Friday, February 1, 2019

Lay Down the Blindness

On the eve of Black History Month, a community member wrote this on the County Executive’s Facebook page:

Why does everything have to be about race??  Why can’t we just love one another and stop seeing a skin color.

This concept, that it is the right thing to do to be “colorblind”, is actually not at all about loving one another. It appears to be a high hurdle that some folks just cannot get over. At the risk of preaching to people who are already keenly aware of this, I’m going to say a few words on this today.

Here’s a crazy little intellectual construct. What if people just stopped seeing a white person’s color and treated them as though the default setting were African American? Think of how African Americans are treated in our culture. Try some of that on for size:

Assumed to be less intelligent, uneducated, dangerously angry, untrustworthy in stores, less deserving of respect, looking for a handout, sexually promiscuous, of a criminal nature, lazy, likely to use drugs. (To name a few.)

Our hypothetical white person, the one who “can’t see color”, would likely be horrified to be treated this way. It  would be a shock to their system.

“Why are you treating me this way? Why are you making these assumptions about me? That’s not me! Look at me, I’m not like that!”

“Why can’t we just love one another and stop seeing a skin color?” would be a mighty unhelpful response.

When we say “I don’t see color” we are saying:

I don’t see your struggle.
I don’t see your history.
I don’t see your culture.
I don’t see your suffering.
I don’t see you.

And, deep down, we are also saying, “I don’t see my complicity in perpetuating a system where I don’t have to worry about my color and you do.”

Today is the first day of Black History Month. Today I’m hoping that those of us who need to will become less blind. And those who have so often been unseen will feel more visible.

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