To my dear friends who lack the “ability,” to see race rather than hues of blues or greens:
In times when race based injustice is at its highest levels of visibility, the least helpful thing to do is to live in the illusion that race does not matter. On a biological level, colorblind friends, you are right. Race is a social construct, there are more differences within races than between them, and we all probably originated from Africa anyway. In that sense, we all are part of the singular “human race,” and racial categories that show up on the census really are just a huge game of make-believe.
But in 2016, where we shed ultra-real tears at the end of scripted television series, one can see that just because something isn’t real like water, does not mean that it is removed from real world value and effects. Most sociology books seem to favor the example of money, which is just little strips of paper and compressed materials from the earth, to explain this concept. No one was born knowing the value of a dollar and you certainly can’t take it with you to the grave. Your dog probably has zero-clue why you keep yours safely on your persons. This is because money has no inherent value. It only has societal value, because at one point in time we decided that printed paper currency was more favorable for exchanging goods and services than something like a basket full of apples. Furthermore, because we decided to place imaginary value on this currency, the amount of paper strips you have or the labels written across them can easily decide whether or not you get to have things people need to survive, like food, adequate access to health care, and shelter. Social constructs may not be real, but the power and effects that they hold over individuals' lives are.
So yes, colorblind friends, you are 100% correct in your statements that race is not “real.” But, legalized racial segregation is real. Housing discrimination is real. Discrimination in lending practices is real. White flight is real. Higher levels of policing in black neighborhoods is real. And the criminalization of black secondary education students is real. And though many of these examples may sound like elements from the past, a history of segregating black people from the rest of society and stripping them of opportunities for valuable resources that could increase their probability of success is not only real, but continues to exist into the modern day with very real present-day consequences.
Your friend who wishes that you would try out a sociology class or google or maybe just listening to more black voices with an open heart.
Published by Liv Glenn