Bullsh*t is what comes to mind when I hear fully functioning adults proclaim that they don’t see color (the code word for race) in a world full of black, white, and brown people.
If we’re honest with ourselves, the truth is we all see race and under certain circumstances, it matters.
For sure the white neighbor’s kid who called me the N word on the school bus, when I was in 9th grade, saw race in a major way and his parents did too.
I was no different.
It was hard not to notice that my parents and I were the only black family living on that suburban block and that mattered to us every day.
Fortunately, I’ve healed from that trauma, but I’ve experienced variations of it since then.
Absolutely race matters.
We’ve all read the rider outlining the standard benefits package that comes with white privilege, so I won’t highlight what’s already on the marquee, but what about that fringe though?
It’s the reason why black people are so passionate about black-owned businesses (BOB’s).
If we didn’t faithfully patronize, support, and advocate for the hair salons, barber shops, restaurants, stores, car washes, body shops, dry cleaners, laundry mats, etc., owned and operated by black folks, many of these businesses would vanish and the poverty level within the community would likely reach new lows.
Many BOB’s have not “crossed over” and some don’t desire to, so in order to sustain and support themselves, we have to sustain and support ourselves.
Despite the challenges of entrepreneurship, nearly 50% of women-owned businesses were founded by black women, yet we are still underfunded, underrepresented, and undervalued.
It’s clear that BOB’s are essential to our local and national economy, yet many of the haves and the privileged are reluctant to admit the obvious.
On a similar note, it’s also the reason why some of my black friends choose to visit a black dermatologist when they’re having skin problems.
The assumption is that a specialist, who looks like us, is more familiar with our skin and can more easily identify the unique ways our melanin reacts to certain products and variables.
If left with no other option, my friends wouldn’t avoid getting the help they need; they’d simply schedule an appointment with a dermatologist of another race.
That’s not prejudiced or racist; it is simply preference.
We all see race but only you can determine whether your choice is a mere preference or a conclusive exclusion.
The Truth of the Matter
It doesn’t make me feel any better about myself when I hear someone say that they don’t see color, i.e., they don’t see that I’m black.
I didn’t become black after taking a training course, and it’s not the result of my upbringing.
I’ve been black all of my life.
I don’t feel the need to announce it, but if I must, I shall.
‘Hi, my name is Tamela, and I’m black.
And I’m a woman.’ (Might as well throw that in too since we all need our eyes checked).
Saying that you don’t see color implies that you don’t see me.
Listen, I’ve spent many years of my life being invisible so whether you’re black, white, brown, purple or green, I want you to notice me, and not for selfish or superficial reasons; for reasons that matter.
If the universe crosses our paths, I want you to get to know the real me and base your opinions and impressions on your direct interaction with me instead of what you’ve heard or made up about me.
I want you to remember how to spell and pronounce my first and last name. I want you to recognize the sound of my voice, know what interests, inspires, and irritates me, and see me clearly enough to distinguish my creative imprint from the work of my colleagues.
I want you to look beyond my curated outfit of the day and the aesthetics of my decorated walls and focus on what’s unique about my mindset.
I want you to care about my feelings and pay attention to the invisible boundaries that surround me.
I want you to notice when I’m in the room and when I’m not, and if my engagement seems a little off one day, don’t assume that I don’t care about what’s happening in the room, consider that maybe, just maybe, I’m having a bad day.
We all do you know.
On my best days, I want my presence to touch one or more of your senses. I want you to be delicately curious about the meaningful aspects of my life…my why, my how, and my what, and I want to know the same about you.
Even if you don’t agree with it, respect my right to indulge in what matters to me, and seeing women and men in senior leadership positions, who check the African American box, matters a whole lot to me.
Some Things Have to Change Around Here
If we truly don’t see race then someone better break the news to ABC that their hit show “Blackish” is now black history.
The producers and cast are gonna be devastated.
Too much time has been spent pretending like we don’t see one another’s race and filling in the gaps with assumptions and stereotypes that don’t apply to everyone that looks like us.
Now is the time to set the record straight on some of the fake news about black people, so brace yourself.
All black people don’t look alike.
All black people aren’t always late.
All black people don’t have rhythm.
All black people aren’t from the hood.
All black people don’t listen to or love rap music.
All black people don’t enjoy eating watermelon and fried chicken.
All black people don’t automatically vote for political candidates that look like us.
All black boys and young men don’t aspire to have dynamic careers that involve basketball, football, or any other sport.
I could go on and on, but you get the point.
I know that was alot to take in so some of you may need to take off work and spend a few days in The Hamptons processing yourselves.
Seriously folks, it’s time to put a stop sign on the all-ness.
And What Else is Going On in This Country?
‘Some of my best friends are black,’ is yet another kickstand occasionally used by white people accused of being prejudiced or racist.
If that’s true, I need to let you in on a little secret but this is just between you and I.
Some of my best friends are black too.
Here’s my question of the day for white people.
How can you claim, ‘I don’t see color,’ and then turn around and say, ‘Some of my best friends are black?’
Let that marinate for a minute.
That’s a troublesome dichotomy and a flagrant contradiction.
Call in the referee!
My dear white brethren, hear ye, hear ye.
The ‘Some of my best friends are black’ statement doesn’t make you hip, culturally competent, woke, conscious, or a great dancer, and it won’t get you a black card or an NAACP award.
It makes black people think you’re paranoid, so relax.
Your credit score won’t improve because you have black friends nor are you going to get arrested for not having any.
Claiming that some of my best friends are white won’t get me that country club membership I’ve been wanting either.
Of course we see race.
It’s part of what makes us human so if you or anyone that you know are out here in these streets making these nonsensical declarations, please stop.
If you’re still adamant about taking the ‘I don’t see color stance,’ then stop being picky about the color of your house, clothes, shoes, lipstick, and the race of people that you and your friends and family members date, marry, hire, and hang out with.
Better yet, the next time you go into a dealership to purchase a new car, take your time and find the make and model you like and when the salesperson asks which color you want, look him/her in the eye and boldly declare, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t see color.”
* * *
If you feel me, please tap the clapping hands and if you believe I’ve got a lot more to say, and you want to read it, follow me because we’re going somewhere.
I really look forward to hearing your perspectives on the opinions and experiences I’ve shared so don’t be shy; leave your candid comments below. I truly enjoy reading and responding to them.
Previously published on “Equality Includes You”, a Medium publication.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls on a regular basis, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.