At the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (a school/clinic for handling brain-injuries) they have a phrase: “ugly eyes”. Many of their kids are savants (what used to be called “idiot savants”) but because they have other problems, some people refuse to see their brilliance. They see only the injury and impose their ideas about what that means over the person. The opposite of rose-colored glasses, if you like.
It should be evident that this phrase could apply to racists. They don’t see the person, or even if they do, what they see is occluded by what they believe. What should probably be just as obvious is that it applies to those who adopt a “politically correct” mindset.
There’s a minor kerfuffle in the feminist blogosphere that Althouse has commented on. The money quote is “It’s not that I didn’t see it. It’s that I didn’t see it.” This could be rephrased as, “I only saw what was there, not the pre-formed political paradigm that I’m required to filter not only my communication but my actual perception with.”
I was working with a friend of mine whose skin melanin content is higher than the local average, and he had hired his buddy’s girlfriend to work with us. She would say things about my friend (to his face) about “being one of the good ones” and other phrases which are commonly associated today with racists (or at least racist caricatures).
We laughed, because these are the kinds of things we would say to each other in ironic jesting, but something about the way she said them struck us both as odd. Ultimately it came out that she was dead serious. (The extra added bonus weirdness that she was, herself, a person of color–she just didn’t see herself that way.)
My friend is the sort of person who doesn’t have ugly eyes. Now, one is always served better by seeing what is actually there, as this woman did cause trouble for him. But he’s still light years better off than those who see racism everywhere.
It’s worth observing at this point that we are all beneficiaries of those who suffered and laid down their lives so that we could, today, have the luxury of seeing each other as individuals and not just representatives of some group. But it seems to me that those who do frame everything in the context of identity groups are spitting in these brave peoples’ faces. They’re saying what was fought for can never truly be achieved.
And that’s ugly.