In an ideal world, race would have never been invented. We wouldn’t have to talk about black, white or whatever other colour on the spectrum that societies use when referring to a group of people. But that isn’t world we live in. More times than not, people are treated differently solely based on the colour of their skin. I have mainly heard the term “colour-blind” used in the U.S., mostly by white people, but I have been informed that many Icelanders like to view themselves this way. To some degree, I can empathise with this view.
At first glance, it attempts to imply advocacy for equality. However, it is a dangerous philosophy to live by if you want to foster an inclusive society. It reduces cultural and racial issues to an individual basis instead of recognising it as part of a bigger issue in our collective societies.
Claiming to be colour-blind when a person of another race wants to talk about race related issues dismisses their lived experiences. Not “seeing” race does not erase the historical impact of racism nor does it change the current racist structure set up by many societies around the world. Additionally, you miss out on an opportunity to understand how a person feels as a minority and to broaden your knowledge about the treatment of people that look different than you.
So, if colour-blindness is not the answer, what is? The first step is recognising and valuing that others are different. Form personal relationships with people from different cultures and races. As you learn, teach and advocate for others to do the same. These cultural exchanges and interactions are critical for eradicating racism and creating truly inclusive societies.
Jewells Chambers is originally from Brooklyn, moved to Iceland in 2016, and has been very busy since then. She manages the website From Foreign To Familiar and runs the All Things Iceland podcast.