In Advocacy of the Color-Blind Principle

The color-blind principle does not mean we do not see a person’s skin color or detect that others are different from us (also referred to as color-indifference). Our church has about ten different ethnicities at any given time, although the particular ethnicities have varied over the years. I assure you that everyone can tell whether we are talking to a Chinese, Indian, black, white, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Korean, or another ethnic person.

The color-blind principle means we see color, but it does not matter. Skin color tells us only a person’s skin color, but it does not, nor can it, nor should it, tell us who a person is, what kind of person an individual is, nor does it affect God’s love for them, which is what the color-blind principle calls us to as well, to see people as God does. It is to see people who are created in the image of God, loved by God, and for whom Christ died, who happen to have different colored skin (Gen 1:26-28; John 3:16). It emphasizes our shared humanity.

In contrast, critical race theory makes everything about race (known as race- consciousness), and we are to judge others based on their skin color. It deemphasizes our shared humanity. The color-blind principle is often used when speaking legally, and I agree it should be followed in legal and policy matters; however, as a Christian, it must also be on a personal level, with individual human beings interacting with other individual human beings; this belief has nothing to do with concepts like equity.

Additionally, believing in the color-blind principle does not mean we must follow it perfectly (although that should be our intent and goal) for it to be reflective of biblical truth and, therefore, the right thing to do. For example, we are to be holy (1 Pet 1:15), love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:39), and only be speaking the truth in love (Eph 4: 15). But our failure to practice these perfectly makes them no less true, nor does our imperfection signify that we do not genuinely believe them and seek to live them perfectly. The same is true with the color-blind principle. Of course, not actually believing in any of these ideas coupled with not really trying to practice them is hypocrisy, which is not the same as a sinner failing and repenting.

Frederick Douglass, the 19th century’s greatest abolitionist and civil rights advocate, [had] an abiding faith in reason, in truth and justice [which] sustained an expectation that the color line . . . will cease to have any civil, political, or moral significance in America.[1]

Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, in Plessy v. Ferguson, wrote, Our constitution is color-blind . . . The law regards man as man, and takes no account . . . of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.[2]

Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech immortalized the color-blind principle saying, I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.[3] King believed and said that is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.[4]

In his brief for the plaintiffs in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, Thurgood Marshall argued, distinctions . . . based upon race or color alone . . . [are] the epitome of that arbitrariness and capriciousness constitutionally impermissive under our system of government.[5]

Critical race theorists either ignore or actually disdain the color-blind principle. For example, in his best-selling book, How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, says “The language of colorblindness . . .is a mask to hide racism.[6]

In her best-selling book, White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo speaks of the idea of color blindness as simplistic and something seized upon by the white public because the words were seen to provide a simple and immediate solution to racial tensions: pretend that we don’t see race, and racism will end.[7] Her perspective is a blanket derogation toward the character and sincerity of white people, and, maybe even more startling, it seems exceptionally dismissive of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

According to Kendi, Manhattan Institute fellow Tamar Jacoby said in 1998, Like many whites who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, I had always thought the ultimate goal of better race relations was integration. The very word had a kind of magic to it but now few of us talk about it anymore. We are not pursuing Martin Luther King’s color-blind dream of a more or less race-neutral America. [8]

Kimberlé Crenshaw, who supported Derrick Bell and others in founding critical race theory, rejects emphasizing our universal humanity with statements like, I am a person who happens to be black. Instead, she divides by emphasizing the statement I am black as a resistance statement.[9]

Crenshaw’s first statement would reflect the color-blind principle, whereas the latter reflects the race-consciousness perspective. Color blindness has a goal for people to become individuals where race does not matter, and for the United States to be a country where race does not matter, where all races are treated equally before the law and between each other. It does not require the total elimination of every racist to be considered successful any more than to be a safe neighborhood requires the absolute elimination of every troublemaker and crime, which takes place only in heaven. There will always be criminals, troublemakers, immoralists, racists (according to true racism in which no race is exempt from having its own racists), and idiots on earth.

