Challenge: So You're Colorblind?

One of the many ways people attempt to prove that they are not a racist, is to assert that they are colorblind. "I don't see color" sounds good, but it doesn't make any sense logically. Think about it, to prove that you love disabled people the same way you love able bodied people, you wouldn't say "I don't see impairments!" I get where people are trying to go with the idea, but really, you just muddy the waters. If you are a teacher and a student in your class is blind, are you going to ask them to walk to the board and solve the problem if you don't have any technology to assist the visually impaired in the classroom? Are you going to talk to a deaf person who has no translator or hearing aid, then wait for them to respond, knowing that this particular person can't read your lips? No, that would be stupid. You recognize (and in some cases compensate for) the difference between able bodied people and disabled people, however you do not allow those differences to influence your love for them.

What I'm talking about is equity vs. equality. Equity is about treating people fairly, while equality is about treating people the same way. Each person you come into contact with has a variety of experiences that changes how they view and interact with the world. This isn't limited to race, it encompasses class, nationality, gender, religion, sexuality, etc. All of these factors make up who this person is. Buzzword: intersectionality! By pretending one of these things doesn't exist, you're not only insinuating that if you saw color you couldn't treat the person as an equal, but you discount a dimension of the persons identity.

Yesterday, I kicked off Black History Month by sharing a video of Ronald Martin covering the revelation that Emmett Till's accuser lied about his actions toward her. If you aren't familiar with the Emmett Till story, please read about the tragedy here. This young boy was brutally attacked and lynched in the mid-1950s, his killers were set free, and this was a "normal" thing for the South. Growing up in the South, with parents, aunts, and uncles who survived the Jim Crow era and were children themselves at the time of Emmett Till's murder, I have always been aware of this history. Thus, when I was introduced to the musical Grease, no matter how much I may love the songs or enjoy the movie, I have zero desire to live in the 50s. My white friends, however, fell so in love with the movie that they daydreamed about living in the 50s. None of them took the time to process the fact that there are no black characters in the original movie because all of the characters probably hated black people and lived in an era where it would have been illegal for them to go to school together. This same romanticization occurred with the pre-civil war era. Once on a field trip I had to listen to my classmates go on and on about how "great" it would have been to live back then, with parties and gowns—back when the South was flourishing. Yes...back when the South made it's money off slave labor.

Pretending you don't see the fact that I'm black is actually a way of mentally negating that blacks have had different experiences in this country. It actually allows you to live in a whitewashed society and not even realize it, because "you don't see color." So my challenge to you today is to take off the colorblind shades and really look at the people around you. See them for who they are, including what color they are. See how that color effects their day-to-day life and most importantly, appreciate that color.
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