The privilege of colour-blindness

Have you ever thought about what it means to be white?

A psychology professor from Columbia University conducted a study in which he asked white and racialized people on the street in San Francisco this very question. Responses from the white participants ranged from bewilderment (they’d never thought about it) and denial of racial awareness (they claimed not to notice other people’s colour), to outrage, hostility and vicious racist rants. Some distanced themselves from whiteness by focusing on their ethnicity (“I’m not white, I’m Italian.”) Many angry respondents vehemently denied any racial privilege and blamed racialized people for not improving their own circumstances.

To be clear, the psychologist was not asking his interviewees whether they were racist — only what it means to be white. But merely being asked to think about one’s own whiteness is often perceived as an accusation of racism. Is there any worse social horror than being called a racist? More>>>

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