“I Don’t See Color” – a lazy response to racism and bigotry

“People of color are at a distinct disadvantage in our society.”

“Not with me.”

“Not with you?”

“Not with me. I don’t see color.”

“How can you not see color?”

“Everybody is the same color to me.”

“But they’re not.”

“See, that’s your problem. You see color. I don’t.”

“I have a problem because I see color?”

“Yes. If everyone didn’t see color – like me – then there would be no racism and bigotry.”

“So you think it would be better if everyone had the same skin color?”

“That’s not what I said …”

“Because everyone doesn’t have the same skin color.”

“I know that.”

“And despite your self-imposed color-blindness, racism and bigotry still exist anyway. It’s by seeing the color of people’s skin that we can recognize how some people are treated differently than others simply because of their skin color.”

“But I don’t see skin color, so I don’t do that.”

“That sounds lazy to me.”

“What?”

“Lazy. And a cop-out. People of color are disadvantaged and being taken advantage of and we see this precisely because we are seeing the color of a person’s skin. ‘I don’t see color’ is a cop-out that passes on the responsibility to see racism and bigotry and speak out against it. That accommodates the racists and bigots …”

“What do you mean? I’m not racist or bigoted!”

“… and perpetuates the racism and bigotry.”

“Perpetuates?”

“Yes, perpetuates. Because responding to the statement ‘People of color are at a distinct disadvantage in our society’ with ‘I don’t see color’ serves no purpose except to stifle discussion on important matters affecting everyone. That allows the racism and bigotry to continue unchallenged.”

“I didn’t mean to stifle anything.”

“Maybe not, but ‘I don’t see color’ moves the conversation from how to help people who are mistreated and oppressed in our society and puts the focus on you. It’s not about disadvantaged people any longer; it’s about you.

“Me?”

“Yes, you. And frankly, it’s not about you. You aren’t the one needing help in this situation.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I am.”

“Yeah? How so?”

“I needed you to tell me to stop saying stupid things like ‘I don’t see color’.”

“Good point. Now let’s move from that and put our attention on the fact there’s a real problem with racism and bigotry against people of color in this society.”

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13 Responses to “I Don’t See Color” – a lazy response to racism and bigotry

  1. so on point…I remember the years of the 50 years of changing the proper terminology from colored to negro to black to african american. I once had another teacher correct me because I was talking about one of my students who happened to be black. she told me it was “AAAfrican AAAAmerican” with all the snob in her voice…I told her I heard white folks use that term with all the hate in their voice they could muster. My brother working at a school that was mostly black and mexican heard how all the white teachers tiptoed around the terminology always being ultra carefu to say AAAfrican AAAAmerican with the utmost of respect in their voices…one of the black teachers w/ eye-rolling, said, ” just call us blaaack! ”
    p.s. we are Italian and they listed him as a minority, so it is a numbers game.

    • Tim says:

      The importance of words can’t be understated. It takes effort to communicate well.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      so on point…I remember the years of the 50 years of changing the proper terminology from colored to negro to black to african american.

      Only to have each in turn denounced as doubleplusungood doubleplusoldspeak with each iteration of Newspeak.

      And notice how each iteration gets longer and more polysyllabalic?
      I believe George Carlin had a monologue about the phenomenon, about how “Shell Shock” became “Combat Fatigue” became “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (until the next iteration of Newspeak comes along):

      • I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – it comes from decades of abuse where there was no possibility of escape. I think he has a point that the name removes the possibility for the layperson’s empathy, but PTSD is so named because it’s not just veterans who suffer from it. Clinical terms need a detached, clinical approach. On the other hand, I can relate to Shell Shock, despite having never been near a war zone. Call me shell shocked, call me f***ed up – just give me the help I desperately need. The point of Tim’s post is that it’s not about the person with privilege – it’s about the person on the receiving end of oppression – and that’s an excellent point.

  2. Pastor_Bob says:

    CONTRAST time:
    Post Vietnam Army training, Senior Sargent (Sargent First Class) comes up to our platoon while we are resting. Small talk ensues, then he asks,
    “Which one of you here is prejudiced?”
    Not one hand was raised.
    “Every one of you better raise your hands.”
    That is an order, so up they go.
    “Why did you not want to raise your hands?”
    -silence
    -more silence
    -even more silence
    “Well?!”
    A scared voice, “Maybe its racism?”
    SFC, “YES! Everyone one you has your favorite food, favorite drink, favorite person …., BUT the only skin color we see in this man’s Army is Green. Am I clear on that?!”
    “YES FIRST SARGENT!”

