Color blindness and blindness are synonymous

March 16, 2017

 

As a young, black male living in the world, I am constantly reminded of my skin color. Whether it be the personal time I've taken to delve into my own history, my exclusive relationship, or even the countries that I've called "home away from home," my blackness is something that I cherish. Consequently, if one were to read the aforementioned statement (or better yet, the title), then many assumptions may come to mind. I'll mention a few in hopes to debunk the myth of color blindness and ultimately contribute to the fact that yes, color differences should be celebrated. 

 

1. I don't care if you're black, white, brown, yellow, etc. 

Unfortunately, this tagline can be cited from common rhetoric that claims to not only unify the masses, but it also declares to said masses that no one will be discriminated against. However, what does "not caring about skin color” actually look like? Well, since not caring about the color of one's skin is built on negation, the real issue becomes the fact that part of your identity, the piece that makes you physically stand out, has now transformed into an invisible cloak in the sea of uniformity. Unfortunately, others willingly become blind to identity, ancestry, race, the vast spectrum of beauty, and individuality... all because "you don't care."

 

2. I don't see color.

So many rebuttals, so little time. What can be addressed here is that not seeing color is, again, building a stance on negation. Assuming that this statement has not derived from someone who indeed has been diagnosed with being color blind, it is safe to say that color means race. The unsafe and quite dangerous element of not seeing color comes in when one is not able to distinguish between race and ethnicity or when one does not realize that not seeing color is a declaration of a conscious effort to disengage with regards to race talk. Finally, not seeing color is an inadvertent way to perpetuate systemic racism due to one's inability to acknowledge one's race and consider, for a moment, that race does matter. As a conscious black man, I do consider the possibility that people who may have uttered "I don't see color" have probably done so in order to not offend anyone. In a world where ethnic groups often celebrate their culture, "not" seeing this practice becomes the biggest offense. 

 

3. The construct of the term "black"

James Brown said it best, "Say it loud! I'm black and I'm proud!" Aside from the contagious self-affirming lyrics, similar declarations were made to combat blatant acts of oppression and racism. During the 1960s and 70s, the U.S. underwent a social change and heightened awareness of race relations. Most know this time as the civil rights movement. Not too long before this movement, the color terms "black" and "white" did not exist. Rewinding even further, the term "negro" was frequently used to denote persons of African descent who lived in the U.S. Over the course of the 19th and 20th century, self-identity began to change as new terms were introduced. Regarding the color term "black," many adopted it to identify with an ethnic group that spent tireless efforts to campaign, march, and speak out for justice. Some might say that no one is actually "black" or "white;" that these are simply constructs. To that I say “yes,” but what is probably most important and very real is the effects that these constructs have one our lives. 

 

When I say that I'm a black man, I'm saying that I fully subscribe to the identity and culture that has spent decades fighting to have our place in the world. In time, my hope is that the color differences are celebrated because they have finally been seen. 

 

To keep up with Justin, subscribe to his youtube channel, The Black Curriculum, here.

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