Race exists ... and not everyone has the privilege of pretending it doesn't.
“I don’t see people's skin color, you know? I’m color-blind!” your friend or relative says with gloating pride.
If you’re like me, you might be forcing your eyeballs not to roll. If you’re not like me, you likely think that I “just don’t get it” or that I am closed-minded, or something else along those lines.
But trust me, this "color-blind" line might sound good and very forward thinking of you, but it’s not. It actually makes it sound like you’re more closed-minded, or willingly ignorant.
On top of that, if you were to speak to someone who is literally color-blind, I don’t think they’d classify it as something to brag about.
In fact, let’s delve into the issues that come with being color-blind, shall we?
Being color-blind means: your view is more limited, can’t enjoy other colors to their full vibrancy, can’t see a combination of colors clearly and tend to avoid them in those combinations. This also limits your general understanding of the color spectrum.
Here’s a fact of life: race exists.
Whether you see race as a social construct or a reflection of heritage, history or bloodline, it exists, and it affects everyone differently based on their upbringing, company, and general surroundings.
Pretending it doesn’t exist is just running away from the issues that need to be addressed.
Because honestly, unless you are literally color-blind to flesh tones, or fully blind, you can see color. It might not matter or affect you as much as some others, but you see it. And you should! The colors are different and complex and beautiful.
I’m mixed race, and while I might not constantly recognize or point out that my mother is white and my father is black, I am still very aware of it. Not only is it clear visually, but it’s clear in how they react to different situations. It’s also clear in the stories they’ve told me about their lives. My father was born in the 1950s, and my mother was born in the late 1960s.
Let’s do a little role playing.
You hear about a young, unarmed boy being shot while his hands are up.
Tell me, what color DON’T you imagine first?
You find that this has happened to many boys throughout time and notice that there’s an influx of stories lately. Their names were Trayvon Martin (Black Lives Matter), Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner (I can’t breathe), John Crawford III, Michael Brown Jr. (Hands up, don’t shoot), Ezell Ford, Freddie Gray, Dante Parker, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, and that isn’t even half of them.
That. Isn’t. Even. Half. Of. Them.
As a person of color, I HAVE to see color. It would be a privilege to feel as though I could ignore it.
From a young age, I was warned about “the N-word” and that it was something mean that racists (specifically white people) would call black people.
I don’t even remember when or how I learned it, I just know that when I was called that N-word by two angry white boys on a nearly empty playground at the age of 7 or so, I knew what it meant.
I knew why they called me and my young cousin the n-word. And I knew that someone had taught them it too, likely for a different purpose. Compared with what many of my relatives had to grow up with, this was nothing.
Just as women are expected to be taught about protecting ourselves from rape and sexual assault at an early age, people of color are expected to learn about discrimination and race-based violence. Don’t even get me started on the lessons an openly transgender child is expected to learn.
Or are you "gender blind" too?
If we aren’t taught this, our parents will likely be dubbed negligent, and as victims, we will be told “you should have known better.”
You should have known that you looked suspicious as a black kid in a hoodie.
You should have known that you were “asking for it” by being a woman alone on the street at night.
You should have known what the debilitating ignorance of this world could do to you.
And you should have known that they could get away with it.
You don’t have to be color-blind to NOT be a racist.
In fact, to not be racist, you should probably be pretty aware of the issues that the people around you face based on their race, background, sexual orientation, gender and all that diverse stuff. Otherwise, you're just turning a blind eye to avoid seeing how much further we have to go.
Also, don't pretend you don't see my color or race, because I'm PROUD of it.
Looking back, you may have said this without really thinking about it or didn't mean it that way, and you actually had good intentions. That's cool. I do the same thing and make a fool out of myself way more than I want to admit.
Don't feel like crap for not having all of the answers. None of us do.
So let's just move forward — together.