I keep hearing the phrase “colorblind.” People are saying, I don’t see color, I just see who the person is, it doesn’t matter what they look like, “I’m colorblind.” I’ve been trying to come up with a way to clearly articulate WHY it is not OK to be color blind. I will go ahead and say, I haven’t figured out how to explain this to anyone in a way that I feel accurately conveys why we should not be colorblind. I will say this though, the Lord created us to be different, He did not create us to look the same, but regardless of how each of us look we should love the same and accept each other. The problem we have faced and continue to face is there are a large number of people who choose not to accept their brothers and sisters solely based on how they look. We do not live in a world that allows us to be colorblind.
I think my personal experience with race and race relations is different from many people; however, just because I was raised with a different experience or point of view does not make me exempt or blind to the the injustices that people or color are facing daily. Anyone who knows me knows that I was born in Scottsboro, AL and if I am honest, our town was not as integrated as it should have been in the 80s. It was very clear that black and white people were separate. The train tracks told us so. We lived separately, we worshiped separately on Sundays, but we all came together Monday -Friday for work and school. (I recently read online that the most segregated hour of the week is Sunday at 11am, I will let that marinate with you all for a bit). Our grandmothers, aunts, and cousins that were from the generation above our parents were “The Help,” I’m sure you have all seen the movie, so I won’t go into detail, BUT if you were born on the “other” side of the tracks in Scottsboro (or insert the the name of your small town) then you know what I’m talking about. My grandmother, my Nana, was an educator and very well known in Scottsboro. She was also one of the only black teachers in town, and because of this my mother, and by default my sisters and I had a different relationship with race in our small town. My mother was forced to integrate before many of her friends and she quickly had to learn to trust and depend on the white classmates that were bold enough interact with her and become friends with her. These people, to this day, are dear to her heart because they, along with their parents, went out of their way to protect my mother in a time when black people, especially students, faced extreme racism.
In our house, we did not specifically talk about race in the manner in which we talked about being different or having to be more careful based on our skin color. Whenever Granddaddy would talk about the hardships of being a black person, my Nana would remind him, and us, that we lived in different times and he needed to let go of the past. I did not really recognize myself as different until I got older and went to school. I started to see how the black students would stick together in group settings. Of course we all were friends and interacted with each other, black and white, but we all recognized we were different because the bell would ring and we (the black students) would get on one of the two school buses that went across the tracks to take us to our respected homes. Back then, and maybe even now, the only white people who lived on “our side” of the tracks were those that were in interracial relationships, or white people who did not have the financial means to live on the other side of the tracks. My mom says it is because the black community accepted them when their own people would not.
So, once again I question, HOW can we be colorblind when we are born with a line in the sand with writing on each side WHITE/BLACK.
Even in the 90s, I had friends that were white and it was OK for us to be friends, their parents had no problem with that, but they were forbidden from dating anyone black. This was in the 90s, we were supposed to be equals. Civil Rights had happened 30 years prior. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream was supposed to be a reality, but any little town in the south proved different. (I can’t speak for the North). We could go to school together, we could play together, but we couldn’t date each other. I was 15 years old when I had probably one of the biggest cultural shocks of my life. We moved to El Paso and into a neighborhood direct where our direct neighbors were white. I remember asking my mom about it. “You mean to tell me, black people and white people can live next door to each other?” This was 1998.
Never in my life was I told that we were any different than the white people in the world, but living life in a small southern town SHOWED me that I was different. I was not taught to fear the police, as a matter of fact, I grew up with a man across the street that was probably my idol, Mr. Mike Ellison, and he was a police officer. I would request for him to turn on his lights and sirens as he drove off to work as a small girl and watch proudly as he drove away. My cousin is currently on the Dallas PD. We did not have a negative relationship with law enforcement. However, LIFE has forced me to be aware of the police. I am almost 100% certain that I was in college when my mom and step dad told us that we need to be careful if/when we are pulled over by the police. That we need to keep our hands visible and do everything that is ask of us.
I want to believe that we live in a different world than our parents, but it is becoming painfully obvious that we are still fighting the same fight. We’re all aware of WHAT needs to change. We know WHY it needs to change, but we are not fully to the HOW it is going to happen.
Until little black kids don’t have to get on a school bus with people that ONLY look like them and take trips back and forth across a railroad track that shows them they are different, we won’t see a change. People shouldn’t have to wait until they are grown to know that the color of your skin does not determine who you’re neighbor can be. We have taken strides forward in this fight for equality, but we still have a long way to go, and until then we can not afford to be “colorblind” because if you fail to see my color then you fail to see me.