Posted by: nquest2xl | October 11, 2008

Why color does matter? aka Why saying it doesn’t is a problem.





The other day on one of my favorite Sirius talk radio shows, a White pro-Obama caller commented on how Obama’s “color doesn’t matter.”  You know, the “I don’t see color” kind of color-doesn’t-matter (CDM).  The host, Mark Thompson (of “Make It Plain”), had to just let it go for the sake of diverging into a topic that deserved its own show.  Of course, he asked the caller to explain what he meant and why CDM but the point Thompson was trying to make was loss on him.

The CDM idea was, apparently, something the caller hadn’t really thought about.  Obviously he felt CDM was/is a good concept and in his life’s practice it may well be.  But what does it really say?

I explained the problem with this concept once on Stuff White People Do in a thread that looked at a popular expression where the CDM concept comes into play.  The thread reflected on the times when someone White says of African-American(s), “I don’t think of them as Black.”

Now maybe you can see the problem.

As I noted on SWPD at the time, the CDM idea, by definition, says that there is something wrong with being Black or any “color” except for White, it seems.  Just like the picture on the cover of the children’s book above, Whites are at the center; viewed as the norm.  That’s pretty clear to see.  And when there are other CDM expressions like, “I’m a Man Who Happens To Be Black,” it’s clear how the idea of being “Black” is viewed as a negative, so much so that other aspects of a person’s being are used to subjugate it – to make it seem like being “Black” is an accident or something that’s wrong to emphasize and, worse, wrong to recognize.

Such is the history.

Indeed, the very historical moment that seems to have inspired White Americans (and others) to adopt the CDM attitude was one where Whites and Blacks, alike, had to deal with the history of seeing “blackness” as a bad thing.  So it’s easy to see how saying “color doesn’t matter” or “color shouldn’t matter” is a rational response to that history.  The only problem is:  the color-doesn’t-matter attitude actually perpetuates the idea that being something other than White, and especially being Black, is a bad thing.  But let’s think about that historical moment.

Perhaps no other idea has propelled the CDM concept and cemented it into the national consciousness as Dr. King’s famous (and most abused) lines from his “I Have A Dream” speech:

“I have a dream 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.”

Nothing else screams out “I don’t think of them as Black” as loud as that.  That is, when a person takes a literalist-reductionist view of things.  The literalist says, “I can’t judge you based on the color of your skin.”  That logically leads to CDM.  The reductionist says, “that’s what MLK all wanted us to do,” but that, quite frankly, does a disservice to MLK.   The literalist-reductionist strips the idea from the historical moment and climate is was made in and ignores volumes of other things MLK said.  It also ignores other developments during that historical moment.

On SWPD, I explained how, historically, “White Americans had associated Black with all sorts of bad things.”  So it made rational sense for Whites to say, “I don’t see you as Black” — i.e. “I don’t see you as bad.”  But that reveals a serious problem and explains why the colorblindness the nation embarked on as a response to the civil rights era is seen as a form of racism itself.  Just look at the two expressions: Black and “bad” remain synonymous, mere substitutes for one another which suggests how colorblindness doesn’t fully constitutes a fundamental change from America’s more troubling racial past.

Now, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention how “Black=bad” was/is a concept that the Black community had to deal with and still has to deal with.  However, at that same historical moment, at the same time when Dr. King espoused what has been treated as “colorblindness”, Dr. King and the Black community at large engaged in a campaign to break the nefarious link between Black and “bad” by exalting the idea that BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL:

Unfortunately, expressions like, “I don’t see you as Black” and “I’m a man who happens to be Black”, miss that very important point of decoupling Black with “bad.”  If color really didn’t matter then there would be no reason not to see an African-American as “Black” and, likewise, no reason to marginalize someone’s Blackness by trying to highlight something people are more inclined to view more positively (e.g. a person’s “humanness”) even when those people includes your own self.

(Cross posted at



  1. thanks for this. i ain’t never heard them fools who say color don’t matter lobbying for clear roses.

  2. Anytime, H-Floe.

  3. […] Why Color Does Matter […]

  4. Nquest,

    You can rest assured that I’ll never say your blackness doesn’t matter. Such an assertion would be the liberal thing to claim just as your attempt at claiming that never witnessing a concocted instance of “racism” was irrelevant.

  5. Thordaddy,

    Quit begging for negative attention and stop embarrassing yourself trying to make comparisons that don’t work. If your non-witness experience was relevant then you would have been able to:

    Tell me how relevant is a person’s statement about not personally witnessing/experiencing open heart surgery when there are people who can swear that the medical science exist and have the scars to prove it.

    I’d appreciate it if you would stop affirming my “black supremacy.” At this rate, you’ll make me into the smartest man to ever live by the end of April.

