Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said that he looked forward to a day when people would be “judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Who would have thought that one of the greatest civil rights figures in history would be guilty of a microagression like that.
Colleges all over the country are now claiming that being “color blind,” the idea that people are people, rather than members of various ethnic or cultural groups, is wrong.
The “problematization” of students who refuse to think and behave racially is best captured in a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) guide to “Recognizing Microaggressions.” In keeping with other campus speech codes, the guide treats as dicey everything from simple questions (such as asking someone “Where were you born?”) to expressions of faith in meritocracy (like saying “America is the land of opportunity”). But even more perniciously, it warns students and faculty members against being non-racial, telling them they must always “acknowledge” other people’s race.
UCLA says “Color Blindness,” the idea we shouldn’t obsess over people’s race, is a microaggression. If you refuse to treat an individual as a “racial/cultural being,” then you’re being aggressive. This is a profound perversion of what has been considered the reasoned, liberal approach for decades—that treating people as “racial/cultural beings” is wrong and dehumanizing.
UCLA offers the following examples as “color blind” utterances that count as microaggressions:
“When I look at you, I don’t see color.”
“There is only one race: the human race.”
“I don’t believe in race.”
Apparently such comments deny individuals’ “racial and ethnic experience.” But on a campus like UCLA a few decades ago, refusing to treat individuals as “cultural beings” would have been the right and good thing. Now, in an eye-swivelling reversal, the polar opposite is the case: to demonstrate your politically correct virtue you must acknowledge the skin color of everyone you meet.
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point similarly advises that color blindness is a racial microaggression. It lists “America is a melting pot” as an aggressive phrase. It brands as problematic any comment by a white person that suggests he or she “does not want to acknowledge race.” Anyone who claims to be “immune to races”—that is, who prefers not to think about people as racial beings—is viewed as aggressive.
At the University of Missouri, the guide to “inclusive terminology” lists color-blindness as a form of prejudice, even as it recognizes that this term “originated from civil-rights legislation.” Once, color-blindness was considered cool, but now we know it can be “disempowering for people whose racial identity is an important part of who they are,” says the school.
As Reason sees it, once upon a time, such behavior was to be lauded as the perfect approach to race. Today, the exact same attitude is “problematic.” Is it any wonder that race relations seem to have gone downhill over the past half decade?
What do you say? Is it wrong to view people as something other than a member of an ethnic group?