To Be or Not To Be (Color Blind)

Black and White Ballerina Dolls by Pebble

I used to imagine that I was color blind. Not literally, of course. I know a few people who are color blind and it is difficult for me to imagine seeing the world in only a handful of colors. I’m speaking figuratively of the idea that I could or should be “color blind” to racial differences. I thought this was a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, racial color blindness is meant to be a good thing but the more I thought about it, the more derogatory the term sounded to me. Rather than sharing my thoughts on the matter, I decided to listen to some of my black friends, to see how it felt for them when a white person says that they are color blind.

Here is what I heard from them.

“It feels dismissive. You’re blind to my color.”

“Doesn’t make sense – how can you say you don’t see something that is so much a part of who I am. Are you ashamed of my color?”

“Being blind means you don’t SEE me”

“It would be like being gender-blind. I don’t see gender. I treat everyone the same.To some people they would be just fine with that BUT the majority of people would say NO, see ME as a woman. See my unique beauty and strength. See how different I am from men but yet how I can do just as many things and succeed because I am a woman.

“A world devoid of color is what color? White. I am not white, and I am. My color is not invisible.”

It’s like saying ‘I see you, just not that part of you, you know that part that makes us different, that makes me uncomfortable maybe?'”

“White people talk about THEIR color all the time and obsess over it. Who’s pale, whole tan, how long they have to lay out to get darker. Who can’t lay out because they’re just getting red…and yet somehow can tell me, they’re colorblind”.

While we mean to say we don’t judge people based on their skin color, what they hear is that they don’t exist. That we are ashamed of them. That we are afraid of their color. That they are invisible.

When I look at the breadth of color in the world around me, I can’t help but believe that we are meant to notice color and take it in with every breath. Color is not meant to be ignored.

As one of my friends eloquently said, “May we be color-brave, not color-blind”.

Brave enough to see color and not judge.

Brave enough to celebrate differences and not label people.

Brave enough to say, “I see you and you matter to me.”

* For a scholarly discussion on the pros and cons of “color blindness” as it relates to race check out this article in the Atlantic.

 

Loss and Restitution

White demonstrator at a Canton, Ohio Black Lives Matter Protest

White demonstrator at a Canton, Ohio Black Lives Matter Protest

As this new wave of violence sweeps across our nation, I find myself caught somewhere between anger, grief and disbelief. Nearly every day another shooting incident becomes news headlines and I think, “Oh my God, the world has gone mad!”

Walking along the park trail this morning, taking in the lush green of summer and the gentle rippling of the stream, while the smell of a dead animal hung heavy in the air, I thought to myself, “this is life.” Good, bad, beautiful, ugly. Life and death dancing in circles around us, each calling out to us to join in their dance.

I don’t know about you, but I have had enough of this violence and death. I am unashamedly a pacifist because I choose to literally follow Jesus’ words to love our enemies and that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. I struggle to find one incident in either current day events or history, where violence has truly solved anything. I beg you to show me because I’m not seeing it.

My son tells me that World War II began as a result of the shame the Germans endured during World War I. More than 50 million lives were lost that second time around.

Consider the Civil War in our own country. Yes, it ended slavery in our nation . . . sort of . . . yet it did little to change hearts. Today the descendants of slaves still struggle to thrive in a world where they don’t feel wanted or equal. Those who ruled them still exercise their white privilege yet wash their hands of the current mess we are in.

Dignity was stolen from an entire color of people. When I study the words of God, I find that when something is stolen, to make restitution, we are to repay two to seven times the amount that was stolen. After the war, instead of being given equal dignity, blacks still had to ride in the back of the bus, drink from separate fountains, eat in different restaurants, and pretty much live as second-class citizens with limited opportunities. All this, in a land where we claim that all are created equal.

While outwardly those specific circumstances have changed, the dignity of equality still remains a missing ingredient.

In his letter to the next president, Marc H. Morial the CEO of the National Urban League aptly points out that: “Since 2006, the United States has spent nearly $50 billion rebuilding Afghanistan through the Afghanistan Infrastructure Rehabilitation Program. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008, infused the nation’s faltering financial institutions with investments of more than $400 billion. Whether we call it “recovery,” “rehabilitation” or “relief,” it is time for America to demonstrate that very same commitment to our own struggling urban families and communities. The necessity is as powerful and compelling as it was for Europe, Afghanistan or Wall Street.” I wholeheartedly agree with Morial that it is a bit duplicitous of us not to right the wrongs at home before we start “saving” the rest of the world.

About a year ago, I read the book River Rising by Athol Dickson. It drew gut-wrenching sobs out of me as my heart began to really see what had been lost, and is still being lost today.

How can we begin to pay back that minimum of double what was stolen? Can we have the decency to stop being offended when our black brothers and sisters demonstrate to us that there is still a problem?

Paying back double is the least that we as a nation could do, but first we have to acknowledge the depth and breadth of their loss.