Chip Gaines used to be proud to raise his kids as ‘colorblind’ but he’s changing

Chip Gaines and wife Joanna Gaines

Has anyone been watching this web show, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man? It’s on YouTube, and the dude is Emmanuel Acho. Acho is inviting celebrities (mostly white celebrities) to come on and spend 10-20 minutes having uncomfortable conversations about race in America. His first celebrity guest was Matthew McConaughey. His second “interview” involved the Gaines family – Chip and Joanna Gaines, the former stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, and their five kids. Chip and Joanna talked about how the conversations about race they have with their kids. Did you know Joanna is half Korean? I always assumed she was mixed race while I watched Fixer Upper, and then we finally saw her mom in one episode. Her mom is Korean, her dad is white. So the Gaines kids are one-quarter Korean (but white-presenting). That being said, they live in the buckle of the Texas Bible belt and they’re surrounded by evangelical white people as far as the eye can see. So of course they’ve gotten race conversations wrong for a while:

Chip and Joanna Gaines are changing the way they’re raising their kids after witnessing the Black Lives Matter movement. The Fixer Upper stars revealed to Uncomfortable Conversations host Emmanuel Acho that up until recently, they were raising their kids to not see “color” when they look at the people around them. However, Jo questioned, “Chip and I were talking and this whole idea of this color blind thing came up and Chip said, ‘You know I’m proud I think our kids are colorblind.’ And then we started kind of pushing back on that and I think our question to you is … What’s the best way to move forward with this conversation?”

Emmanuel said he believes it’s “best” to raise children to see “color.” He explained that he thinks “if we don’t expose our children to different colors; to different races,” then as that person grows up they “won’t be able to decipher the difference between a Black man that’s a threat and a Black man that’s just Black.” Acho added, “I think there’s a strength, there’s a beauty in seeing color. I don’t like the concept of color blindness because colors and cultures are beautiful.”

However, Chip asked how people can “solve” the problem of racism, especially since he believes most individuals wouldn’t admit to having racist tendencies. For Emmanuel, he said that some of these people “can’t understand” what it’s like to be Black in the United States. He explained that people don’t know what it’s like to be Black and see statues “of men who would have oppressed enslaved and potentially executed me” or to attend a school named after a Confederate war general.

“I think that in America we have to do a better job of properly discussing and placing our heroes,” the former athlete suggested.

Chip then shared that he resonates with this idea of being unable to see the “full picture” of what it’s like to be Black. He said, “I think I’ve been blind to this reality for maybe my whole life.”

[From E! News]

I mean, on one side, it’s kind of nice to see a “bro” like Chip Gaines trying to look inward and really examine his privilege and try to imagine what life is actually like for black Americans. On the other side… man, he and Joanna were really trying to raise their kids “colorblind” in the year 2020? There’s been so much discussion about “colorblind” politics or the colorblind conversation. We got away with saying that kind of sh-t in the 1990s. But to still say “I don’t see race!” at this point is just a privileged, tone-deaf way to shut down legitimate conversations about race and racism. And credit to Chip and Joanna for, I guess, being open to changing? Being open to have those uncomfortable conversations.

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Photos courtesy of WENN, Avalon Red.

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42 Responses to “Chip Gaines used to be proud to raise his kids as ‘colorblind’ but he’s changing”

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  1. Kate says:

    I don’t really understand what being “colorblind” means in this context. It can’t mean that you don’t recognize when someone in front of you is black or asian or hispanic, right?

    • Becks1 says:

      It means that you think you are superior because you don’t see color and therefore don’t treat people differently. so because you are colorblind you don’t treat your black neighbor different from your white.

      It ignores systemic racism and unconscious bias.

    • Kriseth says:

      I would say that colorblind upbringings lead to those microaggressions that minorities hate.

      For instance, we “don’t see color,” so we will accept minorities who dress, speak, eat, dance, etc. like us, but the moment minorities start speaking about their particular issues, don’t straighten their hair, dance a certain way, eat a certain way, etc. All of a sudden there’s a sort of morbid curiosity (“Is that your hair?”) or a denial (“That food stinks!” or “That music isn’t good for the youths.”)

      You have to see people for everything they are, not just for how they are like you.

    • Kate says:

      Ah, so it’s more like “I don’t see color as a problem” not “I don’t see color”. I guess I was raised that way but I honestly never understood that phrase. I posted on another article about being raised with the over-simplistic view that racism meant thinking whites are better than other races and/or hating other races so if you take the “colorblind” approach you can pat yourself on the back that you’re not racist and also not have to put any further thought into systemic racism and white privilege.

