I don’t see colour, I see people: A response to “Did you just say ‘I don’t see colour’? Wow, you’re a shitty person”

By in Opinions

“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.”

The above quote has been taken from an article that was printed in the Jan. 31 issue of the Sheaf. The article in question argues that the phrase “I don’t see colour” is a harmful microaggression used by weakwilled individuals who sit idly by and let racism brew. It states that not seeing colour only serves to perpetuate racial stereotypes and make racial matters all the worse.

I disagree with this thesis.

To begin, I’d like to clarify what I mean when I use the phrase “I don’t see colour.” It means that you are ignoring a person’s skin colour when assessing them so that who they actually are, as a person, can shine through.

While it is true that I do technically see the colour of other people’s skin when I look at them, I choose not to factor it into my assessment of them. I never assume that I have actually learned anything about a person just by looking at their skin.

To counterpoint this, the article states that not seeing colour is “stripping” people of their identities by not accepting them for who they are, but to say this is to directly tie someone’s identity to the colour of their skin.

It’s like saying “well, your skin colour is X, so you must be Y.” But isn’t this the exact kind of thinking that racists use? For example, a racist might say “that guy’s black, so he must steal,” using the exact same parameters that were implied in the article to justify their prejudice.

By thinking racially, you only perpetuate racism. If nobody thought racially, then how could there possibly be racism? While in an interview, Morgan Freeman was asked how to stop racism, to which he replied that we should “stop talking about it.” Freeman makes the case that people should not be viewed and identified based on their skin colour, instead saying we should call each other by our names and stop using descriptors of colour like “white” or “black” man.

When you don’t see colour, you can understand someone based on who they are — as a person or as an individual — and not just based on the colour of their skin. For example, when I look at Morgan Freeman, I see a terrific actor with a golden voice who I respect highly — not just a black man. In an ideal world, skin colour would not equal identity.

On the contrary, it is true that using the phrase “I don’t see colour” can be a cop-out at times if it is used as a cheap response to end a difficult conversation prematurely. However, this is only true when a person does not explain themselves or does not truly mean what they say.

Let’s look at it in a different context. I remember, back in my high school math classes, there were two kinds of students: those who just wanted the answer to the question and those who wanted to know how to get the answer for themselves. Students that fell into the latter category did far better than those in the former because they knew that the answer is worthless when you don’t know how to get there. It is the road leading there that holds the true knowledge.

You can’t just say “I don’t see colour” and consider the conversation over — you have to explain your reasoning, as I have done, to the best of your abilities.

In short, not seeing colour is a step in the direction of seeing people for who they truly are on the inside. It helps you to view people as the individuals they want to be seen as and not just as a label like “white” or “black” or “First Nations.”

These people have names, life experiences and so many other things that comprise their identities. They are more than the amount of melanin in their skin, so why should we box them into pigment-based categories?

Chase Frenette

Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk / Graphics Editor