In fifth grade, I had two favorite songs. “You Ain’t Woman Enough” by Loretta Lynn and “Color Blind” by En Vogue.
I never claimed to be normal.
In my after school drama class, we did a unit on lip syncing, and I performed “Color Blind.” I knew every word and I’m sure I thought I had smooth dance moves as well. That song exemplified what I believed about race as a small child.
Recently, I heard the song again. I still like the message, but I no longer believe being “color blind” is any kind of answer to the racial problems facing individuals, groups and our nation. I’m not eleven anymore. I’ve grown up.I no longer believe being “color blind” is the answer to racial problems.Click To Tweet
There are two reasons I don’t want to be color blind when it comes to race. The first is aesthetic. I was walking through the grocery store this week and passed a woman picking up her shopping bags. When she stood and faced me, I noticed she was Asian.
People are just beautiful, aren’t they?People are just beautiful, aren’t they?Click To Tweet
Women with dark skin, their hair natural or fixed in braids and swirls and loops … Men the color of earth and clay, with feathers and leather, dancing at the White Buffalo Pow Wow I attended a few years ago … Eyes slanted and thin or wide and round … lips full and pouty or cupid bow shaped … arms and legs and cheeks in every color of wood or chocolate or earth …
I love how God created people. Like an artist with new paints, He wanted to use every color, and I am so grateful He did.
But it goes beyond beauty.
Our surface, the color of skin and shape of our eyes, it’s like a book cover. It might give others an idea about what is inside. Just a hint, not the whole story.
You see, growing up in this country comes with all sorts of experiences, as does growing up in any other country. And skin color still affects those experiences. As a white girl, I never experienced the kind of racism my African-American friends experienced. The closest I got was when a friend’s mother refused to let me play at her house with braids on my head. She said I wasn’t welcome with that “black girl hair.”
To not see a person’s color is to discount racial experience and how it shaped who they are now. I have a couple of good friends who are part Korean. They have very different background stories, but share many similar aspects. I can’t pretend that the way they have been treated, in both good and bad situations, is not a part of who they are.
Our culture, our ancestry, it is more than blood. It is racial memory. It is a part of who we are.Our culture, our ancestry, it is more than blood. It is racial memory. It is a part of who we are.Click To Tweet
I love learning about my family history. I was born of hillbilly stock in eastern Kentucky. I don’t find the word hillbilly offensive. The hills are home. My heritage includes coalminers and military and, if we go all the way back, immigration and owning most of what is now Hudson, New York. My coloring comes from the genes of these people who made me.
I have never lived inside the skin of my African-American friends. I have not lived in the skin of someone who is Japanese-American and had ancestors our US Government incarcerated out of fear during World War Two. I don’t know what it is like to grow up in a Mexican-American household and hear politicians arguing over me like I am only an idea of a person, not a flesh and blood human being.
All of our different colors are an outward sign of inward differences, but not differences in substance. People are people. What is different is what we have each experienced, what we have been judged for, how we have been treated. And those differences matter, because our past experiences inform our present personality.
Good and bad.
And I love those differences. They stretch me. They force me to step outside of myself when I get to know another person. My friendships cover a spectrum of Korean, Middle Eastern, African-American, Russian, British, Italian, Dutch, Honduran, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Israeli, Palestinian and others.
It gets harder and harder to believe in stereotypes and make blanket judgments about a group of people when you know and love even just one person who fits inside that group.
Relationship, not color blindness, is the key to breaking down racial walls in our own lives and the life of our nation.
Look around your friend group. Are you part of the solution? How can you stretch your boundaries?Relationship, not color blindness, is the key to breaking down racial walls.Click To Tweet