Why Being Color Blind Is Racist and What to Do Instead

By | February 22, 2015

White Supremacy has to be the greatest invention mankind has ever created.

I made the decision years ago to be more powerful than this invention, remain vigilant and “awake” and stay away from self defeating paranoia.

My commitment to uprooting its seductive powers is based on relentless decolonization.

My obsession with the collection and use of decolonizing strategies often leads me to great thinkers and bold visionaries (bell hooks, Melody Hobson, Brene Brown).

Recently, I was able to take in a day of their thinking and use it when discussing race, gender and non oppressive child rearing with family members.

Most of our relationships and ways of interacting are steeped in dominator culture and are manipulative and subterfuge based.

No where is this more prevalent than in our attempts to cross racial boundaries and construct mutually satisfying relationships.

While most people rarely move beyond the comfort of their familiar cultures, there are those who dare to do so and spend much time justifying their choices or proving their loyalty in an effort to gain trust and acceptance.

When this occurs in the context of difference, there is an opportunity to be color brave.

Truly valuing another involves the willingness to be wrong and misspeak as well as the courage that is required to forgive and recommit in solidarity.

It always amuses me that people call themselves friends, road dogs and besties and yet never disagree, argue or hurt one another’s feelings.

Unless you are spending time with a clone of yourself, there will be misunderstandings, an occasional verbal misstep based in a ridiculous assumption and the need for forgiveness and the willingness to choose a shared commitment over an isolated incident.

Forgiveness is never easy.

It is particularly hard when it involves someone you deeply love and feel ought to know better.

It is easy to discuss nothing and keep things light when you are only interested in a coffee klatch friendship with no real value.

We all have a choice to make daily.

Do we lie and avoid a confrontation that might upset another or do we stand bold and dare to test our level of courage and the foundation of a particular friendship?

How are you being color brave?

Do you stop a friend from stating something racist and stereotypical?

Do you challenge folks (white and black) when they state that there is no more racism?

The bravest thing we can do is usually the most uncomfortable.

We learn to avoid racial discomfort when we are young.

When we prevent children from discussing and recognizing differences in cultures, skin color and other obviously different ways of being, we miss a valuable opportunity to instruct our young folks in recognizing fear and domination of the other.

Many assume that racism will never go away and anyone who assumes conversations and sharing will eliminate dominator culture is a pollyanna just waiting to be disappointed.

People can change and do things differently.

When I taught high school English classes, I reminded my students that while change is often challenging, it can and is incorporated on a daily basis.

To illustrate this point, I discussed life before the internet or call waiting and being able to see the person you are speaking with on a handheld device was considered Science Fiction.

By limiting our contact to small boxes in our homes and offices, it becomes very convenient to dismiss one another, attack and deny another’s existence or never discuss our “problems” with difference as it pertains to race.

Those of us who choose to love across racial lines often do so without clear understandings what this will cost and what we will ultimately gain as a result.

We often jump into situations that allow for fun but limit our capacity to be changed and transformed by another.

It is very easy to start a relationship based on desire and or mutual interest.

It is more difficult to maintain its integrity and allow it (the relationship) to grow and transform all involved if the point of connection involves a silent agreement that racial differences not be addressed.

Many men I’ve dated would rather die than be labeled a racist.

The major problem with this thinking is the all or nothing American view that says: if I’m not calling you a particular name or burning crosses on lawns or voted for Obama(twice) and am enthralled with Oprah then there is no evidence of any “perceived” racism.

While many of the men I’ve dated would never come out and be blatantly racist, there were several small and pivotal ways racism invited us to look the other way when daily mishaps occurred.

An agreement to not notice or engage with different viewpoints, outlooks on culture and food are a few of the seemingly innocent ways that we attempted to “just get along”.

These odd and limiting choices left me dissatisfied, bored and intellectually and emotionally stunted.

Being color brave provides the space to seek and demand transformation of ourselves and those that we say we care about.

There will be mistakes, misunderstandings and many times wherein the easiest and most comfortable thing to do is remain quiet, crack an inappropriate and diversionary joke or simple assign the other person the role of bad guy (asshole, crazed angry black woman).

This is cowardice at its most deadly.

Being color brave means we move into the uncomfortability that is dealing with race in America.

It also means that we question those, ourselves included, who believe that racism in the U.S. is over and no longer has any affect on our day to day interactions and decision making.

bell hooks recently stated that it would be of use to ask people why it is so important to believe that racism is a thing of the past and has no bearing on our collective realities.

Collectively our identities are bathed in the belief that if things aren’t talked about or spoken of then everything must be great.

There is also the agreement that if whites don’t bring up race(which prevents the possibility that they might misspeak),they won’t be labeled a racist.

Those of us who are racism’s targets believe pointing out racism and its many forms will label us weak and whiny.

Everybody on both sides of the fence also believes that pointing out racism will label those who have failed to achieve as lazy and unmotivated.

Demand that it not be done to you or in your direction and replace the finger pointing with some serious commitment to improving your relationship and transforming your lives with the goal of solidarity being the end point.

When I taught the homeless population, I began each new class by stating : I want you to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

It is time for us to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and brave enough to be involved fully with the unfamiliar.

One thought on “Why Being Color Blind Is Racist and What to Do Instead

  1. John Mulholland

    Such a wide-ranging column, Anthony. Jammed with such thought-provoking thoughts, and laid out with your usual understanding and compassion.

    One thing which strikes me, as a non-black man, is the utter necessity of looking at the world through the prism-of-vision of my black partner. he has lived his life within the non-black culture, the dominant culture. He understands it, oh, does he understand it.

    However, I have not had to see my daily existence through the eyes of a black individual. Therefore, it is incumbent on me to see the world through my black partner’s eyes. It is important for me to understand why he might think the way he does, why he has a world-view different than mine. Why his having navigated in hostile waters has shaed his perception of the larger non-black world.

    And, having broadened myself to see the world from his POV, I am a far better person. My world-view is now expanded, is now wider, more invigorating. It is emotionally and intellectually liberating to see the world through my partner’s eyes. This is not to lock him into a narrow focus, but rather to broaden my focus.


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