Denying the Human Color Wheel and Being a Colorless White Color: The Paradox of Having It Both Ways

During the last half of the twentieth century through part of the first quarter of the twenty-first century, the Post-Racial Color Blind Era literally caused the color white to disappear out of the lexicon of American discourse after years of being prefaced with the word, “man.” For a nation that began its rise using a Racial color wheel, this Era was extremely consequential, even within the apparent invisibility of the Era’s movement through time. For people who identify as “white” today but would rather be referred to as “normal,” a “colorless” distinction placed them into another position of separation from everyone else in the nation. Moreover, in having been moved off the color wheel, they were once again effectively excluded from the entirety of humanity without even realizing it. In fact, today, the paradoxical, push-pull of white vs. normal and white vs. colorless in the United States is dividing its white citizens against themselves. They are categorizing themselves into:

  • those who hated the invisibility of colorlessness and are invigorated and emboldened by the reappearance of Whiteness,

  • those who reluctantly embrace their newly discovered “white privilege,”

  • those who remain cognitively dissonant of any idea of privilege,

  • the guilty who self-flagellate because of the resurgence of the color white, and

  • those who wish to remain color blind.

Many white people today do not even know the difference between being the color white and identifying with Whiteness. Most all are confused enough today to conflate the two. There is indeed a difference however, just as there is a difference between being the color black, and identifying with Blackness. The issues of color don’t really have anything to do with the color on the human color wheel. The issues have always centered around the ideologies of Whiteness as superior and Blackness as inferior. Anything else is ancillary to the overarching theme of the ideology. Don’t think so? Consider the color, “brown.” Using the color brown is now a popular way that people of various Latino and Latina ethnicities are describing their skin “color.” However, being brown has absolutely no ideology attached to it, and although brown is placed next to the color black when used to describe similar types of discrimination by white people in the U.S., there is absolutely nothing inherently associated with an ideology of “Brownness” that is part of their culture. In fact, no amount of fusion between the two “colors” of brown and black will diminish the significance of Blackness as the vanguard for the unique struggle of Black descendants of the Enslavement because no other ethnicity or group of people has an ideology attached to themselves as superior or inferior except people who are white colored and black colored.

The simple fact is white is a color, just like brown and black and the truth of the matter is White Supremacy, or the ideology of so-called White superiority over Black inferiority, have always been the real problem in this nation. It is what helped to design and create the system of Racism to sustain itself, and used skin colors as nothing more than a tool for the physical categorization of those who “shared” or “didn’t share” the color white with the wealthy gentry of old, or their descendants today. The truth of the matter is that the color white exists on the color wheel whether Whiteness pretends it does or doesn’t.

Quite literally, when a group of people opt out of the color wheel and pretend to be the opposite of people of color, it renders them, by simple reasoning, “colorless.” One of the fundamentals of the Post-Racial Color Blind Era was the erasure of white as a color. The question then becomes, how can one profess to be white without actually ‘being’ a color?” Obviously, one is either a person of color or not a person of color. Conveniently, however, because mostly all dictionaries today explain synonyms for white as transparent, colorless, without hue, and clear along with the usual milky, chalky, and pale descriptors, it enabled white people to hide the ideology of Whiteness behind this definitional cloak of invisibility. Humanity, however, exists as a spectrum of colors from the whitest albino to the darkest eggplant hues. Therefore, where does that leave colorless people who identify as white but who are not the color white? In terms of Race as Color, defining oneself consciously as white and unconsciously colorless allows for the option of being beneficiaries of White Supremacy without the ownership and accountability for the damage and destruction caused by it for over four hundred years.

In the case of the self-described superior Race, no matter how well thought out, plans of people do not contain every particular facet of consequence. Results are never foolproof since humanity is not foolproof. Not all contingencies may be considered. Something is bound to be left out and probabilities are no respecters of all possibilities. Unintended eventualities will inevitably emerge. One such inadvertent result was when the wealthy Gentry class in the United States defined an entire segment of humanity by color as inhuman for their own nefarious purposes of bondage and servitude. What they hadn’t reckoned was the sacrificing of their own humanity centuries later, as unbleached history would unapologetically recall. Even as there were many movements toward social change, ­and social justice, those attempts remain hollow and transparent today as well, especially since the descendants of some of these same people still battle back and forth over whether to return to the color wheel without sacrificing their Whiteness as supreme.

For over fifty years, those who wanted to erase white from the color wheel were successful in defining a colorless white in terms of euphemisms and dog whistles, and creating a quality of tolerance for colors of people they historically abhorred. What they did not erase in the process was Whiteness as their overarching thesis; a pedagogy for their descendants, bound forever as an ideology far larger in scope than Race as Color alone could ever be.

Terms being used today do not suffice in their attempts to feign a melding of people as their use in theory suggests. Take the term, diversity, for example. It is used to signify “differences” in a milder, more polite way than the word, “different.” It is used by both Black and white people to discuss those differences that may or may not transcend color, as a way to open a dialog not usually engaged. It is also used by many white people to codify themselves as “unique,” expressly for the purpose of continued and sustained exclusivity from white as a color. In segregating themselves out from the concept of diversity or “being different,” they need not be connected to the color wheel, while enjoying the distinction of their supposed superiority, inherent within the ideology. It pretends to unify, but it marks itself as separate just like an animal marking its territory. Conversely, and conveniently it appears, the term, inclusivity collects Black persons with every other conceivable person of color on the spectrum of humanity without consideration as to their own “diversity.” Inclusivity becomes a corral for the diverse, who by the definition of white, does not include white people, who are not considered by themselves to be diverse.

Next, think about the acronyms, POC and now, BIPOC. Why would there be a need for POC or BIPOC if all of the colors in the wheel were represented? How can inclusivity be a valid consideration when the only included colors in the corral are of those who are not white? Indeed, as an extra consideration given to POC within the fullness of the colored corral of people of color, diversity within its walls even forced division among themselves. The BI, or Black Indigenous addition to the acronym threatens to divide even further as more and more people who identify with “skin tone” and/or ethnicity and not “Blackness” grapple for their own identification beyond the ideology of Blackness as expressed in the U.S. by Black descendants of the Enslavement.

It is time to face it. The Post-Racial Color Blind Era is over, and the U.S. Supremacist Reckoning Era is upon us. The nation will not be able to continue pretending white is not a color on the wheel, while simultaneously allowing White Supremacy to pervade consistently through all institutions. How long will it take for the United States to become a nation of colors on the human color wheel where each representation of color is equal and beautiful in its own right? How long will there remain the ideology of White Supremacy that spawned the separation of the color white from humanity?

It is time to face it. White is a color and white people are people of color whether they continue to exclude themselves while corralling other people of color separately or not. White is a color and white people are people of color no matter how far they segregate from the rest of humanity. Nevertheless, as long as white people profess to be “white” skinned while pretending white isn’t a color, they will undoubtedly continue to delude themselves through the privilege of “having it both ways.” In short, they will continue to live outside of the color wheel, as colorless, and benefit from the destructive ideology of their white ancestors.