We still see color


I stand near the entrance of the Duck conversing with a group of friends while the jukebox plays some top 40 hit. We discuss our post-graduate plans and laugh at how unprepared we are to enter the real world. Somehow the conversation turns to race and the group's eyes all scan over to me - the only person of color in the bunch. In an attempt to ease the awkwardness a white peer turns to me and says, "I don't see color."

I know what they are trying to say - there's no malice behind the phrase. My peer is trying to reassure me that they do not view me as the "Puerto Rican friend." That in their eyes I'm just like the rest of the group. That I am equal, that we're the same. But this is far from the truth.
My fellow students of color and I have heard this phrase countless times from our peers, DePauw staff and even our professors. Some of us have even used it ourselves. On the surface, the phrase of being racially "colorblind" may seem endearing, empowering and even antiracist to some. I understand it is used to convey the idea that a person does not possess racial prejudices. However, saying we do not see color or race is not only naive, but frankly, a lie.
By asserting we do not see race, we deny the institutional barriers people of color continue to face today. We assume that everyone in America has equal opportunity to become successful and obtain the American dream. Unfortunately, that's not the country we live in. Claiming colorblindness only reinforces this misconception.
Yes, we've made tremendous progress in terms of civil rights. But we are not living in a post-racial America. Many aspects of our society have seen little to no change since the 1960s. Some have even been regressive.
We still are a country that incarcerates people of color at a disproportionately higher rate. A study by the Sentencing Project found that 60 percent of inmates in 2009 were African American or Latino. The majority of people living in poverty are still vastly people of color. As a result, racial minorities are still barred from access to sufficient healthcare, adequate housing and equal education. And, not to mention, white men are still the majority in our "most diverse Congress in history," comprising of 67 percent of the seats.
I understand that when someone tells me they do not see race they mean they do not view me as inferior. And I wholeheartedly appreciate that sentiment. However, we all see race. We all have been socialized in a country with a complex and bloody racial history. A country that is plagued by racial inequity. By asserting we do not see race, what we're actually saying is we do not wish to speak about race - while in fact speaking about race.
I get it. Race, especially for my white peers, can be an uncomfortable and sensitive topic of conversation. But failing to acknowledge that our peers or our students are people of color assumes that we all got here through equitable means, that we're all having a universal DePauw experience and that we will all have the same opportunities once leaving here. Reality tells us otherwise.
I genuinely appreciate the attempt at inclusion and acceptance when someone tells me they do not see color, but there are plenty of other ways to convey racial acceptance. So please drop the phrase, and keep your color TV on.

­- Agrelo is a senior from Chicago, Ill. majoring in English writing.