On the Impossibility of Learning “Not to See”: Colorblindness, Invisibility, and Anti-Bias Education


  • Mara Sapon-Shevin Syracuse University


Anti-bias education is rooted in the belief that for anyone to challenge or resist oppression, three components are necessary: Individuals must recognize that something unfair, discriminatory, or oppressive is taking place; must be able to name that injustice in some way; and, must have active strategies for addressing that injustice. Several discourses compete with the notion that even young children can be anti-bias activists. One of these is the belief that children are already “colorblind” or should be taught to be “colorblind” in order to evidence lack of prejudice. The other belief is that a “good” inclusive classroom is one in which differences have been rendered “invisible” so that you can’t tell who the children with disabilities are. Both of these arguments make it seem improbable (and perhaps even undesirable) that young children could develop their skills to be good anti-bias activists. The goals of this article are to explore the relationship between discourses of “colorblindness” and “invisibility” and relate these discourses to how young children are taught to respond to differences. 

Author Biography

Mara Sapon-Shevin, Syracuse University

Mara Sapon-Shevin is Professor of Inclusive Education at Syracuse University Faculty member in Disability Studies, Women's Studies and Programs in the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts. Her areas of interest include anti-oppressive education, teacher education, and using the arts to teach for social justice.