In contrast, the race-conscious perspective aims to make race matter preeminently in everything, and it seeks to make sure that races are not treated equally before the law and between each other. One race is given preference while another is punished. Color blindness has the potential of unifying all races as Americans. In contrast, race consciousness via critical race theory and intersectionality divides us into an endless array of groups who will forever be divided and embittered toward each other.

The race-conscious advocates focus their energies on the evilness of America, casting all blacks as victims of white oppressors, which virtually all (or all in some systems of thought by CR theorists) white people are. In contrast, the advocates of color blindness focus their energies on the progress of race relations already made and the grand opportunities and blessings of being an American. The color-blind focus is not a naive or blind loyalty to America, but rather color-blind advocates see huge societal problems to still be addressed. However, we do so by recognizing how far we have come, the progress made, and the confidence that we can continue to make progress of working toward more perfect union, as stated in the preamble of our Constitution.

Martin Luther King and previous civil rights advocates loved America and desired to be a part of the American dream, as stated in the Declaration of Independence. Therefore, they fought for equal assimilation as citizens, human beings, under America’s law and full freedoms. In contrast, assimilation is seen as a racist problem by critical race theorists like Ibram Kendi.[10]

There is no denying that racism existed structurally before the 1964 civil rights act and supporting acts passed later and that racism exists today. But I do not believe systemic racism, which existed in the past, exists today. While I believe racism can still be an obstacle to overcome (similar to others who have non-race obstacles to overcome to participate in America’s dream), I do not believe it is the biggest obstacle for non-whites in America.

I do not believe virtually every disparity in society can be justifiably attributed to racism, as critical race theorists advocate. I think this is demonstrated every day by black and brown people who excel and succeed in America, and yes, quite often surpass their white counterparts. Many of the reasons black people fail in our day are the very same reasons so many white people fail in America today; they are human reasons, not racist reasons.

We choose what we focus on, the failures or the successes. This is not to say racism does not exist or is not a problem blacks have to face because racism does exist, and I suspect there will always be actual racists (not as defined by CRT). But it is to say, the structural racism that prohibited blacks from having opportunities by law no longer exists. The existing problems can be overcome in large measure in the same way others overcome different obstacles. But black people cannot justify blaming the past or blaming whites. I mean this in the same sense that whites cannot blame their upbringing or difficult history for what kind of person they become. The past carries influence, but it is not determinative of what kind of person we become. To look for blame is to overlook the decisive role of personal responsibility in determining what kind of person we become and our successes or failures in life.

For example, the black scholar Shelby Steele contends that racist oppression is no longer the primary problem blacks face. He says, It must be acknowledged that blacks are no longer oppressed in America.[11] Another black scholar, Thomas Sowell, says, The causal question is whether racism is either the cause or one of the major causes of poverty and other social problems among black Americans today. Many might consider the obvious answer to be yes. Yet some incontrovertible facts undermine that conclusion.[12]

Although I could give a virtually unlimited list of successful blacks, I offer two as examples. I draw from an interview with Dr. Carol Swain and Dr. Ben Carson in which they discuss the origins, impact, and response to critical race theory.[13]

Dr. Carson said, The thing that really determines who a person is, as Dr. MLK emphasized so strongly I suspect that he would be quite disappointed with critical race theory it’s the character that makes a person, not the color of their skin, He went on to say, Critical race theory turns that completely upside down and says that the color of their skin makes an enormous difference in terms of who you are and what you should think.[14]

Dr. Swain reflected on her own experiences of becoming an outspoken opponent of critical race theory. She recounted the difficulties of her own beginnings and how she became a conservative. She was one of twelve children raised in rural poverty who dropped out of school after the 8th grade, got married at 16, and had three children by age 21. At that point, Dr. Swain got her high school equivalency and went to college, where she earned the first of five degrees. As Dr. Swain moved into academia, first at Princeton University, then Vanderbilt University. She shared that she enjoyed her work. Everything changed, however, the moment she became a Christian. Dr. Swain shared that she became more conservative after that.[15]

