Colorblindness as a Political Strategy

Intersectional analysis of any systematic apparatus of oppression intrinsically runs into problems; traditional intersectionality always has the risk of replicating hierarchical series of implicit methods of oppression-first wave feminist made black women march in the back in an attempt to keep the movement palatable, and the results of the atrocities of first wave feminism have literally shaped the movement and creates a stigma of mistrust between women of color and the white feminist movement. Much the same is the way in which rhetorical choices in methods of combatting racial bias and systemic racism can have underlying effects and ongoing implications.

Many attempt to claim that “colorblindness” as a viable political strategy in an attempt to undo ongoing histories of racially charged policies and decisions. This analysis and attempted political strategy is both not effective, and terminally ineffective for a series of highly problematic reasons. The first, and perhaps the most dangerous, is the method in which neoliberal politics and Empire takes steps to eradicate perceived instances of difference; solidarity can’t be found when the system absorbs the fulcrum for resistance-the end result of effective colorblind political strategies isn’t one in which issues of race no longer exist but one where issues of race are no longer considered, much as if someone wasn’t able to perceive the differences in the shades of their skin. This means that the very rallying point for individuals to mobilize against the system creating the superstructure of oppression is no longer existent, further fracturing and eliminating potential points of effective resistance.

This leads us into an even more disconcerting reality, one that is problematic in the analysis of a post-Africa world. Many scholars, such as Pinkie Mekgwe a professor at the University of Johannesburg, indicate that a global understanding of Africa as a social location is problematic because it underwrites the possibilities for differences to exist between Zambia, Ethiopia, and South Africa. These same scholars also indicate that the use of color to determine cultural status was highly problematic, especially in the era of South African Apartheid. The use of color created a dichotomy in which white South African were violently separated from their culture. Similarly politics of “Colorblindness” lead to this same violent erasure, but in a different fashion. These politics don’t actually resolve racism they just change the way in which it functions, and create a more insidious method of delegitimization and dehumanization in which cultures are systematically targeted and eliminated while the so called liberal left is appeased since we’re all “Colorblind” as the social death of millions is guaranteed.

Another serious problem with this policy is the way in which it related to the Dis/abled body. It presumes that in a world in which the optic nerve metaphorically functions differently racism is suddenly resolved-the way in which this ascribes meaning to the method in which the body functions reinscribes that certain methods of bodily function are preferable, and the corollary, that others aren’t. The politics of “Colorblindness” inadvertently place the horse before the cart and sacrifice a different population in the attempt to save a more important one-this is the zero point of the holocaust and the way in which despots are able to justify infinite forms of violence. This may seem like a trifling instance or superfluous analysis but these casual deflections are just methods that we’ve all been indoctrinated in to justify the way in which the system already operates.

By the same token, however, it is important to understand the deeper emblematic issue behind using the term colorblind to demarcate political strategies-being aware of the way in which these metaphors shape our understanding of politics and the world around us is equally important. Should you draw your conception of epistemology from Hume, or even someone less skeptic, the way in which our discourse shapes reality is important to consider and understand. The instance of methodology that justifies the use of indicating that a political strategy is “colorblind” requires using the dis/abled body as the focal point for understanding of poltics-a metaphor that is only complete when you create a dichotomy between the methods of function of bodily facilities. The choice and use of this rhetoric is equally interesting; the choice of critiquing so called politics of “Colorblindness” using this term is equally problematic and worth noting and deconstructing it’s on going implications for the ways in which this subtle use of rhetoric can be used to justify larger and more problematic policies. Some may question the use of a term I later delineate as problematic in this paper; first a common starting point is necessary, were I to critique a method of politics that had a nomenclature that I specifically avoided the point of this analysis would be lost, you can’t problematize a choice of rhetoric or a series of policies without stasis to begin deconstruction. Secondly, as someone who lives with colorblindness I utilize the term as a method of reclamation and self identification which I believe gives me a different level of access to a term that has the potentiality to generate further pejorative slurs to the dis/abled body.

The aporia of racial difference and how to address it is one that most certainly ought to be resolved, but not one that can be resolve through the problematic metaphor of colorblindness, a more structured and complete understanding of the multiplicity of oppression and the way it exerts itself is important. There is no root cause of violence, just proximal methods of pacification and absorption that the system uses to replicate itself and spread even further-political methods that fail to realize this are doomed to fail. Only a complex understanding that the war is never over, that enough is never enough, can solve the myth that a simple change in the way we address race is sufficient to resolve a storied history of imperial colonization and settlerism.

-Maxwell Groznik

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