Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Colorblind Society Isn't Desirable

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Colorblind Society Isn't Desirable

Article excerpt

This month, marketing mavens and me-too politicians will bombard the nation with reminders that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., born Jan. 15, dreamed that race would one day be irrelevant and that all people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. It is de rigeur these days for any politician pushing to undo the legacy of the civil rights movement to declare that the past is past, quote from King and claim to embrace his desire for a "color-blind" America.

But as Ellis Cose reminds those stuck in Dreamland: Self-segregation in housing patterns and social circles, plus "the tendency of jurists, politicians and others to confuse color blindness with blindness to discrimination (and the continuing effects of past discrimination), gives the lie to any literal notion of color blindness."

Moreover, he notes, "color blindness, as it is most commonly practiced, is not a racial equalizer but a silencer - a way of quashing questions about the continuing racial stratification of the society and a way of feeling good about the fact that the world of elites remains so predominantly white." Cose, a prolific author of books offering insight into the racial dilemma, has no more faith in "color blindness" as a goal toward which Americans should strive - or are capable of attaining - than I do. If what this country really wants is a society that, while not necessarily ignoring racial difference, nevertheless associates neither privilege nor penalty with it, then a more sensible goal is race neutrality. Says Cose: "(T)he American civil rights movement has not so much been about attempting to blind people to color as about trying to strip race of the ugly connotations that give racism the power to wound." In his latest book, "Color-Blind: Seeing Beyond Race in a Race-Obsessed World," Cose poses questions to challenge those few good men and women who are inclined to do more than mouth platitudes about character over color: "If color neutrality is a possibility, how do we get there? …

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