The New Self-Help

‘I Don’t See Color’ Is an Act of Racial Gaslighting

There’s a reason only white children are taught to be ‘color-blind’

Layla Saad
Published in
5 min readAug 31, 2020

This story is part of The New Self-Help: 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century.

As a child, I could never understand why white parents would shush their children whenever they used the word Black to describe a Black person. “Don’t say that! It’s rude!” they would say in hushed tones, embarrassed that their child had said something that was apparently offensive.

But what made it offensive? I was Black. This was an observation of difference, not a derogatory judgment. How were they supposed to refer to me?

Color blindness as an act of erasure

Young children understand that the idea of “we don’t see color” does not make sense. They will not necessarily use the socially constructed terms of race that we as adults use, such as Black or white, but when asked to describe what color they are and what color their friends are, they use words such as brown and peach that match up with the colors in their Crayola crayon boxes.

So why do we teach children not to see color? More specifically, why is it most often white children and children with white privilege who are taught this idea of color blindness?

When I have asked these questions of white people by pointing out that they do see color, they have often answered back, “I don’t mean that I don’t literally see color. What I mean is that I treat all people the same, regardless of their color. I mean that I believe that all people should be treated the same, no matter what color they are.” They sometimes go on to add something like, “Talking about different races is so divisive — it creates racism! If we would just stop talking about whites and Blacks and focus on the contents of people’s hearts, we wouldn’t see any more racism.”

And herein lie the falsehoods of racial color blindness.

Color blindness causes harm at multiple levels. For one thing, it is an act of minimization and erasure. When you say “I don’t see color” to a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color), you are saying, “Who you are…