How to Respond to ‘I Don’t See Color in the Workplace’

Damion Jones, Inclusion & Diversity Lead at Monsanto, gives advice on how to respond when someone tells you “I don’t see color in the workplace.”

Produced by Alana Winns
Videography by Christian Carew

Damion Jones, Inclusion & Diversity Lead at Monsanto (No. 39 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list), offers advice.

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  • I loved that he almost always assumes good intent in what was said/meant. That in and of itself opens the door for the needed dialog. Is it an African American’s job to educate the good intentions of a white person? No, not at all; but by assuming the white person had good intent, it is a good teaching moment. Besides the fact that the now corrected/educated white person will probably not say/do things like that again, they are now in a much better position to advise/correct another white person and another and another.

  • If someone needs to reference color, sex, religion, age-in my opinion they may need to rethink their values. I hope we can live in a world where equality and inclusion is a such a naturally occurring way of life that we don’t even need those words, or the thought process that goes with them. It just is.
    If someone says “I don’t see color….”. It could just as easily be “I don’t see your gender, I don’t see that you’re an old person, …that you have brown eyes” etc. All of those are equally invalid comments in my book, but then the narrator says the coworker doesn’t fully see who he is. I want to be judged on my efforts, the things that I have done, not the bodily shell that holds my organs together. I hope I give that same respect to others. The choice that the narrator wants to be seen as a person of color is a very personal one. I find it divisive. To carry his notion further and for him not to be selfish, he needs to acknowledge the genetics of his coworkers. Equally ridiculous.
    I am always offended by the sorting of people by external characteristics. The bottom line is that on a professional or day to day level, who cares how our genetics make us look. We need to have a world based on merit.
    We must have full equality and I wholeheartedly think that videos like this are slowing the vision. I will keep declining membership in organizations that base membership on race, gender, age, genetics or any other ism. I hope I am joined by everyone in my boycott.
    So, how can I explain it briefly if the subject comes up but to say I don’t see (meaning care about) your color, age, gender unless I’m planning to date you. The subject shouldn’t come up or even exist otherwise. I hope it won’t as we move forward as a cohesive group of beings.

    • Shouldn’t come up, but especially for women and non white people it always does, by every possible economic or representation measurement.

      If you’re white, you need to give that some thought if you care about working with others. It’s an intellectually dishonest concept.

    • And an emotionally dishonest and dismissive one.

      Very telling that you said you do care about those things if you’re dating the person. It shows that they do have significance and should not be ignored just because that is more comfortable. Just because we are looking at the world the way it actually operates, instead of how it “should” operate, does not mean we are not working towards doing better. We need to fully acknowledge each other’s humanity, uniqueness, and struggles/advantages within our social system in order to move forward, then think about how we can each take action in our own daily lives to impact small changes.

      Ignoring something that is a clear factor in someone’s identity and how it impacts their lives and helps shape who they are is irresponsible and it shows the unequal cultural capital you have that enables you to do so. That is what’s divisive, and that is what is “holding us back” – the comfort zone and avoidance inherent in that kind of thinking. Perhaps it was once well-meaning and helped things advance; but now we made enough progress that that kind of mental framework is holding us back and potentially is damaging. It’s basically a way to say “I don’t care about you, because I don’t have to –
      just be like everybody else (like me) ” Humankind evolves, and so should our strategies.

  • “When was the last time you had your eyes checked?” Seriously, though, no one ever says, “I don’t see color [or gender, or age, or disability, or sexual orientation, or religion, or gender ID, etc.]…” unless they are speaking to a person of a different color — or other characteristic — which difference they have obviously noticed.

    • Exactly right, grannybunny. Why bring up the issue in the first place except for they DO see color, age, gender, etc. The intent of the “I don’t see color…” statement is supposed to make the one being spoken to think that they’re being seen harmoniously amongst all other people and that is simply not being honest or realistic.

    • Grannybunny- You took the words out of my mouth! Someone needs their vision checked.

  • My color is something that I am proud of. It is one of many descriptions of me. It goes along with my kindness, strength, sensitivity, and passion. why shouldn’t it be one of the positive traits that I have? It is critical in describing who I am. How do you describe a beautiful flower without naming it’s color? I see color and don’t us it as a negative. And I am very proud of my color. As you should be of yours.

  • Thank you Mr. Jones, for the very good advice. It’s easy to forget that most people do have good intent, and do need to hear constructive feedback when they have made a blunder in what they have said.

  • Really good thought piece

    I find the concept of “good intent” an interesting one. So many wrong things are done with good intent. Wondering how this could be addressed.

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