“I don’t see color”
Please, see the intentions of people who say this. Don’t attack them because you saw some post saying that it’s not the “right” thing to say.
You know what they mean.
You know that, if they’re sincere, they mean that a person’s skin color isn’t what they judge. Those good intentions are right.
Let’s start with that recognition.
And then let’s do better.
Let’s clarify the idea, because better communication can help us improve. Don’t make an enemy by being a butthead, especially when they’re trying to be a friend.
You are more than skin color…
That statement is meant to take away the power of racism or signal the speaker’s rejection of it.
We all know that different people have different experiences. Some of those experiences are painful and, when that pain is caused by treatment based on nothing more than the skin you’re in, it can be frustrating and infuriating and confusing. And that’s an important factor in many people’s experiences, which does require acknowledging their race. We all took American History…
U Cool or Nah?
Growing up, I knew that I didn’t look like either side of my family. That’s just an effect of having eyes and knowing colors and knowing what my parents look like.
I didn’t look like Granddaddy or Mimi. I didn’t look like Christy or Kristi, or Sunny or Javon, or Milan or Melissa (because she was adopted!)… But, not looking like each other didn’t stop any of us from loving each other.
I was a mix of things and didn’t really give it a second thought. America is a melting pot. My parents liked each other. They did the things that people who like each other do, and it made ME. It didn’t have to be any more complicated than that.
Because of that, I didn’t walk around actively conscious of what color I was. I still don’t, really.
I didn’t associate the color of my skin or any of my other demographics with my personality. I still don’t, really.
However, we don’t operate in a vacuum.
Other people were glad to point out that I didn’t “belong” in any of their predetermined mental categories…
My hair was too much for my white friends’ moms to braid at sleepovers. I “talked white” according to the black girls at school.
I got asked WHAT ARE YOU? about fifty-‘leven times… in one weekend alone. And, while I knew/know it was because the person liked me and wanted to know more about what made the incredible being before them 😉, I never understood why it was so important to categorize me or to try and make me feel bad for not being what they wanted me to be.
That was exhausting. And it came from “hashtag, both sides”…
Don’t even get me started on the existential crises I experienced having to answer race questions on forms before they had ‘Biracial’ option… but, i will say that I delighted in being able to give a big, mixed middle finger to closed-mindedness by checking ‘Other’ once that became an option… but that’s just my rebellious nature.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
I never had a problem with myself. Didn’t think I should. I knew my intentions. I knew my heart. I liked not fitting the idiotic boxes other people were stuck in, too.
Church had a hand in implanting the notion that we’re all spirits in bodies (even though it was a branch often associated with racism), too. I thought that was such a dreamy and wonderful concept. I identified with my spirit so much more than my physical qualities (age, race, gender—all of it), and was always curious to get to know other’s spirits.
Like, let’s just vibe… meet me on the wavelength…
And that may be a perk of growing up when and where I did, but it highlights how cool it is when people just want to jam. “U cool or nah” in practice.
I had/have friends along every stop on the race and ancestral ethnicity spectrum. My friend groups have always looked like a real-life United Colors of Benetton ad! So, I’d like to think I stayed true to the spiritual connection.
Besides, if I could only hang out with who I was exactly like on the outside, I’d have had… mmm… 3 friends?
Your problem with me is still YOUR problem.
I know I encountered racism and wasn’t aware of it.
I’ve looked back on certain scenes that felt awkward and realized, “Oh sh-t, that lady was racist!” or, “ONG, he was like that because I’m brown!”
But because I was just going about my day, doing me, it didn’t occur to me that I was problematic [to them… bc f-ck ’em if they expect me to feel like a problem].
Things have happened everywhere from the doctor’s office to the gas station in ways that range from being stalked by the stupid shop girl at Charming Charlie to the doctors at BaylorScottWhite’s Dallas ER assuming I was there for drugs when I was both a college professor and asst-coaching my alma mater’s vb team where I’d been blasted in the head by an outside hitter & legit thought I had a concussion.
And it still didn’t occur to me outright that those people were acting that way because I’m brown. In the case of the doctors, I figured they had to be that way because other people DID come in to try and get drugs. Or because teenagers shoplift.
When I’d get the sense of hostility from people, like older women at checkouts who were dismissive or curt, I chalked it up to them having a bad day.
I just thought people had problems. I didn’t take it personally because I wasn’t being a problem and didn’t have a problem. Like, if you have a problem with me… that’s on you. Your problem is not my problem until you make it my problem. Plain and simple.
But I acknowledge now that some people aren’t as lucky and ARE forced to shoulder the burden of someone else’s problems. And that’s a big hurdle we have to overcome.
Content of Character
Hear me now, because this message is coming from someone whose great -grandpa, a man named RC (and that was his name; those weren’t initials), said the N-word like it was just some other noun or adjective. And then he’d pick my little brown body up and show me off and bring me along here and there as his little buddy and play games with me and…
I knew he loved me. Still don’t doubt that. I know we’d have been good pals if he were still around.
Poppy helped me see clearly the importance of making bonds and “seeing” people first—-a lesson that applies across the board.
I believe my Poppy would have listened if I had the opportunity to say, “Uhhh, hey, that word isn’t great…”
He wasn’t an ugly man. He was sweet, witty, funny, friendly, kind… he was just an old, white, farmer from rural Texas. That’s not excusing him; that’s understanding him.
We don’t choose our conditioning, but we can choose to welcome enlightenment.
So, what do we do?
This is from me, a gal who’s half white and half black, to everyone.
White people, don’t assume I’m on the “black side” just because I’ve got more melanin in my skin than you. Black people, don’t think I’m only talking to white people.
To do better, we have to truly do better. That includes having a more sophisticated and nuanced thought process going in.
Y’all know we are cooler than what’s happening. Let’s act like it.
Remember what it was like to be friends in Kindergarten? We can return to that sense of openness and love, even knowing what we know now. How about we do so ESPECIALLY knowing what we know now?
Then, add in some maturity. Because that’ll help navigate if/when friction occurs. Plus, we know that there ARE people out there who ARE looking for color.
We listen to our friends. We help our friends. We care about our friends. We stand up for our friends. So, just be willing to be a real friend to their faces and behind their backs.
Hold friends of your same color accountable. If you’re a real friend, you won’t let people talk down on or foster ideas harmful to your friends. That’ll be the time you prove who you are. And you may be helping out an accidental hater by approaching them kindly to dispel the evil in their hearts. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
And if you don’t find racism or hate or unwarranted disrespect to be repugnant, well, you’re probably not here in the first place, but you are the exact type of person us cool folks will expose simply by our acts. That’s why I’m asking you, friend who’s reading this, to dedicate yourself to your higher self & ask/encourage/expect the same from the people you care about.
You decide how you’re going to approach life. We all do. Are you going to be a prick and create problems, or are you going to represent your better angels?
When we start with a willingness to be a pal, that sets a better tone. It’s better than starting in the negative, if you ask me.