The NAACP Sponsors Lecture by Harvard’s Sa-Kiera Hudson

by The Cowl Editor


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by Thomas Edwards ’20

News Staff

Brianna Colletti ’21/TheCowl

Colorblindness; no, not the inability to see certain colors due to an abnormality in the retina, but the conscious decision to avoid taking someone’s race into account.

On Wednesday, November 8, Providence College’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hosted guest lecturer Sa-kiera Hudson—a fourth year Ph.D student at Harvard University studying psychology, race, and sexuality—to speak on the psychology of colorblindness.

Hudson began the lecture by describing colorblindness as “the same idea as the genetic disorder,” where you cannot tell the difference between races. The idea is to not use racial differences or racial groups when making decisions. Hudson explained it as “intuitive not to categorize people” if you want to make unbiased decisions.

Hudson noted how defining someone by a race will activate stereotypes. She said that often those who use colorblindness “want to minimize harm” and that it is “linked to egalitarian views.”

After this brief introduction, Hudson quickly showed a series of faces and proceeded to ask who could tell her anything about the last face.

After a few moments of no one saying much, one brave soul raised their hand and answered “they were black.” Hudson’s point here was to show that it is impossible to not see race and that being colorblind is “really just ignoring something.”

She went on to explain how colorblindness does not just ignore race, but it ignores the history behind the particular race and their struggles in the face of opposition. Hudson continued to explain that oftentimes people identify with their race, so to say you do not see race is to say “you don’t see me.” Hudson equated it to saying, “I don’t see athletes,” a group people often identify with.

Hudson then went on to discuss how psychology has dealt with the issue of race and colorblindness. A study used the children’s game “Guess Who?” in which you have a questioner and an answerer —the questioner asks questions about people on pictures that the answerer sees and the answerer will inform the questioner if and when they have gotten something right about certain pictures.

In the study, they used white Americans who identified as colorblind as the questioners and used an assortment of black and white Americans as the answerer.

The study found that when it was a white answerer, the white questioner would be more likely to ask race of the person in the pictures—93 percent. When it was a black answerer, however, the white questioners were 64 percent less likely to ask the race of the person in the pictures.

Hudson defined this as “strategic use of colorblind label.” The study also found that the black answerers were affected by the white questioner’s avoidance of race questions in a negative way; Hudson defined this as “negative non-verbal bias,” or when someone actively avoids discussing something obvious and the other person can see this and is oftentimes made uncomfortable due to mixed signals being sent and will lead to them becoming exhausted.

Hudson went on to explain that the use of colorblindness also increases racial bias as it “ignores the problems facing minorities” and “removes race as an explanation” so we are led to think poorly of someone.

Hudson explained that this use of colorblindness could cause the majority to partially disregard the history of racial discrimination that negatively effects minorities; “this will cause the minority to blame themselves,” explained Hudson.

She equated it to losing weight, “Say I want to lose weight, I can say calories don’t exist so I can’t gain weight now. But, since they still do exist and I will then continue to gain weight I won’t be able to recognize why I’m gaining weight if I don’t believe calories exist.”

Hudson then went on to discuss how colorblindness was “like giving a bird, a monkey, and a fish a flying test. It’s the same test for everyone, but we all know who will pass.”

Hudson ran a bit of a test by testing our “priming,” or unconscious/implicit association of certain things with good or bad. She ran an implicit associations test in which she showed the audience a series of bad words, such as vomit, and good words, such as peace; then she showed the audience stereotypically black names and stereotypically white names. She had the audience slap their right leg if a word had a bad association and left if good, then she had everyone slap right if it was a white name and left if it was a black name.

Hudson then had the audience slap right if it was a good word or a white name and left if it was a bad word or a black name. Finally, she had the audience slap right if it was a good word or a black name and left if it was a bad word or a white name.

Each time the audience participated, Hudson measured reaction time. The test results found that the audience took more time when they had to associate bad words and white names and good words and black names than when it was the other way around. Hudson argued that this was due to how races are represented in the media; she argued that with so few famous blacks when compared to whites it is difficult to associate good with black.

Hudson closed her lecture by giving a different option than colorblindness: multiculturalism. She explains that multiculturalism embraces cultures instead of molding them all into one. It addresses the elephant in the room and allows people to be color conscious and be more comfortable asking questions and talking about differences when in the position to do so instead of ignoring it all. She encouraged people to explore implicit biases they might have, to understand and be more knowledgeable.

For those wanting to take an implicit association test, visit https://implicit.harvard.edu.


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