This Op-Ed was written in response to Daniella Greenbaum’s “A color-coded right to speak” published in the Columbia Daily Spectator.
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance.” – Martin Luther King
To respond to Daniella Greenbaum’s “A color-coded right to speak,” I want to first address the idea of a ‘colorblind’ society and then directly respond to her other two points, the first about the perceived racism of black women who are apprehensive about dating white men, and the second about the perceived racism of black students apprehensive about learning the foundations of slavery from white teachers.
Ms. Greenbaum’s “A color-coded right to speak” represents her fundamental misunderstanding of the quotation she includes in her article since, first and foremost, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never argued for a colorblind society. To judge someone “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” means, quite literally, to not be racist. Dr. King was responding to anti-blackness in America. He was responding to a society that held one race superior and another inferior; a society in which the dominant status group – white Americans – ostracized and exploited black Americans. We still live in this society. The philosophy by which the dominant white power maintains its authority, and which Greenbaum espouses, has not faded. The concept of color-blindness existed long before Dr. King was born – color-blindness is simply the devaluation and minimization of racial identity, and the ascription of the reality and struggle of being a racial minority not to racism but to another cause. Throughout history, various parts of the white power structure have decided that this cause is cultural pathology – the idea that black Americans are on average poorer than white Americans, arrested more often, and commit ‘more’ crimes not because they face profound social exclusion and the burdens of discrimination in the labor-market, a stigma of criminality, and have historically been excluded from social welfare agencies and other public services, or because low-level criminality is a function of social strain, but rather because black Americans are inherently inferior and that black culture is inherently linked to criminality and poverty.