Monday, September 28, 2015

Reflection on "Colorblindness is the New Racism" and "All Lives Matter"

Armstrong and Wildman are two Santa Clara Law professors and write about the shift our society should make from being "colorblind" to adopting a practice called "color insight." They argue that white people often do not consider themselves to have a race at all, where people of color are much more aware of race.

The idea of color insight opens up dialogue about race in a productive manner, where colorblindness tends to ignore race altogether. Armstrong and Wildman say ""Whereas colorblindness urges us not to notice race, color insight says 'do not be afraid; notice your race and the race of others around you; racism and privilege still so affect people's lives; learn more about the racial dynamic.'" I thought this point was important to highlight because, as the authors mention, it is very easy for white people to think of being colorblind as not being racist, or at least harmful.

This relates to my favorite sentence in the chapter "Whites ignore race at their peril and to society's detriment." The idea that white people do not like to talk about race and privilege is certainly not new, but I thought this very effectively and concisely sums up the views on racial dialogue in this country. One of the choruses in this course is that white people need to be more aware of our own privileges and race and be able to talk candidly about these things in order to forge more positive relations between races.

I love the first assignment highlighted in this chapter. It asks students to pay attention to race around them for 24 hours and write down every interaction they have with it. One of the examples given was the author went to a gym that was populated by mostly white people. There, she saw a white high school student with a mascot of a native american person on his shirt. I think this is a really great assignment to do with students from all different backgrounds and see how their stories differ. I would love to do this with my current students m- they're in 8th grade and predominantly white, middle class kids. The wheels are turning as to how I might point out different aspects of race to them.

I have a hard time with using the second example - the power line activity, with students that age. The authors of this chapter are law professors, so their students are more mature and capable of handling touchy subjects like sexual orientation. I really like the activity, but I worry about its implementation in my own classroom right now. Does anyone have suggestions as to how I could rework it? When I read the explanation of this activity, I thought of Johnson's Diversity Wheel from the article we read earlier in the semester. They're pretty similar, so I wonder how I could adapt each of them for my demographic.

As an aside - I noticed that whenever the authors wrote about a general student or teacher or person, they used female pronouns. That usually isn't common practice, but it was nice to see.

Comment on "All Lives Matter"
I really enjoyed what user GeekAesthete had to say about Martin O'Malley's comment that "All Lives Matter" in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. What GeekAesthete talks about what is fair should be fair and accessible to all, but isn't. The idea of the implied "too" at the end of the above statement is a powerful one, I think. There is a reason people are saying that black lives matter. It's because black people are being treated as if they don't.
When people say "black lives matter" it doesn't take away anything from any other group. It is just a reminder that those lives aren't being appreciated the way that white lives are.


  1. I also liked the quotes you chose. They really highlight the message of the reading. In reading your blog, the powerline example reminds me of the exercise in the movie Dangerous Minds, although simpler but still eye opening and an opportunity for awareness- not sure if it would work.

  2. I have used the powerline activity a lot and can talk more about it in class. It is very powerful and very risky in that it creates a lot of vulnerability. Sometimes this is very useful. Sometimes this is very divisive. Remind me to talk about it in class.

  3. I, too, wonder how I could use the powerline activity with my 8th graders. We'd have to almost reinvent or eliminate some of the categories. Sexual orientation might be set aside in this exercise, but it is very possible that it would be introduced by one of the students. I would have to tread carefully in a Catholic school setting.

  4. I agree that we Catholic school teachers might have a difficult time with the power line activity and would love to talk/bounce ideas around.