Columnist at The New York Times
Host of the “Conversations with Coleman” podcast;
Contributing Writer at The Free Press
Here is what we have in store this week:
• We debate whether color blindness treats people, regardless of skin color, equally or downplays discrimination and causes harm
• A closer look at what non-Black adults are willing to do about improving race relations
• Your Sunday reading list
The term “colorblind” came up a lot in the Supreme Court’s recent ruling striking down affirmative action in university admissions. Embraced by the Court’s conservative majority, “colorblindness” captures the idea that someone’s race has no place in how that person is assessed – in this case, for getting into Harvard and the University of North Carolina. But the justices made clear their decision was not just about those two schools alone, or even just about higher education. In the stated view of Justice Clarence Thomas, it is the Constitution itself that is colorblind. Which is one sweeping declaration!
While we have to wait to learn the direct consequences of the Court’s ruling – the impact on minority enrollment at elite universities, for example, or its influence on other entities that use race to achieve equity in decisions about funding, hiring, or policy – the decision has already reignited debate about the philosophy of colorblindness itself.
To a lot of people, adopting colorblindness to race just seems fair and enlightened. You’ll often hear people endorse it by invoking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s hope that his own kids would be judged “by the content of their character” and not “the color of their skin.”
However, the principle of colorblindness is being challenged, not just as an ill-considered aspiration that is impossible in practice, but also as one that downplays the relevance of race, and substitutes niceties in place of policies to address the reality that racism persists. This is seen as detrimental to progress, and not at all what King was calling for.
This clash of views is the one we’re getting to in this week’s episode of Open to Debate. In partnership with TED, we’re asking, “Does Color Blindness Perpetuate Racism?” Opinion columnist at the New York Times Jamelle Bouie is the debater answering yes, and the host of the “Conversations with Coleman” podcast Coleman Hughes is taking the no side. Both have debated with us before and will give you something to think about, so I hope you’ll take a listen.
DEBATING THE DATA
What would it take for non-Black adults to do more on achieving racial equality?
Does Color Blindness Perpetuate Racism
“The reason to directly address racial inequality isn’t because of something that has to do with racial identity and isn’t because of something intrinsic to people… It’s a powerful vector for inequality that shapes our society and we should do something about it, the same way that we would do anything about any other form of inequality.”
“Colorblindness is a philosophy of how to fight racism that, in principle, makes sense no matter how much or how little racism there is. That is why the colorblind philosophy was at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement when there was far more racism than there is today. It’s not like color blindness only makes sense when you get to a certain point. It is a method of fighting racism regardless of how much there is in society.”
WEEKLY POINTS OF VIEW
The Hollywood Writers’ AI Fight is Everyone’s Fight
Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and Austin Lentsch | August 2, 2023
Watch Daron’s debate on whether AI will do more harm than good
The Boring Route to Exciting Stock Returns is Making a Comeback
Spencer Jakab | July 28, 2023
Wall Street Journal
Watch Spencer’s debate on small investors beating Wall Street
Strikes Up 12% While Labor Report Signals More Worker Power
Teresa Ghilarducci | August 4, 2023
Watch Teresa’s debate on whether the government should raise the retirement age
Does U.S. Military Training Embolden Coup Plotters in Africa?
Emma Ashford and Matthew Kroenig | August 4, 2023
Watch Emma’s debate on isolating Russia