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Why a ‘Colorblind’ [Vegan] Utopian World is Ableist

As a person who is not blind, I am guilty of having used the term colorblind as a way to define those [mostly white] people who claim that they do not have biases towards human beings because of that persona’s race/skin color.

I stopped using the word colorblind about 5 years ago.

I spend most of my time engaged with vegan and other ethical consumption communities who argue that ethical consumption is a ‘colorblind’ endeavor (i.e., “race doesn’t matter”). Despite trying to explain that we don’t live in a ‘post-racial’ world, what often gets missed is the ableism behind using ‘colorblind’ to freely to discuss racial issues. Here is an excerpt from the book Blinded by Sight by Osagie K. Obasogie that I highly suggest as reading materials for those of us who have colluded with ableist framing of the ethical consumption world and behind.

“In effect, colorblindness as a metaphor turns blind people into racial mascots in much the same way that some sports teams demean Native American by misappropriating their imagery and social experience. A distorted, misunderstood, and objectified understanding of group abilities and social dynamics is celebrated as a rally cry at the very same time that it dehumanizes the group by denying full acknowledgment of their complex lives. Colorblindness has turned blind people against their will into a series of cartoonish representations of racial utopia that fundamentally warps their human experiences.” (page 129)

When white people use the  word ‘colorblind’ to explain their take on race and racism, it almost always upsets vegans of color who are sight-abled. They become upset because it dismisses their lived realities of systemic racism they collectively experience in the USA. Not surprisingly, as beneficiaries of a site-ableist society, those of us who have gotten upset over this, rarely if ever get upset over the ableism implied.

So, if you weren’t aware of this before, will you now stop using the phrase “colorblind” ?

What other ableist phrases and ideas have you (beyond site-ability) used?

Here is a great resource to learn more about Ableism.


About the Author and The Sistah Vegan Project

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. Harper currently manages the Staff Diversity Initiative’s Multicultural Education Program at UC Berkeley and is the founder of the Critical Diversity Solutions. Check her profile out on LinkedIn. Inquire about Dr. A. Breeze Harper lecturing or giving a workshop at your organization, school, or business.

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