I was recently talking to someone about what criteria we use when looking for schools for our kids and mentioned that diversity is one of the top factors. For us it has to do with the fact that we have a black son. The response, gracious and well meaning, was that they understood and they are excited about the diversity of their kids school because it has helped their kids be color-blind.
It was well meaning, and it was at the same time a sign, not of being woke, but of being privileged. Because being color blind is part of white privilege. I will never forget a conversation that I had the blessing of observing between some friends and acquaintances in South Africa about land reparations, returning land to the original inhabitants from which it was taken as one of the necessary steps of distributing resources in an equitable way in that country. One of the participants asked a black South African when it would be enough. The response was not I was expecting. He said that it would be enough when white is no longer the default, when he didn’t have to compare his values or value to that of white people.
There are many people this week, as video footage and information about the shooting and death of Amaud Arbery becomes widely known, who are grieving the unnecessary loss of a member of the black community. While I grieve I also feel like there is the responsibility, as a white person to do something else. There are parents who are using this as another reminder to talk to their black children about the sad, disappointing reality of needing to be even more cautious as black youth and adults. I will be part of that group as I talk to my oldest son. But there also needs to be a push by many of us to see what we can do to change this reality for those members of our communities who are regularly affected by the inability to be color blind because it affects their survival. This is not about grieving, though I grieve, and it is not about the conversation I will have to have with my oldest child. It is about the fact that being color-blind is a part of the privilege that we have to learn to first leverage and secondly challenge in our communities.
Our black friends, community members, and fellow human beings are not allowed to be color-blind. They are not allowed to walk around, go to work, go to school, be in white space, or go jogging through a neighborhood while being color blind. They cannot forget for a second who they are because white is the default setting of too much of our world. So please, for the love of God, love of others, and hopefully for the love of our black brothers and sisters, stop being color blind.
Stop being willfully ignorant of the restrictions, the challenges, and the day to day reality of people of color. Stop being willfully ignorant of the many personal and systematic ways in which they are regularly targeted and pushed to take another step back. Stop acting like we should be able to just get along or that it is all in the past. Stop being offended by being told you have privilege and start understanding it and using it for good.
Stop acting like it is not your fight, simply because it is uncomfortable or it may upset your friends, or you are not sure how to engage or because you are white.
Being color blind is a privilege that so many people do not have and it is a privilege which we need to be ready to give up as we start examining the intentional racism around us, the systematic racism in our country, and the silence we ourselves perpetuate.