  6. Nquest,

    Your Kanye West routine is stale, bro.

    You assume that when I speak of your “black supremacy” that I am thinking something analogous to your idea of white supremacy.

    You don’t really believe in “white supremacy” as an objective truth. You only believe in it as the delusions of a “white” race. Yet somehow these delusions “oppress” and “subjugate” YOU and other PoC to second-class citizenship.

    Your training has taught you that the solution to this “white” delusion is in fact a logical consequence of your belief system. You are a supremacist who is black. Hence, you are a black supremacist and you think it not a delusion.

    So again, which part of “black supremacist” do you doubt? Or, do you doubt all of it?

  7. 1. Your reference to some undisclosed “Kanye West” routine is boring and only EXPOSES you.

    2. The only thing I “assumed” (rather safely, I might add) was that you did what so many others do — i.e. ONCE EXPOSED you rush to pre-emptively label your opponent something you have EXPOSED yourself to be.

    3. Your comment about what I believe about WHITE SUPREMACY shows how you are OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE. Keep your sorry azz at the shallow end of the pool. You aren’t smart enough to stipulate to what I believe and your statement about what I “only believe” ONLY shows how shallow you are and how ill-equipped you are to even be in a conversation with me. Your statement doesn’t even begin to address what I believe regarding WHITE SUPREMACY, so shut your dumb azz up!

    4. The “your training taught you” sentence of yours DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. Don’t you ever type another single word, much less a sentence(s), on my blog that doesn’t make sense. You have been warned.

    5. Same for your retarded, skill-less word plays. This will be the last time any such stupidity from you will stay posted.

    6. What I doubt is that you can ever back up a damn thing you say. Of course, that doesn’t count the low-grade BULLSH*TTING you do like this lame azz “You are a supremacist who is black.” That doesn’t count because you haven’t established that I am a “supremacist.”

  8. Ye Ye,

    I’ve caught you on two [things I’m calling “falsehoods” via the liberty I’ve taken to use both FALLACY and ILLUSION in manufacturing these “falsehoods” I know don’t exist and, if anything, are a function of my desire to obfuscate by inserting my own jacked up, biased view]. The first was [me] claiming [that you said] Barack Obama [was] your “Christian brother” when BO isn’t a Christian [in my jacked up, biased view] and the second was claiming “ALL white privilege is bad” [when I keep begging you to buy into my jacked up, biased, racialist view that there is, absurdly, “good” White Privilege].

    You knowingly [make it hard for me to say you] spread these falsehoods [but I’m going to say] you seek radical and extreme change. [Then I’m going to project the kind of “good” White Privilege mindset I have — you do remember when I suggested White Privilege isn’t “abnormal” and wouldn’t be considered “abnormal” by “most” White folks because the U.S. is a “majority white nation”, don’t you?. I’m going to project my rationalization and my preference for White Privilege (and WHITE SUPREMACY) onto you and accuse you of wanting the same for power “yourself and those like you” because, frankly, that’s what I want/prefer for me and those like me. [bs blanked out]

    You seem unable to grasp what it means to be a “black supremacist” [because I will continue saying all manner of ridiculous bs just so I can maintain this fictive premise]. [a whole bunch of bs blanked out] LOL!

  9. The first was claiming Barack Obama to be your “Christian brother” when BO isn’t a Christian and the second was claiming “ALL white privilege is bad.”

    You lose again dumbazz. I’m not a Christian, so there is no way for Obama can by “[my] Christian brother.” LEARN HOW TO READ!

    your radical change is nothing more complex than procuring power for yourself and those like you.

    Boring… Watch this bs of yours disappear.

    your ideology was adopted mainly from white liberalism


    You seem unable to grasp what it means to be a “black supremacist”

    You obviously are TOO CHICKENSHIT to be honest about what you said, why you said it and TOO SCARED to say what you mean by “black supremacist” or “supremacist.”

    you see yourself as my superior

    I see me mocking you AFTER you tried to pre-emptively label me a “black supremacist” AFTER you EXPOSED yourself. So, that bs will never work.

    You rushed to label me as a “black supremacist” AFTER I asked you to explain the problems you have with AA (on April 1, 2009 at 7:15 PM) since you called it “the attempt to claim we’re all really equal.” You obviously did that because, when I asked you about your statement, I said it was “like you [were] forwarding some kind of racial supremacy…”

    You first called my a “black supremacist” on April 3, 2009 at 4:13 AM.

  10. ye ye,

    You make sure you visit me when I’m up and running. I can assure you that I won’t edit what you write and put quotes around things you didn’t say. Thanks for the insight into the black man’s mind.

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