The problematic idea that one does not “see” colour or notice race.

Colour-blind ideology (or colour-evasiveness – purporting to not notice race in an effort to not appear be racist) asserts that ending discrimination merely requires treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity.

By overlooking the cumulative and enduring ways in which race unequally shapes life chances and opportunities for people from different groups, colour blindness actually reinforces and sustains an unequal status quo. By leaving structural inequalities in place, coluor-blindness has become the “new racism.” It also ignores cultural attributes that people value and deserve to have recognized and affirmed.

In her book, Me and White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad defines coluor-blindness as the idea that one does not “see” colour or notice race. If colour does not matter, why do BIPOC continue to experience oppression? There are differences that correlate with race: in wealth, rates of incarceration, death from COVID-19, education, infant mortality, and on many other measures. Colour blindness is a particularly insidious way for people with white privilege to pretend that their privilege is fictitious.

Saad identifies three ways in which colour-blindness is harmful.

  1. It is “an act of minimization and erasure.”
  2. It is an act of gaslighting—an attempt to make BIPOC “believe they are just imagining they are being treated the way they are being treated because of their skin colour.”
  3. It allows whites to avoid looking at their own race. This reinforces the assumption that to be white is to be “raceless” and “normal” and allows whites to refuse to look at themselves as persons with white privilege. In this way, colour blindness helps perpetuate the discrepancies associated with race

NOTE: We recognize the problematic ableist language of this term, but it is commonly used by scholars to describe an important social phenomenon. colour-evasiveness is an alternative term that is increasing in popularity