  2. Case says:

    Oh, I know people who consider themselves very liberal and still say “I don’t see color!” I think if people were raised that way and never reentered the conversation, they don’t see the harm in that way of thinking. From a very basic perspective, it can sound like a good thing, until you realize that completely erases and denies people’s experience being different from your own. So I think it’s cool that he’s embracing a new way of thinking. It’s hard for people to let go of something they believed to be “good.”

    • Wamama says:

      Yes, I think this is exactly it. I’m an Xennial (born in 84) and very much think our generation in particular was raised with the “color-blind” perspective. I think the best way I’ve come to understand it is as our parents’ and teachers’ wild overcorrection of the racism they grew up amongst. They thought, okay, we grew up in the thick of desegregation so let’s teach our children to just not see color at all! There, that’ll fix it.
      Now, we have a better understanding of how disrespectful it is and the erasure it promotes.
      We’ve just got to hope that each generation improves on its predecessor.

      • Anners says:

        I love the idea of each generation improving on the one that went before – instead of complaining about “kids these days”, we can focus on the good they’re doing. I have so much hope for the world with Generation Z – those kids are so amazingly compassionate and open minded and genuinely act to make change. I really hope that this is the final conversation about black lives matter and that we finally see some concrete changes being made.

      • KK2 says:

        Yep! Same age here, received same messaging about race growing up. I don’t even remember it being called “colorblindness” exactly when I was growing up, but people would say “you treat everyone the same” or “color doesn’t matter” and things like that, it was seen as a progressive view. But people with this view would often oppose affirmative action, for instance, because everyone should be treated the same. Let’s just take race out of it! It can seem fine in an idealistic kind way if you have lived a relatively sheltered life in an area that is mostly homogenous. But, for me, once you get out there and live a little and learn and meet people with an open mind, the flaws with this view become apparent. It’s a very head in the sand way of looking at things that never requires you to do any self-reflection or consider uncomfortable truths re systemic racism or really face reality in any way. But it is common in people their age so it doesn’t surprise me and good on them for trying to create a model for having these conversations with their kids. It’s more effort than just posting some BLM support on your instagram.

      • Marigold says:

        Definitely this. I was born in 74, and I was raised to be “colorblind.” I was blessed and fortunate to have a more-diverse-than-usual student body at my school despite being raised in a very rural and very white part of the South. Our little town school was an odd oasis of cultural mixing. Colorblindness is what everyone in the popular culture was promoting and encouraging during my childhood, and it was well-intentioned albeit seriously flawed.

        I remember being in junior high and questioning colorblindness. I asked one of my friends (a young lady of color) if I was supposed to pretend I didn’t notice that our families were different and looked different or if it was just about knowing that we were all equally valuable. She said, “Well, I’m not going to pretend that I don’t notice that you’re white and your family eats white people food (a compliment because she liked the frozen yeast rolls my mom bought and macaroni and cheese from a box…which she only got to eat at our house during sleepovers).

        I think that we, as 7th or 8th graders, kinda nailed it. Pretending we’re not different devalues and underestimates and suppresses the things that make us unique. One shouldn’t have to pretend we’re all the same because we aren’t. Naturally, there are more important differences than food and skin color, but colorblindness encouraged us to all walk around pretending, and it further silenced people of color instead of bringing about the equanimity it was meant to engender. We’re perfectly capable of respecting and loving and valuing one another without pretending we’re all exactly alike or that our experiences in the world and of the systems in our societies is all the same.

        Colorblindness was a well-intentioned idea that just wasn’t thought through, and it has since been used to perpetuate a lot of blindness to privilege and–more importantly–a blindness to the fact that not everyone has access to the same privileges that majority groups take for granted.

  3. Rapunzel says:

    Speaking as a white person about Chip and Joanna’s age, I know most white people my age were tacitly raised to believe that acknowledging you saw color was racist. That if you admitted you saw a difference, you were discriminating, and that was wrong. So I’m not at all surprised the Gaines’ are having to rethink and relearn. They aren’t the only ones.

    • Kriseth says:

      I think most of us were raised this way, and I’m saying this as a black woman. This is what I was taught in school. My parents were able to break through that brainwashing, but most white families don’t have a need to do this.

      If the colorblind thing worked, there would be no issues. But it doesn’t.

