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Do You See Skin Color or Are You Colorblind?

skin color Teach Peace Now

Have you ever looked closely at your skin color?

Is all the same color everywhere on your body? Does it stay the same color all the time?

You have probably answered no to these questions. So why is it that society puts people into groups based on a few basic colors? Why do we assign people to color groups such as white, brown, and black?

We might say it is a matter of history. Race was invented as a justification for slavery.  Race the Power of an Illusion:History.

We might say it is a matter of discrimination. Race has been used to attribute stereotypical behaviors to an entire group of people based solely on skin color. Race the Power of an Illusion: Science

We might say it a matter of policy. Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy MacIntosh

all the colors we areWhy talk about skin color anyway? Aren't we all the same underneath?

None of these reasons for the division of humans into "races" is pleasant. Talking about skin color makes many people, especially those who want to be open to all people,  uncomfortable. Sometimes, it is thought better to be colorblind, i.e. to see people instead of color. How many times have you heard someone say: "I don't see color. I see people."

However, talking about the differences in our skin color rather than ignoring them is an important step in combating racism. It is only by recognizing that the color of a person's skin affects how they are treated by other people and by social institutions that we can address the problem of racism.

John Greenberg lists several reasons to talk about skin color.

1.Colorblindness makes us blind to people's cultural and historical identities. If everyone looks the same then we assume we must all be the same.

2. Colorblindness pretends that discrimination based on skin color doesn't exist or isn't important. If I don't see your color, then I can't see how you have been or are being treated differently by others.

3. Colorblindness says that a skin color different from one's own is something negative. Young children often pick up racist ideas not from what is said but from what is not said. If talking about skin color is wrong, then people with different skin colors must have something wrong with them.

4. Colorblindness means that statistics about how people with different skin colors are treated are not gathered so discrimination cannot be identified.

5. Colorblindness is disingenuous. It is really hard not to notice that people have different color skin. Skin color is just another feature, like hair color and eye color that we use to identify someone. We notice when someone dyes his or her hair a different color.  If someone in your family showed up one day with a totally different color skin wouldn't you notice?


We welcome your thoughts and comments. 


Teach Peace Now
Teach Peace Now
We offer books, activities, lesson plans, and ideas that teachers, parents, and students can use to promote values, attitudes and behaviors which encourage non-violent resolution of conflict, respect for human rights, democracy, intercultural understanding and tolerance.

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