This past Tuesday, Joe Biden announced that he had chosen Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate. As a result of this, I’ve spent every day since this past Tuesday battling a stupid internet conspiracy theory about how Kamala Harris isn’t actually Black, but is merely pretending to identify as Black in order to further some kind of political agenda.
I assure you that it’s exactly as nonsensical and stupid as it sounds. I could get into all the nonsensical and stupid details, but I don’t think anybody here would enjoy that. I certainly haven’t enjoyed a single conversation that I’ve been forced to have about it.
The reason that I bring this up, despite it being a terrible topic of conversation, is because this has brought another pet peeve issue of mine to the forefront. You see, I wish I could say that getting sucked into conversations about this conspiracy theory has been the most irritating thing about the situation.
No, that honor goes to dealing with the people who are abjectly refusing to discuss this conspiracy theory because it would require discussion of the concept of color, ethnicity, or racial identity. The people who brush off the entire conversation with a declaration that they “don’t see color”.
Dealing with people who claim not to see color is invariably the worst part of any conversation about race relations.
If you’re one of these people, let me give you a quick explanation of why that’s part of the problem and not part of the solution:
As I’m going to assume you’re aware, different races are not treated the same way by our society. And that’s something that needs to be changed. But a problem cannot be solved if it is never acknowledged. Burying your head in the sand and pretending that you’ve never noticed the color of someone else’s skin doesn’t mean that you’re not a racist; it just means that you’re an obstacle preventing the necessary conversation about racism. It’s impossible to discuss racism when certain people are committed to pretending that race doesn’t exist. Not seeing color is just an excuse not to see the problems that occur because of color.
If you’re like the last person I discussed this with, you’re probably thinking, “But still, isn’t the ultimate goal in race relations not to see color?”
Here’s the thing- no, of course it isn’t. The ultimate goal is to see and appreciate how color makes us unique and different, but without treating certain colors as though they’re better or worse than others. Totally ignoring color isn’t the way to achieve that.
This is obvious to me, and I have trouble understanding how people who think the opposite are getting that idea. But it was recently suggested to me that the reason is because we have two different interpretations of the meaning of this famous quote:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.“Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Apparently, some people have interpreted this to mean that color should never be acknowledged, lest it leads to judgment.
Personally, I don’t think it’s that nuanced. All Dr. King was asking was that we stop judging people based upon their skin color. But not judging someone by the color of their skin doesn’t preclude you from seeing that their skin is a color, does it? That would be silly.
And quite frankly, apart from being silly, it’s offensive- or at least it’s offensive to me, personally. I’ve spent so much of my life being made to feel ashamed for being Black when all I wanted was to be accepted and appreciated. I’ve finally made it to a place where I can accept myself and appreciate how my Blackness is a part of who I am….and now you’re acting like what I wanted this whole time was for it to be ignored.
That’s not what I want. I want you to see the color of my skin. And if you can’t see my color while not simultaneously judging me for it, that’s your problem. If the only way you can stop yourself from attaching some negative value judgment to my identity as a Black woman is by refusing to acknowledge me as Black, then it doesn’t sound like “seeing color” was the problem. The problem is the way you see color.
I see color, and that doesn’t make me a racist. Are you sure that “not seeing color” doesn’t make you one?