Color Blindness is Not the Solution, It’s the Problem

“Zoe Saldana” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

February 27th, 1844, marks the Dominican Republic’s Independence Day, celebrated annually among Dominican people. This year in Refinery29’s Somos educational post on Instagram that sought to “elevate, educate, and inspire a new generation of change-makers committed to LatinX visibility.” through highlighting what the holiday means to Afro-Dominican people, writer Thatiana Diaz of Refinery29 was met with severe harassment all ignited by Dominican actress Zoe Saldana.

Diaz, a Dominican-American senior editor of SOMOS, Refinery 29’s Latinx vertical, sought to provide historical context to the celebrated day and bring awareness to the Afro-Dominican identity ultimately to combat anti-blackness.

“177 years ago today, the Dominican Republic declared its independence from Haiti — but what does this day mean for the Afro-Dominican?” asks the caption. “The day has nothing to do with Spanish colonizers, but rather the country’s autonomy from Haiti in 1844, a fact that’s set the groundwork for centuries of anti-Black animus.”

The Guardians of the Galaxy actress who had recently been under fire for her Nina Simone portrayal in black face left a controversial comment under Somos’ picture stating, “Maybe just say ‘What to the Dominican is the Independence Day.’” and if that wasn’t enough, she took to her Instagram story and shared the SOMOS post with a few comments of her own in true “I don’t see color” — the colorblindness allure.

“You owe all Dominicans — regardless if they’re Black, white, or Taino — an apology. On our independence day, we do not need to be schooled by others on what we ‘should’ know about ourselves #CancelCultureIsStartingToSuckSometimes.”

The recklessness of Saldana’s comments left Thatiana Diaz with a plethora of hateful comments and death threats, that she had to turn comments off the original educational post. All because of the tired idea that a color-blind society is ideal, but what progresses is not seeing color really making?

The concept of color blindness came about after the civil rights movement. Color blindness was to be the goal of an ideal society where its citizens are free from differential legal or social treatment based on their race or color. Meghan Burke, the author of Colorblind Racism says,

“It borrows right from that last third of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, where he says that he wants people to see his kids for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. So I think it’s easy for a lot of well-meaning white folks to hear that and say, ‘Well, gosh, okay. Yeah. I don’t want that to be the primary lens that I use to judge people’s character.”

However, as time goes on, this colorblind approach fails to address the lived experiences of other people that may be different than you and can cause harm. If one doesn’t see color, they don’t see the problems that particular groups of people face that might not echo your own. Believing that everybody has an equal shot at success is attributed to the American value of “Individualism’’, which can prohibit us to see problems like poverty, health issues, or mass incarceration as a part of an incredibly shattered system.

Seeing the differences in each other’s identity allows for powerful conversations about how we can make a change and practice authentic inclusivity. Zoe Saldana failed to see that the experience of Dominican Independence Day may be different for people who identify as Afro-Dominican and bringing awareness to that difference is how real unity starts.

In Diaz’s response to Saldana’s comments, she states, “I grew up celebrating Dominican Independence Day. To commemorate the occasion this year, I wanted to do something different that was in the spirit of the work we all do at Somos: To interrogate our history, to practice real inclusivity, and to understand that we can’t celebrate the things that make us beautiful without working to heal the ugly parts of our identity, too.”

Resources:

Hassan, Marcos et al. “Zoe Saldaña Under Fire For Sharing Problematic Views On Anti-Blackness In Latinidad”. Remezcla, 2021, https://remezcla.com/culture/zoe-saldana-under-fire-problematic-views-anti-blackness-latindad/. Accessed 5 Mar 2021.

“Colorblind Ideology Is A Form Of Racism”. Psychology Today, 2021, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culturally-speaking/201112/colorblind-ideology-is-form-racism#:~:text=Currently%2C%20the%20most%20pervasive%20approach%20is%20known%20as,possible%2C%20without%20regard%20to%20race%2C%20culture%2C%20or%20ethnicity. Accessed 5 Mar 2021.

Alexander, Jared. “Zoe Saldana Called Out For Reported Comments On Afro-Dominicans — Thegrio”. Thegrio, 2021, https://thegrio.com/2021/03/03/zoe-saldana-called-out-for-comments-afro-dominicans/. Accessed 5 Mar 2021.

“Being Color Blind Doesn’t Make You Not Racist — In Fact, It Can Mean The Opposite”. Oprah Magazine, 2020, https://www.oprahmag.com/life/relationships-love/a32824297/color-blind-myth-racism/. Accessed 5 Mar 2021.

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