What does it mean when people say they “don’t see race”? Phillip Mazzocco, an associate professor of psychology at The Ohio State University at Mansfield, tackles the topic in his new book, “The Psychology of Racial Colorblindness: A Critical Review.”
In the book, Mazzocco outlines a new model of what it means to be racially colorblind in today’s society. Colorblindness is the racial ideology that the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity. At its face value, colorblindness seems like a good thing, but instead it focuses on the color of people’s skin instead of their character.
However, according to Mazzocco, the belief in “racial colorblindness” unites people who range from liberal to conservative and hardened racists to unbiased persons.
“There’s never been a racial ideology like colorblindness that unites such very different types of people,” said Mazzocco. “Their beliefs are often wildly different. The only thing they all have in common is a general distaste for racial categories.”
His new model bases the four types of colorblindness on two variables: levels of prejudice and awareness of racial inequality. Here are the types, and where they fall on those two variables:
Mazzocco doesn’t believe that any type of racial colorblindness is good for society, although some of the four types are clearly more offensive than others. His model focuses on whites, but could be used for all races.
The fact that nearly three-quarters of Americans claim to be colorblind is a problem, Mazzocco said, because claiming you don’t see race is “a conversation ender.” “One of the implications of racial colorblindness is that we’re not going to have a discussion about the topic. You can have two people who say they’re colorblind, one of the visionary variety and one of the antagonistic variety, with wildly different sets of belief,” he said.
“But they may think they have similar viewpoints and therefore believe that many people share their opinions. If they had a true conversation, they may find out their views aren’t so common and they might need to consider other opinions.”
Mazzocco said he hopes his book will inspire more research, now that there is a clearer idea of the different meanings of colorblindness.
“We are at a crossroads regarding our willingness to discuss race explicitly. Social scientists can make a real contribution by helping us to understand what our views are and how to talk about them.”
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