Let Justice, Not Color, Be Blind

King never mentioned anyone's eyesight. So why must we be "colorblind" to achieve his dream?

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The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial has moved visitors to tears. It has also sparked more talk about the need to be a "colorblind" society. Racists and bigots push that agenda, sure, but many well-intentioned liberals suggest the same thing, like those who say they forget sometimes that President Obama is black -- and mean it as a compliment!

Unfortunately, both groups have misconstrued King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which is usually revisited on his birthday each year but is back in the spotlight with the now-postponed plans for the dedication of his memorial.

King never said a word about anyone's eyesight. So why do people insist that we must lose our vision to achieve his dream?

I'm talking about the poor, misguided souls who believe that "colorblind" is the ultimate proof that our nation has finally overcome its contentious racial history. I'm talking about the folks who sniff, "I don't see color," as if that's a sign of moral superiority.

Actually, it's a sign of total denial. King's message has been co-opted and contorted by those who won't acknowledge that white privilege exists or won't acknowledge the role it played -- and continues to play -- in current and distressing conditions for many people of color. If they can ignore the visual differences between light and dark skin, it's easier to ignore the socioeconomic differences (and political consequences).

Why You Can't Ignore Color

Some folks honestly and naively believe they're subscribing to King's principles, pointing to a part of the speech where King dreamed that "my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

I absolutely, positively agree: Skin color should never be a basis for judgment. So let justice be blind.

The rest of us have no good reason to forsake the blessing of sight. Being "colorblind" is absurd, as fanciful as suggesting that we can be "height-blind" or "weight-blind." It's as realistic as noticing no distinctions between blondes and brunettes, or perms and dreadlocks.

There's a huge difference between acknowledging that people (gasp!) come in different colors and determining the treatment of people based on color.