Dr. Swain is firmly against critical race theory. She said, What I see taking place today with critical race theory, I believe it is the civil rights challenge of our time.[16] Like the previous quotes by Steele and Sowell, Dr. Swain asserted “that systemic racism no longer exists because [I] watched it fail and observed its downfall through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Open Housing of 1968.[17]

She speaks as one who actually lived in genuine structural and systemic racism. She says, “I was born into systemic racism. I watched it crumble.[18] Swain provides a very different perspective about the progress that has been made when compared to critical race theorists who blame everything on past and present systemic racism. Speaking about what followed the civil rights advances of the sixties, Swain said, What I saw develop and evolve [after that] was a system of opportunities for people like me, and I can tell you many of my mentors most were white.[19]

Dr. Carson speaks reminiscently of Martin Luther King and, I believe, congruent with Scripture and wisdom. He said, Your race is not something you can control. Your character is something that you can control, Carson further stated, Why would you judge someone based on something they can’t control versus something they can control?[20]

The choice between embracing the color-blind principle or the race-conscious perspective hinges on two considerations.

First, the color-blind principle is perfectly consistent with and reflective of Scripture beginning in creation (Gen 1:26,27). God is the creator of every human being, and there is actually one human race, even though there are superficial differences within groups within the human race. The color-blind principle seeks to guide us back to the unity we had in the mind, heart, and creation of God. It also reflects the unity believers will have in heaven.

Second, the race-conscious perspective is not consistent with or reflective of the Bible. It generally judges people based on their skin color, makes only one group susceptible to the sin of racism, and makes everything about our skin color rather than our character and shared humanity. The race-conscious principle embedded in critical race theory and intersectionality seeks to guide us into more and more groups leading to greater and greater disunity and inhumanity. It does not reflect the mind and heart of God about his creation, nor does it even have the potential to grow in being more reflective of heaven.

Leroy D. Clark, in his critique of Derrick Bell’s argument that racism is permanent and no real progress has been made, makes an argument in support of the civil rights movement, which of course, embodied the color-blind principle. He said, The genius of that movement was its openness to involvement by as broad a spectrum of the black and white public as wished to make a contribution. Its message of mutually beneficial racial harmony changed public attitudes and the way institutions functioned.[21] That message of mutually beneficial racial harmony is existent in the color-blind approach, but it is excluded in the race-conscious perspective.

Neither approach is perfect, and each course is doomed to imperfection because each is filled with sinful people. But that does not mean that one approach is not better than the other. I believe the better of the two is, without a doubt, the color-blind approach.

And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth (Rev 5:9,10).


[1] Peter C. Myers, The Case for Color-Blindness, The Heritage Foundation, September 6, 2019, https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/2019-09/FP-75.pdf, para 3, accessed 6/23/21.
[2] Peter C. Myers, The Case for Color-Blindness, The Heritage Foundation, September 6, 2019, https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/2019-09/FP-75.pdf, para 3, accessed 6/23/21.
[3] Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream, August 28, 1963, https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm, para 20.
[4] Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream, August 28, 1963, https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm, para 16.
[5] Mark Tushnet, ed., Thurgood Marshall: Speeches, Writings, Arguments (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2001), 21 as quoted by Peter C. Myers, The Case for Color-Blindness, The Heritage Foundation, September 6, 2019, https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/2019-09/FP-75.pdf, para 3, accessed 6/23/21.
[6] Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist (New York: One World, 2019), 10.
[7] Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility (Boston: Beacon, 2018), 41.
[8] Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist (New York: One World, 2019), p 178-179. What Became of Integration, The Washington Post, June 28, 1998.
[9] Kimberlé Crenshaw says, We all can recognize the distinction between the claims I am Black and the claim I am a person who happens to be Black. . . . I am Black becomes not simply a statement of resistance, but also a positive discourse of self-identification. . . . I am a person who happens to be Black, on the other hand, achieves self-identification by straining for a certain universality (in effect, I am first a person’). Kimberlé Crenshaw, Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color, 1297, Stanford Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 6 (Jul., 1991), 1241,1299.

