Equality comes in many forms and many waves. Had first world feminists stopped at suffrage rights, we’d be in a much different place (especially since many women in the suffragist movement only worried about upper middle class white women’s right to vote). Black women like Sojourner Truth were finding flaws in feminism during that time (see Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech).
Now, with a third world feminist, which can hopefully be synonymous with intersectional feminism, we’re exploring how gender inequalities relate to other inequalities such as race, sexuality and class. We’re no longer ignoring obvious and extremely significant differences between a straight, cisgender white woman and a trans woman of color. Or, at least, I hope we’re not.
This is where colorblindness comes in. If you’ve ever said, “I don’t see color, black people are the same as white people!” well, no, not really. This is just a classic example of a group with access to more privilege not seeing racism, because they don’t experience racism.
Let me put it this way. I see from my own perspective. I see from a level where I have access to a pretty good amount of privilege. I’m not disabled, I’m in college, I’m white, I’m cisgender (read as, I’m pretty freakin’ privileged in our society). I don’t see certain types of discrimination every single day because I’m not discriminated against every single day–I want to better understand it, but I’ll never understand it the way a person of colors understands it. Hopefully I’m making sense here.
Now, just because we shouldn’t ignore race, gender, sexuality, etc., doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat anyone in a marginalized group as unequal. I’ve found that a common misconception is that marginalized groups want to be treated like the group of privilege. Which is totally untrue.
For me, I’m a woman. I’m not a man. I’m female, I have what our society considers are feminine traits. I also have a lot of masculine traits. Whatever. I want to be treated like an equal–but I don’t want to be treated like a man. Treating me like a man is ignoring a major part of who I am. This is similar to those who tell newly-out gay people that their sexuality doesn’t matter, because they’re no different from a straight person. It ignores their struggles. It ignores the pressures and the daily discrimination from society.
The ultimate goal is equality and acceptance, not colorblindness and ignorance.