You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Can we truly be colorblind? "Skin" and "Bilal's Stand" coming to the Michigan Theater

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

At Gwen Ifill’s keynote speech at the University of Michigan MLK Day Symposium, she talked about people who insist that they are colorblind and claim to see people as they really are and not even notice the color of anyone’s skin.

If there is only one African American in the room, she joked, people will say anything to avoid mentioning his race, like the tall man in the blue suit and tie, to which she responds, “Oh, you mean the black guy?” “Oh, is he black? I didn’t notice.”

She also said people have asked her if they can just talk about President Obama and simply not mention that he is African American.

I have also wrestled with how to react to such claims and loved her zinger of a response, that people would not even ask this question or make this claim unless they (or society) thought there was something problematic about the color of people’s skin.

Two intriguing movies at the Michigan Theater this week:



"Skin," about a dark-skinned woman born to white parents in apartheid South Africa, described by Roger Ebert as “a happy girl who grows into an outsider.” Although set in a very different context than ours, I think this movie may provide insights into the experience of growing up as a person of color without any awareness of that color in a white-dominant society. "Skin" opens at the Michigan on Friday.


"Bilal's Stand"

Also, an Official Selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, "Bilal’s Stand," a little closer to home, about a black Muslim teen from Detroit who works at his family’s taxi stand, but also dreams of social mobility through attending the University of Michigan. "Bilal's Stand" plays at the Michigan Theater on Sunday.

Check out the schedule and reviews at the Michigan Theater web site.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at