Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Shortfalls of Colorblind Policy

Sometimes I just need to shamelessly share another person's work without adding any value at all. This is one of the those times. Commenting on the shortfalls of "colorblind" public policy in the Affordable Care Act, Ta-Nehisi Coates is marvelously succinct:
This is one reason why color-blind -- "lift all boats" -- policy so often falls short. When you have a country grappling with the deep vestiges of bigoted policy, you do not need "colored only" signs to get "colored mostly" effects.
Yes. A thousand times yes. I heard a conservative on the Diane Rehm show this morning literally refuse to answer a question about how Republican policies help women because he wanted to focus on what helps all Americans rather than dividing us into groups. The problem is that we are, as a factual matter, divided into groups! We do not all have the same interests, and the fact is that group identities such as race and gender provide rough approximation for very real differences in needs and life circumstances.

Refusing to acknowledge that when crafting public policy is not the noble gesture conservatives think it is.  Colorblind policy purports to be for all, but it is actually a front for policies that disproportionally help the white, rich, and male. The main reason people are uncomfortable with being "divided into groups" is because of all that it implies in terms of privilege and redistributive economic policies.

As we saw in the last election campaign, when Mitt Romney ran on a platform obviously tilted to most benefit the wealthy, retirees, whites, and business owners, he and his supporters denied he was doing any such thing. Yet when the Obama campaign did its own outreach to certain groups of voters, it was accused of dividing Americans. Colorblindness is not about trying to unite Americans. It is about denying the divisions that exist so that those on the privileged side of those divisions can go on profiting from them.

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