Considering Racial Color Blindness

The latest idea I’ve been mulling over is the notion of racial “color blindness,” usually expressed as, “I don’t see people as black, brown, etc. I just see people as people.”

The “love sees no color” t-shirt from the 1990s.

From my own experience, I first started hearing/seeing the idea in the early 1990s through the “Love Sees No Color” t-shirt. It seemed like an attempt to practice the value of “tolerance,” another now-outmoded and hollow term from that era.

In hindsight “seeing no color” just enabled people to avoid something that made them uncomfortable and that they didn’t want to talk about in the first place. And it let them do it under the auspices that it would be “rude” to bring up the color of someone’s skin.

Yet somehow, ignoring or dismissing a part of someone’s identity is more polite or, as the t-shirt suggests, an act of love? Ask any person of color if 1) they’ve ever been told “I don’t see you as black, brown, etc.” and 2) that made them feel disregarded or ignored, and you’ll get a “yes” on both counts.

Anti-racism educator Jane Elliott has some pointed words for those who say, “I don’t see color.”

In preparation to write this post, I wanted to find out where the notion of racial color blindness came from. A cursory search didn’t turn up a lot of information on its history, since there doesn’t seem to be any one person or group who coined the phrase or who can be credited for its use. Ironically, the idea seems to have evolved from part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, where he says:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

But I very much doubt the ideology of “I don’t see color” is what Dr. King had in mind when he wrote that.

There have been many suggested reading lists shared for those who want to educate themselves further about race and racism in America – this is one example making the rounds.

Personally, because of my own curiosity about racial color blindness as an ideology, I’m going to start with Meghan Burke’s Colorblind Racism, which appears to fully track and dissect its history and practice. For those who may not want such an exhaustive study of the topic, there’s a great article featuring Burke and fellow sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (Racism without Racists) discussing the issue – Being “Color Blind” Doesn’t Make You Not Racist—In Fact, It Can Mean the Opposite.

The Devolution of All Lives Matter

I’ve been thinking a lot about the statement “all lives matter,” probably more than it deserves. Where once it may have required a reasoned explanation to the well meaning (but frankly, kind of naive) individual about basic language and social interaction, there’s little doubt that in 2020 those who spout the phrase know exactly what they are doing when they say it in response to “Black Lives Matter.” It is now very clearly a rebuke, counter-protest, and verbal middle-finger to the movement that would have us focus our collective attention on the dangers and injustices faced by the Black population.

Yet memes and social media posts continue, attempting to explain what should need no explanation. They give the benefit of the doubt that there are people out there who STILL haven’t realized “all lives matter” in reply to “Black lives matter” is – at best – insensitive, and the unaware just need a remedial lesson in English composition and manners. 

In 2016 I Facebook-shared this article from Gawker (hey, remember them?), which explained it in the best way I’d seen, taking the tack that if you do indeed mean well, you’re better off finding another catchphrase because it’s basically irredeemable. Since then “all lives matter” has only devolved, so now is it not only a proverbial sling and arrow, it might actually be used in combination with a literal one of the latter.

So while I appreciate the various memes that have been created and shared recently, trying to bring it home to someone who just doesn’t get it, I’m not so sure those people exist anymore, or exist in a significant way. Better now that the phrase be drowned out by the beats of K-Pop than for activists to put forth energy into explaining social norms to those who are fully aware of them and who are simply, willfully flouting them.

Still, as a way of putting an end to my personally stewing on a topic fueled by lingering incredulity, I’d like to highlight a few of my favorite anti-all lives matter memes and share one of my own, adapted primarily from the Gawker article written by Tom Scocca, but also drawing upon aspects of the others. In part, to provide a resource if someone wants to share one or all of them, if they are still in that mode to debate the issue, but also to illustrate the different ways “all lives matter” has been dissected and disavowed.

I don’t want nor expect this to be the final word on the matter, but I do expect future messages and memes will shift with how use of the phrase has shifted, recognizing it’s no longer a maxim co-wielded by the well-intentioned, but now an empty notion completely taken over by those in virulent opposition to Black Lives Matter. Though I wouldn’t necessarily use the same words as Seth Rogen, he seems to be on the right track.

My Favorite Anti-All Lives Matter Memes

For the one sincere about justice for all

“It doesn’t discredit or diminish any other group, it just brings awareness and support to the group that needs attention.” – Unknown Author

For the one willing to listen

“But if I change my mind now, doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? Nope. It means you’re growing as a person.” – @scarecrowbar

For the one who needs empathy

“‘All lives matter’ is truthful. But it’s hurtful and cruel in the moment.” – Doug Williford

Gawker’s article, meme-erized

Also available as a web slide.

Adapted from There’s No Good Way to Say All Lives Matter by Tom Scocca.

Anatomy of a review

I started writing DVD and Blu-ray product reviews for Home Theater Forum in 2006. It often proves to be an interesting challenge, as I don’t consider myself either a fast or particularly insightful writer. Or rather, my insights don’t necessarily come quickly, and so the speed of my writing tends to follow suit. And there isn’t always a lot of time to spend thinking about a film, given deadlines and that it’s a volunteer position. As much as I want to do a good job, there’s a limit to how much time I can spend on it all. Getting to keep the movie is nice, but for the time spent on a review, it’s honestly more economical to just go out and buy it. Ultimately I do it because I enjoy the challenge, not because of any material perks.

The hardest part of the review is ultimately the evaluation of the film. The technical evaluation is fairly rote with certain things I’m always looking for and really only a few ways of describing them (e.g. “the full range of contrast values”). The evaluation is of course subjective, which makes things interesting when there’s a difference of opinion, but such controversies are fairly rare these days as the methods of video transfer have reached a certain level of maturity and consistency. Every so often there’s something universally regarded as poor, but that’s often so obvious you’d have to be blind not to see it.

Reviewing the special features really comes down to a matter of time. Audio commentaries are ultimately the worst in that respect – it takes the entire length of the feature to say you’ve reviewed it all. When there are two or three commentaries? Sometimes I just throw up my hands and pick one I’m most interested in and say that’s the only one I listened to.

So when it comes to the feature review, that’s where I struggle most. The Forum doesn’t really expect us to go to great lengths in this section, seeing that it’s a review of the product, but it feels a little half-assed to not devote some attention to it. At one time I was limiting my words to about 100 for this section, and set the challenge as finding the most concise way of describing the story. I have since expanded that out, though the goal is still to be as brief as possible by keeping it contained to one paragraph. I also provide an additional paragraph to one or two personal observations or insights about the film. You’d think that keeping it brief makes it easier, but I’m not so sure. Every writing class I’ve taken has said that being concise is harder, but sometimes I’m not sure whether I’m being concise or incomplete. I often go back and re-read what I’ve written. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised; sometimes I know I could have done better. I guess that’s the nature of most things.