I have only begun reading the book Beyond Colorblind by Sarah Shin (IVP). It was part of InterVarsity Press’ free ebook giveaway a few weeks ago. I just finished chapter one and two things struck me…one I knew but didn’t have words for, one a completely new insight.
First, the brand new insight. I’m ethnic. I don’t think that way or talk that way. Shine writes, “White Americans have often thought of themselves as not having an ethnicity, as if ethnic is a politically correct term replacing people of color. But the Greek word ethnos means the nations, and we each are descendants of ethnos.” When I think ‘ethnic restaurant’ I am usually thinking Chinese food, Indian, maybe Thai. Not Applebee’s. And, since I am not ethnic…I, and my culture, are the norm. Ethnic is what differs from me and my culture. That is a problem.
Secondly, and I knew this but didn’t have the words to express it well, colorblindess isn’t the answer to racism. It’s better than racism, but falls short. Shin writes, “Colorblindness seems to deny the beautiful variations and cultural differences in our stories. Colorblindness, though well intentioned, is inhospitable.” Think of Jesus’ engagement with the Roman or the Samaritan. He didn’t ignore their differences and just treat them like they were Jewish. He acknowledged them and loved them in the Samaritanness and Romanness. Shin continues, “We need something beyond colorblindness, something that both values beauty in our culture and also addresses real problem that exist in our society decades after the civil rights movement.”
Colorblindness seems to be the easy fix to our racial woes but it’s neither affirming of the other nor embracing a good aspect of God’s creation.