LGBTQ Support

I See In Color.

Yesterday was MLK Day and I shared the same thing I shared last year from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

I try not to be the “white moderate” of which he speaks. I try to openly share out my thoughts and the wise words from people within the Black Lives Movement. I try…I try…I try…

But I have the luxury of only doing it when I kinda feel like it. And when I haven’t already posted a bunch of thoughts on Facebook. Or when the words aren’t that antagonistic because I don’t want to upset the people I live next to or work next to or run next to or…

That is the constant reminder of my white privilege. That I can choose when to discuss systemic racism. Because it doesn’t taint my every day existence.

SO! Today I’m going to talk about it. Again. Because the stars aligned and it seems like the right thing to do. Today it won’t shake up the normal routine of my white privilege. I have nothing more pressing to talk about.

I saw a lot of memes and videos yesterday shared out with the same idea: A world where no one sees color. Some memes were using MLK’s quotes to support that idea, that what we need to so NOT SEE COLOR. Some were videos or essays about looking at people and seeing their heart and not the color of their skin. Some are about how we should be raising our kids to do what comes naturally to them: Be all inclusive. People say kids aren’t born racist, they don’t filter out their friends by color, and we should nurture that color blindness.

And in theory I love all of these sentiments.

But I think it paints a fairy tale around a horror story. At some point in time it would be nice if some of us (mainly Black America – I don’t really feel like I can judge this status as a White woman) truly felt like their skin color didn’t matter. But we have to be honest. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. Maybe you truly don’t see color and you’ve never hired of friended or judged anyone based on the color of their skin. Most days I’d like to think that’s me. BUT THAT IS NOT OUR SOCIETY. And by focusing on our own individual color-blindness (which is most often debatable, truthfully) we are ignoring the greater problem in society. We are ignoring that the system favors white people.

There are arguments brought up that the system actually favors wealth and it just so happens that there is a race gap that coincides with the pay gap but you know what? There are stats that show that even if a white and black person come from the same economic group, they are convicted at different rates for the same crime. Now, they both will be punished harsher than their wealthy counterpart, but compared to each other? The Black person fails. (this chart breaks down by education which is a close parallel to wealth.)

And talk to your black friends. Regardless of the car they drive, they get pulled over more than their white friends. One of my friend’s black boss who has been upper middle class the entirety of his adulthood has gotten pulled over more times than he can count and has actually been asked to get out of his car several times.

So while wealth is also a HUGE factor in the way our society treats people, by claiming it’s ONLY wealth we are ignoring the chance that it’s also race. And by settling into this nice narrative: “It’s a wealth gap! Not a race gap! I don’t see color! My kids don’t see color! The world is better if we all stop seeing color!” we are avoiding any chance to solve the problem.

I see color. I don’t think I make judgements based on color but I see the black man on the road next to me at a street light and I worry about him. Is he going to get pulled over for no reason? I see a black mom at the grocery store with her tween sons and I think of the lessons she has already had to talk to her boys about that I haven’t. About asking for permission before getting a driver’s license out of a wallet. About not sagging pants. About not dressing the same as his friends because they could be perceived as a gang. These are conversations she has had or will have that I have not and will not have. By saying I don’t see color I ignore the opportunity to acknowledge how different our lives our and I lose the opportunity to be angry about that.

It’s hard to know what to do as a 40-year old middle class white lady. But I do try to think about it even when it’s not convenient. I talk to my kids about it. How maybe their generation really can do it better.

But to try to pretend like I don’t see color, is just a nicety of words. If we all woke up colorblind, that’s one thing. But we’re not. Society is not. The world is not. And until we all take time to really think about that, and see how that creates a racist system, we won’t make the change. White people have to change. It’s on us. But as long as we’re romanticizing the idea of colorblindness, it’s not going to happen. We have to admit our lives are different in order to find ways to bridge that gap.

And also? I’m not sure “colorblind” is the way to be anyway. As a feminist I often have to clarify to people who hate the word feminism: “Feminist doesn’t mean I think women and men should be exactly the same. We’re not. It’s okay to acknowledge that.” There’s a history to being black in America just like there’s a unity in womanhood, there are things we want to maintain distinctions over. There’s a personal and cultural history to the differences in our bodies. That is okay. The heart is the most important tool to getting to know someone, but it shouldn’t blind us to the body.

Imagine knowing your white friends have a luxury of laissez-faire parenting that you never will. Aggressive, non-compliant white boys are called assholes. Aggressive, non-compliant black children are called inmates.

Imagine knowing that boys love playing with toy guns and that telling them not to is like telling a fish not to swim. Imagine knowing your son’s going to fashion anything he can into a shooter and that the literature says to indulge the fantasy because he’ll grow out of it! Imagine your terror when he wants to go outside with his white neighbors in your diverse neighborhood because they have waterguns and he wants to play, too. Imagine being terrified and sick to your stomach because even though the gun is blue and orange you never know these days.


[The featured image for this post is my highlighted copy of Between The World And Me, the 2015 must read non-fiction about growing up black in America. ]

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