In her Ted Talk, Mellody Hobson, a Financial Executive, discusses her stance on colorblindness. She opens the Ted Talk by acknowledging that race in our country is an uncomfortable subject. However, by using her personal experiences as a successful Black women in a field dominated by White men, she provides compelling arguments as to why we should no longer be colorblind, but start the conversation of race in the workplace.
Colorblindness is a term used to describe one’s ability or choice to disregard and/or overlook race. Variations of phrases similar to “I don’t see color” are distinct examples. As Hobson points out, avoiding the topic of race is not the answer, for it mutes the discussion of diversity and inclusiveness ultimately. This neglects a significance piece of one’s identity.
I personally remember a time when the people around me chose to be colorblind. It was my freshman year of high school, and I was the only Black person on our cheerleading team. One of our away games took place in a very conservative town in North Georgia. There were approximately fifteen people of color in the entire gym, including the members of our basketball team and their families. At some point, the game got heated; racial slurs and threats were exchanged to the Black basketball players and myself. Yes I was upset in that moment, but I remember feeling more disappointed that the other cheerleaders chose it act like it didn’t happen.
My race was never discussed during practices or at games. The only reference to my color would arise while trying to explain to my coaches that my hair does not curl while in box braids. My teammates and coaches chose to overlook the difference in my hair, just like they did during the Georgia situation. I wanted them to acknowledge that my Blackness made me a victim to racial threats. So no, they did not spit out the racial slurs, but choosing to not acknowledge my race and the experiences that come with it, is form of racism.
While some choose to be colorblind, others seem to be on the opposite end of the extreme by being color conscious. Color Consciousness is when one thinks they are aware of someone’s reality due to the assumptions they have about their race. While I do think it’s important to be aware of race, assuming to know anyone’s reality without being that person can be offensive. During her Ted Talk Hobson stated that she was recently mistaken for kitchen help. Though I don’t have details about the situation, I believe her skin color played a role is one’s decision to mistake her as kitchen help.
Concluding her Ted Talk Hobson challenged us to be Colorbrave. We have to start creating spaces where we can have these difficult conversations. As Hobson stated if we don’t begin this conversation about race and discrimination it threatens to rob another generation of all the opportunities wanted for them regardless of the color of their skin.
By Mesha Byrd
MS Nonprofit Management Degree candidate at the New School for Public Engagement