Growing up, I noticed that a lot of the older black relatives and adults in my life would pitch a fit over this phrase, “I don’t see color.” I never understood why. To my young mind, this seemed like a great thing to say. To me, even then, it seemed that white people were simply saying, “I will treat you like a human being no matter what race you are.” Which is what I strove for, and what I strive for today.
But looking back, or even looking to the present, I can see why this is extremely problematic. For one, I am black. Undeniably, culturally, inextricably black. It informs my viewpoint of life; it informs my decisions, my circumstances, my personality, and my reactions/actions. It is a huge part of who I am. It’s one of the first things people see about me. So to say that you don’t see that I’m black is to say that you don’t see me.
Additionally, it inadvertently erases many situations in which I have only been treated as such because of my race. I cannot tell you the number of negative reactions I got to letting the creamy crack (relaxers) go and letting my hair be relatively chemical free. The only thing, I feel, that stopped it from being worse is that good ol’ pretty privilege. And that’s only speaking to one aspect of my blackness.
As if that’s not enough, many people who say this are also the same people who are not willing to see the true ramifications of being black in this world. Not just in the United States, mind you, but this whole world. Being black means that I don’t feel safe traveling to other predominantly white countries because if I go missing, will they even try hard to find me? And make no mistake, by they, I mean law enforcement. Also, many times, being black comes with some serious trauma. Bro, this is a thing. And by willingly overlooking my race, people who say “I don’t see color” are contributing to the silencing of my experiences with trauma.
So in short…I get why black adults before me had some serious problems with this phrase. Because now, so do I.
Have you ever had this experience before? Let me know in the comments below.