A Confusing Conversation

In class we talked about how White people often times do not mention if a person they are talking about is Black, or will whisper the word Black and show discomfort if referencing a Black person. Over the weekend I witnessed this happen. My friend from home came to visit school. She was talking to somebody who shared mutual friends with her, and I heard her say “do you know Aaron, he’s uh you know Black.” She didn’t exactly whisper the word Black, but her voice tone definitely changed, and she hesitated before she said Black. I could tell that she was deciding whether or not to use the word Black to describe this boy. Their conversation continued and I began to think about the implications of the conversation that I had heard.

My friend didn’t completely ignore color. She mentioned race and didn’t completely ignore it when it was obvious to bring it up. She did however get really uncomfortable when describing the boy as Black, and made it seem like Black was a word that was bad to say or was a negative word. From our discussion in class, I know that a colorblind ideology is actually racist and ignoring color is just an easy way out for white people. But even hearing her not ignore color, the way it was said and the change in tone still seemed racist to me. By hesitating and getting really uncomfortable even saying the word Black, it reinforced to the people around her that Black is a negative word. I couldn’t decide if this was a step in the right direction in terms of moving past a colorblind ideology, or if it was worse because of the way the word Black was said. What do you think? Do you think it would have been better for her to describe the boy in a different way, or was the negative tone used still a step in the right direction?

I guess overall hearing this conversation left me confused. I left class under the impression that talking about race is good, but this conversation just didn’t seem that way.

2 thoughts on “A Confusing Conversation

  1. I think that a physical description of somebody is totally different than other colorblind-possible situations. For example, in hiring for a job, it may not be as “obvious” to talk about race when it plays a role, but it would be much more obvious in a physical description. So I’m not sure how/if a physical description would play into the concept of colorblindness but it is interesting nonetheless to see how your friend reacted to pointing out this persons race.

  2. This reminds me exactly of what we talked about in class this week. Recognizing race is better than pretending to be color blind, but I do not see this as a step in the right direction. I think that the issue is not how she should have described the boy, but why she was uncomfortable describing him as black. I think that her discomfort in mentioning the boy’s race is probably rooted in color blind racial ideology in the sense that we have become uncomfortable talking about race because color-blindness is what is considered socially acceptable. The conversation you heard points out an issue that we have discussed in class and that is very important. Color blind ideology needs to be eliminated, or there will always be people who are uncomfortable talking about race.

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