    • Jensies says:

      This was how I was raised too (I’m 40). It was definitely considered progressive at the time. It’s good that it’s changing but I get why vestiges are sticking around and need explaining.

  4. Tiffany says:

    The more and more they are exposed and speak, the more and more I am justified in never warming to either of them.

    This does not change that.

    • Pommom says:

      I seriously do not care for these one trick ponies. Who in charge of networks had the poor judgment to give C & J control over programming on the DIY (do it yourself) channel? I hope they don’t ruin the channel.

      And remember they are or were members of some homophobic fundamentalist type church. Ugh. Shudders at the bad memories of growing up around that scene.

  5. Scollins says:

    Ugh these two again.

  6. Erinn says:

    So question time. As one of those darn millennial’s my question is – was the push for color blindness a gen x thing? In my experience, the people that I’ve seen who default to that seem to be in the Gen X range. I have a coworker who I adore, who’s about 13 years older than I am, and she was telling me a couple years back that that was the approach she took.

    Now I KNOW that’s not the appropriate approach, and I know that this particular coworker HAS spoken out whenever they see some kind of injustice happening, so I know she’s not intentionally being problematic, and it could just be down to the way her family raised them, and we live in small, rural community which probably doesn’t help a ton either. But it always seems to be something popping up in the generation before mine, at least in my experience.

    My expectations of the Gaines’ family are never that high, and I guess I didn’t really expect him to have that kind of self reflection happening. I’m glad he did though – I’m sure there are a lot of people who thought they were doing the right thing when focusing on colorblindness, but for someone who’s quite religious in the southern US, I find myself pleasantly surprised that he’s taking a moment to speak about this.

    • Wamama says:

      I responded above but I’m an Xennial and think it is very much an overcorrective push from Boomers to Gen X. I think they genuinely saw it as the “opposite” of racism. I think it’s one of those “now that we know better, we’ve got to do better” situatIons.

    • Anners says:

      I feel like Free Your Mind by En Vogue kind of sums it up – “be colourblind, don’t be so shallow”. I was born at the tag end of Gen X and I remember the push to ignore colour – that equality=treating everyone the exact same and ignoring the differences. Obviously this strategy did not work. At all.

    • lucy2 says:

      That’s been my experience too growing up as a Gen Xer – everyone is equal, everyone is the same, don’t treat people differently – which as others have said, completely ignores the systemic racism, white privilege, and a LOT of history. Unlearning that is definitely a process.

    • schmootc says:

      Another Gen X-er here, who grew up in a small rural community and yes, it’s definitely an 80s/90s thing that was well-intentioned, but missed the mark. “But, you’re not supposed to notice that someone is different,” is what we were all taught to think and have to confront and get over.

    • Erinn says:

      Thanks for the answers, guys. I assumed it had to be some kind of attempt at correction, just unfortunately not an effective one. I’m sure it would be difficult to kind of break out of that habit once it’s been taught.

    • Marigold says:

      Yes. I was born smack in the middle of Gen X, and it was very much what our specific generation was taught. People between 40 and 55 today were absolutely raised to believe that to notice or acknowledge color was racist. Our parents lived through desegregation and it was ugly–UGLY behavior that the 60’s tried to eradicate. They just went in the wrong direction by teaching us–their kids–that we shouldn’t notice or acknowledge it at all.

      The Gen Y/Xennials got it to a lesser degree and then Millennials and GenZ are progressing out of it, which is a good thing.

      It was, indeed, fairly isolated to Gen X.

  7. Aims says:

    When my daughter was little she wanted a Barbie for Christmas. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea, as I’m sure you can understand. So I decided that this was going to be a learning moment for her. I bought her a black Barbie, because I wanted her to see that beauty came in all colors. Yes she’s black and yes she’s as beautiful as the other Barbies. I didn’t raise my kids to not be colorblind, raised them to see that although we may have different shades and body types, nobody is better then the next person. There is beauty and value in every single person.

  8. Scarlett says:

    Color aware, not blind, once again for the people in the back…Color AWARE, not BLIND!!

  9. ChillyWilly says:

    In my experience, the only people who say “I don’t see color.” are racists trying to defend themselves just after saying or doing something racist.

  10. Grant says:

    I know so many (white) people who sport their “colorblindness” as a badge of honor. So stupid, so ignorant, and spoken purely from a place of privilege.

