Color consciousness

Color consciousness is a theory stating that equality under the law is not enough; it rejects the concept that there is a fundamental racial difference between people, but holds that physical features, particularly skin color, can and do negatively impact some people's life opportunities.[1] Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun in 1978, stated, "In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently."[2] (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke).

19th Century

David R. Roediger in his book Wages of Whiteness, draws a distinction between black and white wage workers in the 19th century:

As early as 1807, the British investor Charles W. Janson published the indignant replies he had received when he visited an acquaintance in New England and asked the maid who answered the door, 'Is your master home?' Not only did the maid make it clear that she had 'no master' but she insisted, 'I am Mr. ____'s help. I'd have you to know, man, that I am no sarvant; none but negars are sarvants.'[3]

This distinction between free black and white wage workers shows a kind of negative color consciousness, in which the white "help" insists on being recognized as a white person, since she is therefore higher in the social hierarchy, even though she is employed as an unskilled laborer. This contrasts with modern notions of positive color consciousness, through such endeavors as affirmative action, to bolster those that had been handicapped by their race.