Color Blind/Color Conscious

By Thomas Kochman - 02.07.2010

Chief Justice Robert\’s infamous line, \”The way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,\” in the 2007 Supreme Court Case Parents involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, suggests that race based remedies to correct unequal social situations (such as school or housing segregation) are the same as race based policies and practices that create and perpetuate unfair and unequal social situations (such as school or housing segregation).

Apart from turning affirmative action policies and programs on its heels, the Supreme Court majority and Robert\’s strictly process oriented view of discrimination –without regard to motives, circumstances and outcomes — is from a social and practical standpoint, useless. The question that people who care about this issue grapple with regularly is precisely over when it is appropriate to take race into account and when not. And that means considering all kinds of social qualifiers–ultimately perhaps, whether it makes someone else\’s life easier or more difficult.

For example, a faculty friend of mine who lived in a predominantly white community occasionally had students stay with them. One black student who stayed with them wanted to begin each morning with a run through the neighborhood. To accommodate him, and as a precautionary move, my friend went to several houses in the neighborhood that were along the route the student took to tell them that a black student was staying with them, and described what he looked like, knowing that if he didn’t let them know that up front, the student might otherwise be put at risk. Read more »