  11. Annabel says:

    I’m Xennial, and white, and I was raised with the idea that we weren’t supposed to see color. The inadequacy of this approach has become obvious in raising my own child. A major problem with “I don’t see color” is that it kind of short-circuits conversations about race, because if you can’t see it, you can’t talk about it. I think parents of white children need to make sure their kids understand what racism is.

  12. Liz version 700 says:

    I hope this makes sense, but having grown up around a whole southern town full of Chips I think being colorblind was reflective of Chip never needing to see color. Chip is a white male who thought being color blind was the same as not being prejudiced and his life never entered a phase where he needed to examine his beliefs. I will say, his comments and decision to re-examine his beliefs to teach his children to have a more in depth view of culture and racism are heartening. If we want to see changes it won’t start with convincing the Dumdums using the confederate flag as a bedspread and their sheets as clothing. They are gonna be the last dominoes to fall on the fighting racism fronts. We need people like Chip, who have a voice that lots of people who never think about prejudice listen too, starting conversations that other blissfully unaware but not malicious people will learn from. Hopefully they will then act and vote for a more equable system and join the voices demanding fairness and for God’s sake no more random casual murders of black people like they don’t even matter.

    I think that is what feels different in this moment with the BLM movement now. Polls are showing cultural swings in a huge direction for positive change. 80% of people in one poll wanted police reform. Huge majorities of people are now saying racism needs to be addressed in a thorough and purposeful way. It is like we were chipping away at an ice mountain with a butter knife and suddenly the ice cracked and movement is happening. The video. Of George Floyd’s murder was so horrifying and so damn in your face racist that the Chips of the world were forced to snap out of their White male “I don’t see color” happy place. I agree that it is hard to believe anyone could be that insulated in this day and age, but I hope he is genuine about doing more to help effect change. I hope a lot of people are serious about doing the real work now. It is so so very overdue.

    • ListenNLearn says:

      Thank you for that well-written perspective. I agree that the ignorant falsehood statement ‘I don’t see color’ is part of the issue. Whites, myself included, need to listen, shut our mouths and hasten our responses. We can never know what it feels like to be in a black persons shoes. Conversations like the ones the Gaines’ were a part of and hopefully will continually be a part of, make me hopeful for the enlightenment and self-reflection we need in days and years to come.

    • lucy2 says:

      Well said Liz. I feel the same way. I roll my eyes when I see these two everywhere (too much!) but knowing their audience, them doing this show, talking about hard issues, and showing some growth is probably fairly productive.

      • Liz version 700 says:

        They really are everywhere. Just so over exposed. But hopefully that helps this conversation in the end.

  13. Jaxonmeh says:

    White Gen X on the cusp of being Millennial here. My parents had extremely problematic views on race while I was growing up and made it clear as a teen I should never date Black people. I wasn’t even dating when this came up, much less allowed to really have a social life with friends for context when this conversation was sprung on me due to my stepdads siblings relationships outside of their race (Both which have lasted).

    Something something about how biracial children have it so hard so I shouldn’t do that to a child (My uncle and aunt have a teen now). Based on this conversation, I went to my senior prom alone rather then ask a friend who was biracial to go with me so I wouldn’t have problems with my parents.

    They still have issues as well. They don’t see it and they would say they’re color blind but break it down by financial means when they talk about “welfare queens” and their confirmation bias they have seen or heard in our area. It’s disgusting. But it’s difficult talking with them about anything since we have a strained relationship after a period of time with no contact.

    Ive never gotten married or had children, but I’m sure I would have course corrected with that same message. It’s horrific knowing your parents are racists. It’s horrific when you realize you have unexamined biases that make other people’s lives harder. It’s why we put our heads in the sand regarding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” type of policies. It was initially looked at as a compromise to the old guard and not what it turned into. Unintended consequences are sometimes hard to navigate. You don’t know what you don’t know sometimes. Which sucks for everyone, sometimes for others more then yourself. But you do better when you find out. Or that’s the idea anyways.

  14. Dentav says:

    My comment wasn’t published?

  15. Veronica S. says:

    Honestly? I think it was probably a better faith move than not to put their kids on there. It shows some evolution in their thinking, which is really hard to break out of when you come from a sheltered background – which in their case is compounded by their wealth and celebrity. Joanna and Chip have a lot of viewers who come from those white suburban enclaves with strong Christian roots, so having somebody like them on there is a big deal. It forces people like them to start examining themselves when their popular idols start questioning their own ideas, so hopefully it’ll reach at least some of them who watched.

