Seeing Through Race: Towards Diaphanous Anti-racism

Ryan Nakade
7 min readNov 27, 2020

The issue of race is deeply polarized in America. On one hand lies the camp of “color-blindness” that seeks to move beyond racial categories towards a universal humanity, where people are judged not by the color of their skin but by other factors, such as the content of their character (also known as seeing one as an “individual” and not as a group stereotype). On the other hand lies the “woke” or “race conscious” school that explicitly highlights race, grounded in societal impacts that unevenly influence the lived realities of different groups, leading to various forms of identity politics. Popular advocates of this approach include Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist. Both camps are ultimately limited and present drawbacks.

The criticism of the “color-blind” camp is not its blindness towards physical markers or outward characteristics of race, but rather its underemphasis on the larger systemic and structural factors that produce inequities, injustices, and key differences between racial groups that should be acknowledged and addressed. Nothing exists in a vacuum, and having awareness of larger structural and historical forces and how they impact one’s psychological and material reality can engender deeper understanding, empathy, and skillful means when working with individuals of different backgrounds. And often times, larger societal factors become entangled with and inform one’s personal identity, thus blurring the sharp distinction between individual and collective realities (more on this later).

The problem with the “race conscious” school is its hyper fixation on racial differences, leading to the (often inadvertent) reification of race, or essentializing constructs that are in reality quite fluid, subjective, and amorphous (committing philosopher Alfred North Whiteheads “fallacy of misplaced concretness”). Reifying differences also stokes the fires of racial conflict and division, and can be counter productive to the ends of racial justice by further incarcerating us into the harmful racial categories we are ultimately trying to transcend. Reification also has a dehumanizing influence; stuffing people into abstract labels that occlude one’s unique individuality, while also damaging larger forms of social cohesion and solidarity. Thus, we have a paradox: How do

Ryan Nakade

Depolarization, mediation, dialogue. Integrative solutions to cultural conflict. And diaphanous goat whisperer.