The phrase “I don’t see colour” fucking annoys me. It’s often used to suggest that what you intended to say was not, in any other context, meant to be offensive. Well, let me tell you why it is offensive.
This is like starting a sentence by saying “not to be racist but…” and continuing on only to make a racist remark anyway. “I don’t see colour” is just another way for you to vindicate your racist, xenophobic world view. This behaviour is everything that is wrong with the world.
The problem lies in what the phrase can suggest. Saying that we do not see colour disregards the fact that we are all unique individuals. It encourages generalizing and race-based stereotypes, pushing aside the reasons why people are marginalized in the first place.
The All Lives Matter movement is a prime example of ignoring the effects of racism and generalizing an idea to denounce its legitimacy. All Lives Matter supporters rallied against the Black Lives Matter movement. But the point of Black Lives Matter isn’t to say that black lives are more important than others but rather to point out that black people’s lives are being undervalued. It is a cry to change people’s views, which derive from centuries of history.
In light of historic wrongdoings leading to racial inequality, the impact of residential schools on generations of First Nations people cannot be ignored — and yes, the effects of residential schools are still relevant today. When you say that you don’t see colour, you are perpetuating the same intentions of assimilation that were used to justify residential schools. You are stripping First Nations people of their identities by not accepting them for who they are.
Likewise, the phrase “let’s agree to disagree” is often used to end conversations. When two people begin a dialogue on a controversial topic, it can quickly spiral into an argument. Most people tend to avoid these quarrels because they have the potential to destroy friendships.
People often avoid confrontation by saying “I don’t see colour” to end the conversation on race. How will you stop people from contributing to these microaggressions if you are unable to recognize them yourself? How will you learn about these subtle racial inequalities if you are not trying to understand them from my viewpoint?
These types of conversations are missed attempts to understand each other. They are exercises in avoiding the polarizing perspectives of a certain topic. When someone says “I don’t see colour,” it does not resolve the argument — instead, they are choosing to ignore and turn their back on the other person’s perspective.
We are choosing to practice our freedom of ignorance when we make no attempt to look through each other’s eyes. When we generalize people by their skin colour, we strip away a person’s history and choose to see them however we see fit.
You’re part of the problem by being a bystander, too — just saying. You are normalizing a behaviour that could become a harmful opinion. Take a step toward understanding why people use this phrase, because then, you can use stronger logic to condemn their subtle and insidious ideas — and perhaps even change their perspective.
Being mindful of others and trying to understand and accept what makes them different will not only change their perception of the world but also your own. A wider horizon of new concepts can open up for you when you gain insight into someone else’s point of view.
We will see and understand each other only if we are mindful of other people’s perspectives. One reason why racism, xenophobia and many other social injustices exist is because we do not try to understand and accept each other. Instead, we “see no colour.”
So the next time you say “I don’t see colour,” know that I am annoyed by your shitty attempt to deal with racism. Just try to be mindful of others, okay?
J.C. Balicanta Narag
Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk / Graphics Editor