  16. Karmak says:

    I’m a Xgener, woman of color born and raised in the South. My parents grow up in the Jim Crow era. They worked hard to get all their kids a higher education. I had a different experiences than some of my black friends who went HBU. I went to school with a lot of people like Chip and Joanna Gaines. Evangelical Christians, who say they don’t see color. ( For the record….I don’t know what political party the Gaines belong to ….if any). Most are Republican and will vote that way no matter what racists things are said by the candidate they are voting for. They make excuses for the way they vote. So, I’m going to give Chip some credit for realizing that “I don’t see color” quote does not really exempt people from being racist. If you are turning a blind eye to racist behavior and comments you really need to question if you are part of the problem. I agree with the host. It is about seeing someone’s culture and color. My parents taught me to see color because of how they grow up, they had no choice. My mother’s saying is (treat people how you want to be treated). I also agree with the host about having your guard up when meeting non people of color. He explained it perfectly.

  17. sassafras says:

    Chip and Joanna’s willingness to go on this man’s YouTube channel will mean his message gets out to millions of their (white/ privileged) followers. I’m not going to criticize or second guess what they’ve said/ done before. It’s a huge step and taking the message to the people who need it the most.

  18. Amelie says:

    Well I guess it’s good for Chip to realize the whole “raising your children to be colorblind” is problematic. But I’m surprised given is wife is half-Asian and that his kids’ grandmother is Korean that he seems to be so clueless still. Joanna has spoken about how she was bullied at school for being Asian and how she encourages her children to befriend the kids who seem alone or not to have many friends at school. I guess his kids are white passing so maybe he never thought about the systemic racism in this country?

  19. Waco says:

    I grew up in Waco and now live in the next town. Chip and Joanna are phonies. They belong to a church that hates the LGBTQ community. They send their kids to a private school (Live Oak Classical) that was in the news when the only African American girl in the class had a rope wrapped around her neck and was dragged on the ground during a field trip. (Google it!) Everyone in the area has had our taxes increase dramatically because of their show. When the city increased THEIR taxes, they had their lawyers fight it and got them reduced. They claim they ended their show to spend time with family, when in reality they just wanted more money. Not against them making money, but against the lying and hypocrisy. Ready for these two to go away. Shiplap, big clock, done!

  20. Darby says:

    White Canadian here. I had been raising my kids to be “colourblind”. We didn’t talk about colour, we talked about culture. They have friends of all colours and cultures and it’s never been an issue. We’ve celebrated Dawahli, my son fasted one day for Ramadan to understand what his Muslim grade 3 teacher was going through. Until this last month, my kids had no idea that some people thought people with different skin colour were treated badly just because of their skin colour. I’ve been learning so much these last few days weeks and have been having lots of conversations with my kids. We are all learning.

  21. Notafan says:

    For evangelical Texas where they are, saying “colorblind” is probably well ahead of their community. And the fact that these favorites for a large portion of America that is very white and religiously Christianity are now saying they are open to the idea that “I don’t see color” is wrong, I think it’s a big deal. Since they are so palatable to a large swathe of very conservatives, maybe it will get those people to open their eyes more than when people of color are speaking. Every little bit helps and I think if they help convince other people I’m happy with it.

  22. Mexicalidesi says:

    I think colorblindness is by and large a concept that only white people used. As an American of Indian descent I was/am always aware of my color in dealing with people, especially initially. And I have had great privilege in my life with respect to educational and work settings. I imagine the further down you go on the socioeconomic ladder, the worse it is.

  23. AL says:

    Yes.. I’ve still gotten comments in recent years where people say I’m so “American” to them. I am 100% Asian, but yes also 100% born and raised solely in America. To say they don’t see me as Asian just invalidates all of my lived experiences being Asian though. I can’t/wouldn’t change that I look obviously Asian – which means I can’t change how people have made snap judgements about me based on how I look. I also can’t (and wouldn’t) change the many cultural experiences I’ve had growing up in a very traditional Asian family/household. I would change some of the bullshit experiences I had growing up as one of few Asian kids in a very white, small town… but that’s part of it too. All the experiences, traditions, food, the language I’ve been exposed to… it makes up who I am. For someone to say they don’t see that part of me, when it has affected my whole life in big and small ways, is at the very least, a microaggression. Mostly it’s just exhausting at this point. See me. See my color.

    Of course it is commendable to want to treat everyone the same (that is – with respect and kindness). But that doesn’t erase how people already have not been treated the same throughout their lives.