The KU News Service writes favorably of an article co-authored by Subini Annamma, assistant professor of special education at KU for the journal “Race, Ethnicity and Education.”
Annamma and her co-authors reject the idea first offered by Supreme Court Justice John Harlan in a dissenting opinion in the now notorious 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, the case that institutionalized the phrase “separate but equal.” Wrote Harlan, “Our constitution is colorblind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.”
A brave opinion in its time, Harlan’s dissent gradually grew to become a common understanding among Americans of good will of all parties just about everywhere except perhaps at the University of Kansas. When applied to education, Annamma argues, Harlan’s worldview “suppresses students’ identities, supports racism and leads to unequal education for all students.” She added, “When we say ‘I don’t see color,’ what we’re saying is ‘I see you as white.’ White becomes the default.”
Annamma also believes the phrase “color blind” insults people with disabilities. “It associates blindness with ignorance. It’s an inadequate descriptor and also implies passivity,” said Annamma.
Annamma is currently leading a study on the “intersecting oppressions of disability, race, ethnicity, social class, language, gender, and sexuality in education and society.”