Dr. Abhishek Mandal, PhD
CEO, Vision Science Academy, London, U.K.
Vision Science Academy Exclusive
The UK’s Healthcare profession relies significantly on the recruitment of doctors, nurses and support staff belonging to various ethnic backgrounds. Up to 45% of the doctors and nearly 30% of nurses hail from minority groups (NHS Workforce Statistics – September 2021, 2022). Although the terms of “race” and “ethnicity” have been used in the healthcare as a helpful indicator for health and disease, this is not the sole representation of ethnic and racial profiling in the medical profession. Racism is often associated with discrimination against minority sections at the workplace on the basis of negative stereotyping. Experiencing racism in the healthcare has been found to lead to depreciation and disempowerment which can trigger a disruption of the personal and professional growth of an individual (Zou & Dickter, 2013).
To curb racial discrimination in the modern Western society, the phenomenon of racial colour blindness has been proposed. Evasion from colour or race of an individual refers to an utter denial of physically evident differences in terms of racial identity and ethnicity. Taking into account the instance of a colour blind individual who doesn’t appreciate green, blue or red colours; a racially colour blind person is said to be oblivious to the discrimination between the white individuals and ethnic minorities (Apfelbaum et al., 2012). Keeping this perspective in mind, the ideology of colour blindness in fact, constitutes a potential strategy to curb racial prejudice and spread normalize diversity in the community. The colour-blind approach allows an individual to overlook the racial characteristics and treat all individuals as equal. Such a strategy prompts individuals and institutions to act or make decisions without any racial prejudice or bias. Nonetheless, the implementation of racial colour blindness has not been substantiated through evidence-based research (Neville et al., 2013).
Interestingly, studies have indicated that lack of racial identification results in a loss of appreciation of the specific cultural and ethnic values of a minority sect. Racially colour-blind individuals are likely to become less sensitive to racism and undermine the discriminatory experiences encountered by the minority groups. In one study, college students who were identified as colour blind had a potentially low probability of being instigated by discriminatory behaviours in their vicinity (Tynes & Markoe, 2010). Expert consensus shows that rather than becoming colour-blind, treatment of different races in a manner which boosts their distinctiveness and allows them to express their unique heritage and traditions is substantially more effective (Offermann et al., 2014).
From the perspective of psychological research, the entire concept of colour blindness in racism has potentially backfired. It must be noted that contrary to the popular notion, the term “racial colour blindness” doesn’t necessarily mean that an individual must also turn a blind eye to various incidents encompassing racial or ethnic biases within the workplace or domestic environment. Rather, this conveys an all-important message that workplace decisions should never be driven by racial prejudice and must create equal opportunities and uniform behaviours for all personnel.
Apfelbaum, E. P., Norton, M. I., & Sommers, S. R. (2012). Racial Color Blindness: Emergence, Practice, and Implications. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(3), 205-209. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23213135
Neville, H. A., Awad, G. H., Brooks, J. E., Flores, M. P., & Bluemel, J. (2013). Color-blind racial ideology: theory, training, and measurement implications in psychology. Am Psychol, 68(6), 455-466. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0033282
NHS Workforce Statistics – September 2021. (2022). NHS. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/nhs-workforce-statistics/september-2021
Offermann, L. R., Basford, T. E., Graebner, R., Jaffer, S., De Graaf, S. B., & Kaminsky, S. E. (2014). See no evil: color blindness and perceptions of subtle racial discrimination in the workplace. Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol, 20(4), 499-507. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037237
Tynes, B., & Markoe, S. (2010). The Role of Color-Blind Racial Attitudes in Reactions to Racial Discrimination on Social Network Sites. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 3, 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018683
Zou, L. X., & Dickter, C. L. (2013). Perceptions of racial confrontation: the role of color blindness and comment ambiguity. Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol, 19(1), 92-96. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031115