. Society is better off when that kind of value is embraced and lived out.
I want the reader to understand that the current approach to race issues (informed by CRT) is absolutely not the continuation of the Civil Right’s movement. It is actually the undoing of it. It is taking the core value of MLK and turning it on its head. It is teaching people to judge by skin colour and not by content of character. It is, as Kendi explicitly stated, fighting past discrimination with present and future discrimination. For this reason it must be rejected.
The third reason, as I have alluded to already, is moral. It is morally backward to encourage people to see and judge others by skin colour. It is morally backward to teach people to fight discrimination with more discrimination. It is not killing racism to care a lot about people’s skin colour; rather it is fuelling it. Put simply, embracing the core tenets of Critical Race Theory as mainstream society has done is promoting immoral values that will ultimately be destructive, not constructive. It functions as a form of divide-and-conquer rather than fostering togetherness and unity.
Consider what Scripture has to say about the right response to evil in Romans 12:14-21:
 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Simply lay this passage of Scripture next to the quotes given above by those who advocate for fighting discrimination with more discrimination and you can see the moral dilemma. Attempting to overcome evil with more evil is wrong. The only way to overcome evil is with good. Being intentionally discriminatory in order to try and correct past wrongs is not blessing those who curse you or overcoming evil with good. It is trying to avenge yourself, and is in direct contrast to the Word of God.
For these reasons every Christian (and hopefully more of secular society) must reject the philosophies of Critical Race Theory. In place, we should embrace the Scriptural values of treating others the way we want to be treated, caring for them as individuals and common members of the human race, judging people based on their character and not their skin colour, and returning good for evil. This is the path forward. This is the path to healing. I pray more people realize this and resist the current sway of culture that is ultimately leading to death.