The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging it exists. And in the latest episode of MTV’s Decoded, host Franchesca Ramsey breaks down exactly why being colorblind to someone’s race not only doesn’t fix racism but, if anything, she says, actually makes matters worse.
"Have you ever wondered why people say, ‘Oh, I don’t see color’ as a way to fix racism?" Ramsey asks. "Yeah, that doesn’t work."
Sure, race is not biologically real. But Ramsey points out that resting on that argument alone is part of the problem.
"Colorblindness, while nice in theory, has no effect on structural and institutional racism," she said. "Racism is a system, and that system benefits certain people at the expense of others. Ignoring it just lets those problems persist."
As Ramsey says, ignoring another person’s race sounds like a good way to ensure a more equal society, but implicit racial biases keep getting in the way. For instance, black children are more likely to be formally disciplined at school than white peers who break the same rules. Job applicants with stereotypically white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get a callback than applicants with stereotypically African-American names.
But failing to acknowledge these inequalities doesn't just hurt those who are the targets of racism. In a way, it harms those who benefit from that racism too.
"In many ways, colorblindness is actively harmful because it creates a false sense of security for the groups it directly benefits," Ramsey noted. "The people who’ve benefited from systemic racism can assume that they got the job or a house or weren’t suspended from preschool simply because they were more qualified or just better."
Racism won’t just disappear, no matter how much we wish it would or how many times we simply say race isn't real. But recognizing that fact is necessary to begin finding solutions.
"These differences may seem minute, but they’re part of a very large structure of oppression that’s been ingrained in us," Ramsey said. "If we can understand that we made it up, we can actively work to change it."