‘If I say I don’t see skin colour, am I racist?’ asks B.C. government agency
March 15, 2021
As confusion and feelings grow strong about new concepts in anti-racism, B.C.’s Human Rights Commission starts a provocative billboard campaign.
“Would you ask Doris Day that question?”
That’s how famed jazz singer Billie Holiday responds during a 1957 interview to a journalist who asks, “What it’s like to be a coloured woman?” The scene is in the new movie, The United States vs. Billie Holiday.
The acclaimed singer’s answer reflected the anti-racism approach of that era, which had civil rights leaders urging Americans to see beyond the skin colour of Blacks and other minorities — to treat them equally, like everyone else.
It was a “colour-blind” approach to race, similar to that of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968. As King said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
While both Holiday and King at times advocated affirmative action, their words have been seen as pointing to a kind of philosophical universalism, which asserts that all citizens have equal rights as individuals. U.S. president Barack Obama also reportedly mused about creating a “post-racial” society.