I See Your Color & Race — It Just Doesn’t Mean Much To Me
A new wave of racial fetishism and deterministic thinking threatens to recreate conditions in which bigotry thrives.
There are roughly seven trillion articles on Medium about how wrong it is to say things like, “I don’t see color, just people.” These articles are full of anger, outrage and awkward suggestions. I call bullshit.
I am certainly not colorblind, and nobody else is, either. Racial perceptions still influence our thoughts and behaviors, but the goal is to eradicate the cognitive habits of letting our thoughts and actions be led with skin color, is it not? Just as race should not negatively impact our assessment of others, nor should it be a basis for positively influencing it. A defacto appreciation based on race alone is dangerous for several reasons.
The first reason is that it amounts to racial fetishism. Racial fetishism allows people to believe that their symbolic gestures are an effective countermeasure against bigotry, but they are not. Not only are these thoughts and behaviors more about building and maintaining the identity of the fetishizer than the fetishized, they reduce the targeted individuals to their race, which ignores the complexity inherent in every human being.
We should be judging people by the content and strength of their character, not by the circumstances of their birth. To automatically bestow favor on a person based merely on skin color has become an opportunistic way of announcing how enlightened you are, which is really just a way of taking advantage of bigotry to make a performance of your own self image of goodness.
The term ‘diversity’ often comes up, but there is very little diversity between races compared to the possible diversity between individuals. And as the international trend towards media saturation increasingly leads to more and more conformity, muddying the waters of what constitutes diversity only leads to less of it. Now more than ever we need true diversity to get us out of our intellectual ruts and show us new ways to create progress. Reducing diversity to race takes us further away from the onus to become mavericks, which are needed now more than ever.
The biggest issue of racial fetishism and reducing diversity to skin color is that it leads us right back to the central belief of every bigot ever — determinism, the idea that our personal qualities are outcomes of our physical qualities. Every bigot and segregationist has justified their hatred with deterministic arguments. Using their logic just empowers it, and will eventually backfire.
So when you ask for my attitudes and actions towards an individual to be determined by their race, you are asking me to lean in to the logic of every bigot ever, and I ain’t gonna do it. I don’t give a shit what your race is. I gravitate towards the freaks and weirdos and non conformists - the people who create the ideas, artifacts and patterns which lead to novelty and progress.
I am sympathetic towards racial concerns and despise bigots and racism. I know that there is a lot of work to be done towards an equal society, and that history and the present are full of unconscionable atrocities based on racial bigotry and institutionalized racism. But I am not a black ally. I am not a women’s ally. I am not an LGBTQ ally. I am a human ally. An ally of the downtrodden and despised. And I have arrived at that, not by fetishizing those groups, but by learning to see them as fellow human beings like myself and not reducing them to some superficial notion of identity.
If that is enough to lead you to believe that I am the problem, then you are just as guilty of the shallow close-mindedness of every regressive hatemongerer ever. There is no diversity in insisting that we all respond to these issues with the fetishism and determinism that belong equally to the actual bigots out there. It is time for less performative outrage and more meaningful definitions and attempts at diversity. Otherwise this train is just gonna roll back into the old attitudes that got us here and reignite bigotry and hatred.
Finally, here is the thing you need to wrap your head around if we are ever going to move forward — class issues are the primary issues. Socioeconomics are used to uphold bigotry and racism, and until we address class inequality it will not change. And class issues are not only colorblind, they don’t care about your identity at all. The central struggle is between the majority of us and the ruling class, and so long as they can keep us focused on identity issues, they can keep us distracted from uniting against them. Don’t make their oppressive system easier for them to maintain by playing along.