[10] Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, 30,31, 33, 83.
[11] Shelby Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007), 67.
[12] Thomas Sowell, Discrimination and Disparities (New York: Basic, 2019), 116.
[13] Corinne Murdock, Dr. Carol Swain and Dr. Ben Carson Discuss the Origins, Impact, and Response to Critical Race Theory, Be The People News, June 11, 2021, https://bethepeoplenews.com/dr-carol-swain-and-dr-ben-carson-discuss-the-origins-impact-and-response-to-critical-race-theory/, accessed 6/21/21.
[14] Corinne Murdock, Dr. Carol Swain and Dr. Ben Carson Discuss the Origins, Impact, and Response to Critical Race Theory, Be The People News, June 11, 2021, https://bethepeoplenews.com/dr-carol-swain-and-dr-ben-carson-discuss-the-origins-impact-and-response-to-critical-race-theory/, para. 4, accessed 6/21/21.
[15] Corinne Murdock, Dr. Carol Swain and Dr. Ben Carson Discuss the Origins, Impact, and Response to Critical Race Theory, Be The People News, June 11, 2021, https://bethepeoplenews.com/dr-carol-swain-and-dr-ben-carson-discuss-the-origins-impact-and-response-to-critical-race-theory/, para. 5,6, accessed 6/21/21.
[16] Corinne Murdock, Dr. Carol Swain and Dr. Ben Carson Discuss the Origins, Impact, and Response to Critical Race Theory, Be The People News, June 11, 2021, https://bethepeoplenews.com/dr-carol-swain-and-dr-ben-carson-discuss-the-origins-impact-and-response-to-critical-race-theory/, para. 10, accessed 6/21/21.
[17] Corinne Murdock, Dr. Carol Swain and Dr. Ben Carson Discuss the Origins, Impact, and Response to Critical Race Theory, Be The People News, June 11, 2021, https://bethepeoplenews.com/dr-carol-swain-and-dr-ben-carson-discuss-the-origins-impact-and-response-to-critical-race-theory/, para. 12, accessed 6/21/21.
[18] Corinne Murdock, Dr. Carol Swain and Dr. Ben Carson Discuss the Origins, Impact, and Response to Critical Race Theory, Be The People News, June 11, 2021, https://bethepeoplenews.com/dr-carol-swain-and-dr-ben-carson-discuss-the-origins-impact-and-response-to-critical-race-theory/, para. 13, accessed 6/21/21.
[19] Corinne Murdock, Dr. Carol Swain and Dr. Ben Carson Discuss the Origins, Impact, and Response to Critical Race Theory, Be The People News, June 11, 2021, https://bethepeoplenews.com/dr-carol-swain-and-dr-ben-carson-discuss-the-origins-impact-and-response-to-critical-race-theory/, para. 13, accessed 6/21/21.
[20] Corinne Murdock, Dr. Carol Swain and Dr. Ben Carson Discuss the Origins, Impact, and Response to Critical Race Theory, Be The People News, June 11, 2021, https://bethepeoplenews.com/dr-carol-swain-and-dr-ben-carson-discuss-the-origins-impact-and-response-to-critical-race-theory/, para. 22, accessed 6/21/21.
[21] Leroy D. Clark A Critique of Professor Derrick A. Bell’s Thesis of the Permanence of Racism and His Strategy of Confrontation, 73 Denv. U. L. Rev. 23 (1995). “A Critique of Professor Derrick A. Bell’s Thesis of the Permanence of ” by Leroy D. Clark (du.edu) accessed 7/3/21.