    Here is the counter point:

    This is exactly how the world sees the solution, forced from the outside. The real difference is what happens form the inside, When Jesus Christ becomes the true Lord. The change is REAL, and the fruit is seen. Racism dies at the foot of the cross.

    That which comes from within is the real deal, forced from the outside is not so real.

  3. TJ Field says:

    So-called “racial differences” are just family traits … blends of genes that all come from common ancestry. Some of those blends have been singled out for selfish & cruel purposes.

  4. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    So good, especially the point about how “I don’t see color” puts the emphasis on ME (“look how enlightened and fair-minded I am!” rather than on the experiences of people who’ve experienced racial oppression. And it makes racism so individualistic (“Maybe *some* people are racist, but I’m not”) rather than seeing it as a whole system in society.

    • Tim says:

      That’s it in a nutshell, Jeannie. People are hurting. Let’s look at how to help them.

    • Yes! So many approaches to prejudice of various kinds are about those with privilege instead of those who are on the receiving end. If you haven’t walked in someone’s shoes, you have no right to determine what is and is not acceptable. It’s about respect. As much as people need to learn about prejudice, they also need to learn about privilege, which is in some ways a harder lesson to learn (for the privileged).

  5. dolphinwrite says:

    While growing up, I endured some racism myself, not realizing at the time what racism was. I just gathered that some people were mean. Years later, I realized what they meant.
    Having said that, I also learned that people hating and disliking others, for whatever reason, has been going on since time immemorial. There has always been a time when people would hate, resent, or tease others for whatever their flawed thinking allowed. So, as kids growing up, we learned to return what we got. They said things. We said things. Then, we moved on. I guess I was fortunate not to get beaten up more since we moved a lot. But I also had friends, and we esteemed each other when we wouldn’t let others under our skin. That was life. And we learned to go on.
    Racism is always wrong. But what I’ve seen today seems to be a constant focus on the past. Whether people realize it or not, many things have improved, and like other writers, I don’t think of friends and acquaintances by their ethnicity. They simply are my friends or acquaintances. If I judge or discern, it’s based upon the experiences I have with them, not by any preconceptions, and I see people doing this more and more.
    But there are those who don’t want to move on. I understand that. Perhaps, their parents experienced much difficulties in their lives, even the grandparents, and for those who went through some dire times, letting go of the past can be very difficult.
    As I consider, in order to move forward, we must learn that people have faults and not to be ultra-sensitive to every difference of opinion or every difficulty we face. If we remain ultra-sensitive and see problems everywhere, we remain in the past, in those emotions, and have difficulties venturing forward where opportunities exist, where we might actually enjoy the company of people before thought “bad,” “mean,” or “difficult.”
    Let me share an example I have discussed before. I knew a young man, a teenager, who learned boxing as a way to defend himself, and he had grown up in some trying neighborhoods (I had too.). He once told me that he thought a grocery cashier was racist. As I could see he was irritated by an experience, I asked him to explain.
    This young man was a cool guy, respectful of others. But for some reason, he had a problem with one cashier. He explained that he came up to the cashier to ask a question about some foods he was considering, but the cashier never answered him. Hmmm…. At first look, this did seem odd. So, I asked him was the cashier free? No, he answered, the cashier was helping another lady. Then, I asked him, when he talked to the cashier, was he respectful, even in attitude. He thought and said, no.
    So, I shared that it was possible the cashier was mean, but could it also have been that he was busy at the time, had a hard day, or simply did not like him? In other words, could there be other things going on? Thinking, he explained that other options were possible. Just because someone behaves a certain way does not mean we should jump to conclusions or look at the world as if everything is that way. That only leads to a “fear society,” where trust is not given and so we cannot move forwards with all the opportunities we have.
    I have been disliked by people of my own race and others. This happens all the time. People are people. But today, it seems the focus has kept a “fear” base going whether it exists or not, and how are people to get along if that is always on top of people’s minds? Something to think about. Wouldn’t it be great if there were more television shows about people getting along, but when they have difficulties, that those difficulties are a natural part of life? But if there is some racism, that they find a way to cross the barriers and get along? What if the media reported more on the good things that happened every day, including the help people give one another across cultural customs. What if politicians worked to get along, even if they have great divisions in political outlooks, but demonstrated to us, the viewers, how adults should behave so children can learn from their examples?
    It seems, often, that we must be all to conscious of what we can or cannot say because of the state we’re in today. While growing up, we insulted each other all the time. Usually, we laughed afterwards. It seems, insulting each other was a “right of passage,” a telling of growing up and learning about each other, but no long-termed effects, just life. Yes, sometimes it went too far, and fights broke out, but our parents addressed those fights and did not extend the concerns beyond, never pointing at entire groups.

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