President John F.
Kennedy speaks to the nation after
University of Alabama
is integrated for the first time,
taking two African
Let's talk about being "color blind." I still hear a lot of us say, "I'm color blind. Color doesn't matter to me." If you're someone who's said that, I get that you are saying, "I'm not a bigot." And thank you. We need more like you. Even so, I'd like to ask you to reconsider. I'd like it to be ok for you to "see color." I think it's critical for you to see color.
Let's see if I can help you see why I don't see "color blind" as an answer. See if you can relate to one of these situations, or can think of something similar that's happened to you.
Maybe you've always had an extra 20 or 30 pounds, or maybe you don't anymore but you did when you were a kid. Maybe you were the chubby kid, the tubby girl in school. How did that impact your friendships, your ability to date, the way other people interacted with you, your own sense of self?
Maybe you're a veteran. Or maybe your kid, your brother, your sister, your spouse, your dad is a veteran. Maybe you (or they) went off very patriotic and excited about serving our country, but... came back different. Impacted. PTSD or physical injury or both. It's changed you. It's left internal or external marks that sometimes are ugly or painful, and maybe keep you from doing things you want to do, keep you from connecting to people you love, keep you from feeling comfortable in your own skin. If you're not this vet, in this day and age it's hard to believe you haven't met this vet.
Maybe you are an egg-head, the nerd. Maybe you are a whiz at math or memorization, but you had a hard time making friends in middle school. Kids avoided you, made you the butt of their jokes, never chose you to be on their team for P.E. How did that impact who you became? Did it make you more ambitious so that success would prove your worth? Did it make you insecure, so that first meetings are still difficult?
Maybe one of your parents was an alcoholic. Maybe it made life at your household really, really difficult. Maybe everyone tippy-toed around your dad when he was drunk, or had to fend for themselves when your mom was in her room, "feeling sick." Maybe the dynamic in your childhood household made it hard to make a relationship work, or maybe you've had trouble picking a partner who's emotionally healthy.
I could go on. Each of us has some experience that impacted our lives, influenced our development, shaped the person we are today. When sharing the stories of our lives, if we leave out this part of the narrative, we are leaving out information that helps the listener understand us more deeply - and why we are the person we've become. And, if we fail to share our story in all of its nuance and complexity, people won't really know or understand what makes us tick. We deprive that person of an opportunity to show us empathy, to accept us for who we are.
Living as a person of color in America also has many ramifications in an individual's life. To understand the impact and influences, both positive and negative, you have to be willing to hear the whole story of what being "of color" (non-white) means to those who live in that skin. Even if you'd rather not. Even if it's painful. And to those who think it's best not to see color, I give you a quote I first read in a book by white teacher, Gary Howard, "You Can't Teach What You Don't Know," "if you don't see color, you don't see me."
Now, while we're at it, go ahead and extrapolate that to age, ethnicity, body image, disability, veteran status, intellect or lack, gender, sexual orientation, and so on, and so forth.
If you don't see those contextual experiences, then you're missing a large part of the story. Please, don't be blind. See it. Be intentional