Angela Davis’s 2008 speech, “Recognizing Racism in the Era of Neoliberalism,” resonates with my personal experiences of acquaintances claiming colorblindness. Despite their assertions, it is clear that racism has been deeply ingrained within them because of the systematic conditions that they were brought up in. Davis keenly unearths the truth behind such claims. The concept of “colorblindness” is inherently built upon victim-blaming. It implicitly encourages society to pretend that racism has been eradicated, when in reality it is emerging in new, masked ways.
A distorted obligation to oversee the common good becomes privatized by the majority, but emerges from the colonialist and genocidal reliance upon silencing of minorities and rendering their strife invisible to society. By attesting that racism has been eliminated without consulting anyone that is different from yourself, you take their lives into your hands without their consent.
Claiming that you don’t “see race” is largely harmful because it quickly reproduces the conditions that so violently oppressed, and continue to oppress, parts of the American population. Our society has become so entangled in this widely undefined racism that our economy has become dependent upon it. The prison-industrial complex is only one example of this new reality that we must confront and dismantle. Many fail to see mass incarceration as blatantly racist because they refuse to explore the new manifestations of racism. They rely solely on the characterizations they saw of it in history, despite nearly twenty-five percent of black men are disenfranchised, temporarily or permanently, in multiple U.S. states due to imprisonment as of the speech’s date in 2008. Remaining ignorant of the connotations that race holds is to remain ignorant of someone’s entire existence as a human being. Our life experiences differ, and it is vital for us to pursue a greater understanding of the realities that others face without discrediting them. We can only achieve this by being active listeners rather than a mistrusting audience.