Tag Archives: race

The Dangers of Being Colour Blind

20 Sep

Race can be a difficult topic to discuss. (Ha! Did you think this was going to be about your retinas?)

And somewhere along the line some of us were taught that being colour blind was the answer; that not seeing the colour of someone’s skin is a good and respectful thing.

To be more precise, being colour blind means that we don’t see that someone is not white.

Somehow seeing/noticing/saying that someone is Black, brown, a person of colour, African American (or whatever the term is that’s currently in use) has been linked to a negative thing, and the belief that it could make us seem racist. We are simply not supposed to notice when someone isn’t white.


First of all, we do anyway. So being colour blind isn’t really not seeing, it’s not saying you see it. Second of all, if you don’t see my skin colour, who are you seeing?

Our skin colour is part of who we are; an important identity of many identities. All identities impact our experiences and realities. But because of colonization, racism and systemic racism, skin colour is a particularly pivotal factor in how we move through the world, and how we are treated. And unlike some other identities, we cannot hide the colour of our skin.

When we think being colour blind is a good thing, when “colour doesn’t matter to us” what we are often trying to say is that we are not going to treat people as less than, because of their colour.

That should be an expectation regardless.

But you still need to see me. All of me.

What makes colour blindness dangerous and misguided is this:

When we pretend we don’t see skin colour, what happens is that we fail to see that race matters. It matters because the colour of our skin impacts what we experience (and don’t), how we are seen (and not seen), what we have access to, and the barriers we face. In Canada, in North America, in most parts of the world where the culture is white, brown skin puts us at a disadvantage – and the darker you are, the more discrimination you likely face.

In order to see people, connect with people, work with people and serve people well, we need to see all of who they are. And my skin colour is part of that.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion


Visual Inclusion

7 Sep

I’ve just had a baby, and so we have sent and received many cards over the past weeks. We sent “thank you for the shower gift” cards, and have received “congratulations on the birth of your child” cards. Interestingly, none of the cards that include photos or pictures have brown or black babies on them. All of the little feet and the drawn babies are white.


In workshops I often speak about marketing to a diverse population and the difference it makes to see oneself reflected in advertising.  In business, it should be a mirror of what is happening within an organization; the last thing you do instead of the first. The best examples I have seen to date are TDs ads. They have everyone sitting in that green chair – different colours, ages, and couples. And I know they work hard (at least in the LGBTQ community) to give back and make a difference not just in the community but internally for their employees. So their ads are a visual representation of what they believe in. It is part of walking the talk.

But greeting cards aren’t advertising.

If almost 50% of the current Toronto population is visible minority, and if the projected national visible minority/foreign born population by 2031 is 29%-32%, I’m guessing there are a lot of non-white babies being born. And if we are truly interested in being inclusive, someone would create cards with an option of baby feet with various skin tones.

This is not creating an inclusive workplace or ensuring human rights, but it is a symptom of an oversight – of not thinking about what it means to include everyone. And these “small” symptoms are what make advocating for workplace inclusion and human rights a struggle.

I love the cards we have received, and the sentiments inside are what are important to me. But the fact that there is no choice except white babies to send those sentiments irks me. It’s like we don’t exist.  What if we only had cards with brown or black baby feet to choose from?

See more.

Copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker,  and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

How we (still) use race to identify people…

22 Jun

I’ve been thinking a lot about the two recent shootings in Toronto and the role of race in how media gets reported.

Turns out I’m not the only one – earlier this week the morning DJs (Mark and Jem) on G 98.7FM brought it up and a few people called in.  True, the Eaton Centre shooting affected more people than the one on College Street this week, but how race is reported when crimes occur is an interesting topic of conversation from a diversity perspective. Race is a factor – not the only one, but a factor nonetheless in how media is reported. The question is, why? And why is it still happening in Toronto in2012?

Although the print media didn’t reveal the race of the Eaton Centre shooting suspect, the radio news apparently did.  The College Street suspect, on the other hand, was not racially identified.

The Eaton Centre shooting seems to also have been more widely covered by the news. Granted, more people were affected at the Eaton Centre, it’s a mall, and it is a popular tourist destination. But they both happened in public spaces.

If you pay attention to how suspects are identified in the news, you may notice that we are much more likely to hear about their skin colour if the suspect is not white.  It can’t be a numbers thing, since people of colour make up close to half of the city’s population (47% in the 2006 census).  It is therefore not about making it easier to narrow down the search.

So what gives?

Seems like regardless of numbers, people of colour are still the “Other”, and skin colour is still used as a marker of difference – when the person is not white. The result, in the case of crimes, is that “suspect” and “person of colour” are likely more closely linked in our subconscious…and voila, we have further ingrained stereotypes.

And it’s not just the media: skin colour is also a not-so-uncommon descriptor in personal life as well –  but again, usually only if the person isn’t white.  Pay attention for the next little while, and see.

Hmm….maybe we haven’t come as far as we’d like to think.


See more.

copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion


Shades of Grey…

4 Nov

This afternoon on the TTC I happened to be reading the news screen. At one point it featured the profile of a suspect Toronto police are seeking for a shooting. Among his characteristics was his skin colour, which isn’t unusual in and of itself (especially if the suspect isn’t White).

What struck me was the description: he was described as “light-Black”.


As opposed to dark black? Or “just” black? Or what?

Who made up this term? And what makes someone light-Black instead of, say, brown?

Take me, for instance. I’m biracial. I have a black parent and a white parent. Am I light-Black, brown, or dark-White?

And what would decide? My features? My nose? My hair? My lips? My accent? My attitude? Where I was born? What I eat? What music I listen to…?

On a lighter note, my partner’s response made me chuckle. “Light-Black!” she said. “Isn’t that grey?”

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 Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker & facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion


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