Fun/Entertainment: October 2006 Archives

Devon Carbado at blackprof.com raises some interesting questions about race on the Grey's Anatomy show. [hat tip: Racialicious] I've never watched the show, but these issues come up with quite a number of shows that I have seen. Some people have called the show colorblind because it has non-white characters playing a prominent role without ever making an issue of their race. Many who say this are thinking of colorblindness as a good thing. Racial ways of thinking involve thinking of the less privileged races as lesser or as not part of the mainstream. This kind of colorblindness is often thought of as good. It mainstreams the marginalized. On the other hand, it does mask genuine racial issues when they might be lurking beneath the surface, unnoticed by those who aren't tuned into them, ignored due to no one's willingness to talk about them for fear of being seen as cooperating with the unfortunate implications of a good deal of the negative racialized thinking that colorblindness wants to avoid.

Carbado steps into this with a claim that I think shows some great insight.

I don't think the show is colorblind at all. It is color conscious in a particular way -- namely, it presents non-white actors in roles that do not explicitly invoke race. That is neither colorblind nor race neutral.

It didn't occur to me to call this approach color-conscious at all, but I think this is right. The producers of this show are surely aware of what they are doing. The writers may not be addressing race issues, but what is color-conscious is the placing of non-white actors into these parts, and I suspect they are consciously not referencing the characters' races very much.

It's clear that it's color-conscious in at least that way, then. The question is whether this is a good or bad thing to do. Carbado worries about one aspect of it:

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