Thursday, June 22, 2017

Musing on "Colorblind"

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No, I don't mean the ocular condition. I'm talking about the refusal to acknowledge that race exists and acting like that's a good thing. Saying, "I don't see color."

It's racist.

Ouch, right? You're not a bad person, so you can't be racist, right? Uh, sorry, no. You can totally do amazing things that make everyone think you're above reproach and believe in your heart that you would never do anything racist and still do racist shit. And if you teach your kids to be "colorblind," well, then, you're teaching them to be racist.

Why? Well, because you're saying that you have to ignore someone's skin color to see them as a good person. Oh yes, you are. Hey, I remember reacting to being told this wish shock and denial. That's okay. It's probably new information, and that registers as 'wrong' in our brains. Our generation was raised being told that we shouldn't judge people by the color of our skin, and we internalized that to mean that we shouldn't see the color of their skin.

But that's wrong. There is nothing wrong with their skin, but it means that they have lived a very different life, had a different experience from you, and they don't get to pretend that racism is a thing of the past or something that happens far away. Saying you don't see color is privilege. POC don't get to do that. Only white people get to do that.

"I don't see color."

That's a lie. A comforting lie we tell ourselves to excuse reactions we don't understand why we have because we don't want to be racist. Because we want to believe that all that shit sorted itself out already, and there's nothing but isolated incidences of racism by some far off boogeymen who don white sheets or swastika tattoos. Because we don't see that it's happening all around us... until we do. And then it's like waking up in someone else's nightmare and realizing that you were a part of it.

"I don't see color."

 ' day at my son Beck's preschool, I was talking to another mother about being black and raising a mixed son. She turned to me and said, "We don't even see Beck's color! He's just Chance's friend!"
It felt like someone had kicked me in my stomach. When someone says they don't see color, they're simply stating that they refuse to acknowledge someone else's ethnicity, thus erasing their background and culture. I couldn't respond to what she said. She stood there smiling at me, as if I should be thanking her for saying that, when all I wanted to do was shake her and say, "How do you not see that he's black? It's OK to see that!"'
That's what comes from you pretending you don't see color. You see it. You're refusing to acknowledge that it means anything. It does. If I was to call you a racist, how fast would you hide behind the color of your friend's skin? Boom. You see it. Your kids see it. What they don't see is anyone talking about it, and what topics don't we talk about? Bad ones. So they aren't seeing 'dividing people by race is bad.' They are seeing, 'acknowledging that racial disparity exists is bad.' Just like you are proclaiming when you claim not to see color.

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"I can't talk to my kids about that! They're too young/aren't ready!"

Black kids don't get sheltered from talking about race. Why should our children be? You know what that raises? Racists. Maybe social racists, but if you say that you don't see color, that IS racism. Don't like that? Too bad. I've been guilty of that, too, and I'm not going to do it any more. I certainly don't teach that crap to my kids. We've discussed color and race and slavery and discrimination and racism.

It didn't traumatize them. They listened. They didn't argue, even though they've never seen it in person. They listened. They didn't say they hadn't done it, so they were okay. They said it was never okay, and that we shouldn't let people do that.

And we keep talking about race. It's not a one and done conversation.

If we really want to end hate and bigotry, we have to disabuse ourselves of this idea that equality means sameness. Parents of white children, do not teach your kids to "not see color/race." Do not teach them that we're only equal if we're the same. It's a lie.

We need to teach our children to see. To see each other. To see ourselves. To see privilege. To see injustice... and fight to end it, even when it's uncomfortable, even when it's hard. Even when it comes from ourselves.

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