Why You Should See Race

I have broken down “seeing race” into 3 categories:

  1. Seeing race
  2. Not seeing race
  3. Seeing race

Where do you fall? Let’s dive in to see. Some examples will also delve into gender, religion and ethnicity, as they follow a similar pattern.


You directly or indirectly oppress an individual or group based on their race through action or thought. 

Do you see yourself in any of these examples?

  • You see a Black man walking alongside the road and call him a racial slur.
  • You see a female of Asian descent and tell her to go back to China.
  • You see two houseless people of different races (i.e Black vs. Asian) and feel more empathy towards one, and feel the other is more deserving of homelessness.
  • You do not hire people of a different race because you believe they are less talented or complacent.
  • You police the performances and bodies of female Latina performers on television. (example: Jennifer Lopez and Shakira Super Bowl halftime show)


It’s a declaration people seem to wave proudly – “I’m not racist, I don’t see race”.

You rarely directly, or intentionally, wish misfortune on anyone specific.

Do you see yourself in any of these examples?

  • You may have an Asian, Black, or Latinx co-worker, and would not hesitate to invite them to dinner.
  • You have no opinion of your sibling or child dating a different race.
  • You hire on the grounds of intelligence, not skin color.


The issue is, not seeing race is complacency in response to the current state of racial injustices and disparities we see in our society. It is accepting the current state of history without any desire for improvement.

Although you may invite a friend of a different race to dinner, it’s possible you may flee your white majority town when it starts to be overwhelmed by another race, in fear that your property value will decrease. (i.e. Chicago suburbs as discussed in Michelle Obama’s Becoming).

You may believe citizens should be able to freely practice religion, but become defensive about the pledge of allegiance being taken out of schools (which only supports monotheistic religions).

As a hiring manager you may mistake intelligence with signs of whiteness.

You may sit on a jury, and assume a Black man to be more violent because that’s what you see on TV projected at you every night. You may be more harsh on his verdict. (On average, Black male offenders received federal sentences almost 20% longer than white male offenders for the same crime. Source.)

If you don’t see race and ethnicity, you never get the chance to see the beauty of other cultures – the food, the clothing, the architecture, the music and arts, etc…

Individually, you are choosing not to recognize the subconscious biases that we all have, as we’ve all been socialized to be biased to some degree. It’s not that you “don’t see”, but rather choose to ignore.

Collectively, you are actively allowing racially oppressive systems, built during times of slavery and Jim Crow era, to continue. You are likely a part of them without even knowing (or not, that’s for you to decide), and thus they cannot be stopped.


An attempt to open your eyes to racial inequality in our society. More importantly, the ability to recognize patterns that in isolation seem harmless or unassociated with race, but on a large scale can have devastating and oppressive effects on specific groups of people.

Do you see yourself in any of these examples?

  • You see neighborhoods are often split by race.
  • You notice a connection between socio-economic status and race.
  • You see management hires people who look like them.
  • You see that Black people are disproportionately incarcerated in America more than any other race.
  • You choose to appreciate and welcome all the different aspects of different cultures
  • You see differences in cultural values are often critiqued instead of understood.
  • You see the difficulties of one freely practicing religion in this country, when our president declared he wants a ban on Muslims coming into the United States.
  • In moments of unfamiliarity or discomfort – you ask yourself, why do I feel uncomfortable in this moment? Am I projecting my discomfort onto others?


Being able to see race is the first step to stopping systemic oppression of minority groups. You may be in a position of power (such as a manager or elected official), or have the ability to speak to power to help put an end to racist systems.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson explains best the history we have inherited. It serves as a great motivator for me to see race:

We in the developed world are like homeowners who inherited a house on a piece of land that is beautiful on the outside, but whose soil is unstable loam and rock, heaving and contracting over generations, cracks patched but the deeper ruptures waved away for decades, centuries even. Many people may rightly say, “I had nothing to do with how this all started. I have nothing to do with the sins of the past. My ancestors never attacked indigenous people, never owned slaves.” And, yes. Not one of us was here when this house was built. Our immediate ancestors may have had nothing to do with it, but here we are, the current occupants of a property with stress cracks and bowed walls and fissures built into the foundation. We are the heirs to whatever is right or wrong with it. We did not erect the uneven pillars or joists, but they are ours to deal with now.


Choosing to see race is in fact a choice. You can live a shielded life, but that will not end racism. Racist systems that whether we like it or not, we are all a part of. We engage, consume, and manage these systems.

Here are just a few examples of these biased patterns and systems:

  • Over-representation of whiteness on television.
  • Violence associated with Black men.
  • Perceived monetary value of white neighborhoods as compared to neighborhoods of people of color.
  • School systems funded by taxes generated by the perceived value of those same neighborhoods.
  • Redlining.
  • Criminal justice system giving harsher sentences to certain groups of people.
  • Policing of female bodies (often of different races than our own).
  • Disparities in access to quality education.
  • Disparities in access to healthcare. (Source).
  • and many others… which have you notice?

How have you viewed race in the past? Have you ever prided yourself on not seeing it? 

PS: if you enjoyed this blog post, you may enjoy an episode of the Code Switch podcast called “Puerto Rico, Island of Racial Harmony?”. A great case study on not seeing race.

Episode description: “Many Puerto Ricans grow up being taught that they’re a mixture of three races: black, white and indigenous. But on the U.S. census, a majority of Puerto Ricans choose “white” as their only race. On this episode, we’re looking into why that is, and the group of people trying to change it.”