A Black author on why you shouldn't say "I don't see race"

Jennifer Savin
Photo credit: ARNELLDMarshall - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Following the huge swell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement after the tragic death of George Floyd, conversations about racial inequality have been taking place all around the globe.

Many people, for the first time, are engaging and asking questions about what life is like for Black folk and are showing their support in the fight for justice and a fairer society for all. Along the way, it's likely that you might have seen posts on social media or hear people say, "I don't see colour, I just see people!" – which while said with a well-meaning intention, isn't always helpful, says one prominent Irish-Nigerian author.

Emma Dabiri, who wrote the brilliant Don't Touch My Hair, recently gave an interview to the BBC about life after lockdown and shared her thoughts on people claiming to be 'colourblind', as it were. She says her issue with it stems back to the denying of privilege afforded by your skin tone.

"Don’t say you can’t see race” said Dabiri. “Because if that is the case you cannot see, and have certainly not acknowledged the fact that whether you were born black or white in the UK, [it] will have a significant impact on both your life experiences and your opportunities.”

She added that the concept of race came about in the 1600s as a way to dehumanise Black people and to create a divide between African slaves and Irish servants, who had been forging ties with one another. It was at this point that humans became further defined by their differences, says Dabiri, rather than the things which unite us.

Her argument is an extremely solid one and also begs the question: why should we pretend we don't 'see' colour, when it's also something which could be celebrated?

Dabiri also commented on social media and the way people have been using it during lockdown to join with with discussion around race. She said the nature of the online world "rewards outrage by amassing followers, likes and retweets from both the like-minded and the cowed" and added that commentators "will not be compensated in the same way for offering more nuanced, considered takes."

"The direction we are going in has not liberated us. To further continue in that way rather than seek new directions is an indulgence we can ill afford."

Let's keep the conversation going, everyone!

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