Being “blind” to our differences helps nobody

Ignoring the defining factors of one’s marginalization will not aid in ending the oppression.


by Faith Andrews-O'Neal, Opinion Editor

I’m sure at one point, you’ve heard someone say “I don’t see color!” or “We’re all humans!”. While the people who say these things most likely have well-meaning, kind intentions, it stems from a place of ignorance. The idea that we must ignore color, or disability, or sexuality, to treat everyone as humans means that we are loving each other in spite of those differences, instead of coinciding with them. If you must ignore the fact that I’m black to appreciate me as a person, that contributes to a system that believes that my race must be disregarded for me to be seen as valid. If you need to tune out an aspect of someone because they do not fit your certain worldview, then you do not truly value them as a human being.

Growing up in a predominantly white elementary and middle school, this school of thought came across often, however different the phrasing may be. They’re calling me “white” as if it was a compliment perpetuated the idea that my blackness was something that had to be cast aside to be seen as one of them. Decreeing “we’re all people and we just need to love each other” is another. There seems to be an idea that the best way to end racism or fight injustice is just to disregard the things that make us different, whether that’s religion, socioeconomic background, or race. I concede that it’s easier to treat everyone equally if you see everyone as the same. However, at its core, to disregard those differences, really only aids the people who benefit from their marginalization. It’s the mentality that if we don’t acknowledge these differences, we don’t have to confront our wrongdoings because of them. However, my race is a part of me, one that should not be ignored just for the sake of others’ comfortability.   

There are many buzzwords that come up when you think of the differences between us: identity politics, victimhood mentality, and an overall fear of “division”. All of these circle around the idea that the parts of us that are unique are the reason we’re divided. This is passive at best, and cowardly at worst. How can we solve injustice if we can’t look at the issues with clarity? How can we achieve such clarity if we don’t acknowledge the “otherness” of those around us? It may sound cliche, but we really are all unique and different in a multitude of ways. Those differences are not what separates us; it is humanity’s collective attitude towards them.

The idea that “colorblindness” in social terms is helpful is confounding. Racism is an issue built entirely on the color of our skin. To ignore that color is not ending racism, but disregarding the culture, perseverance, and historical significance of a people. Any sort of social change is a result of fervent, continuous activism. Thinking you’re progressive because you choose not to see the issue at hand is the opposite of that. Nothing will change if people elect to turn away from the issue for the sake of the myth of a “single human race”.

I’m black. I’m Christian. I’m dark-skinned. I’m a woman. I wear my hair in its natural state. All of these are part of my identity. All of it may contribute to “otherness” at times. I would not change any of it. My identity makes me who I am, and I, like us all, am different than anybody I know. It is because of my outward appearance that I’ve found the strength and motivation to be an activist. It is because of my faith (no pun intended), that I have a spiritual foundation on which my strength resides. It is because of my gender that I have common experiences to many of the students reading this right now, whether they are good or bad.

To achieve any sort of change, we must be willing to utilize all these identities to create real social change. Each of us is shaped by our identities, and it morphs how we view and approach the world. We are blessed to be alive in the digital age, with so many different perspectives around us. In order for progress to occur, we should look at these different worldviews as a way to enrich ourselves, not as an issue we must ignore.