You Can’t Be Color Blind

Every few days, I’ll see a post on social media about racism being taught instead of something we are born to believe in. I see innocent Black and White kids hugging one another with these words. On its face, this is true, but these memes always irk me. I always think, what is the point? Why even share this post? What is the relevance? These memes always seemed more distracting than helpful when it comes to ridding ourselves of racism. I get that we all bleed red. I get that we are all biologically the same. These memes encourage us to focus on that sameness, but at what expense? What are we ignoring to have this wholesome and light racial moment?  

We are ignoring the truth. We are ignoring the honest and raw facts. These kids are not born racist. These kids are born into a system of racism that thrives around them. These kids are born into structural social, economic, and political systems that will treat them differently based on their skin color. Focusing on how we are biologically the same is a kumbaya moment that lulls us into believing a simple lie: if we just teach our kids to be nice and colorblind, then we can end racism.

This is a lie. A blatant lie that supports the entire structure of racism. A lie using babies to make us feel better. The lie suggests racism can be solved by simply teaching our kids to be good. One big, fat, and damaging lie. As a white person, you can’t grow up in a world dependent and thriving on the existence of racism, and not be racist. If you are not actively seeking to be anti-racist, then you are living out your racist whiteness. If you are not learning what it means to be white, then your ignorance and complacency support this racist structure. If you are not teaching your children to challenge the status quo, then you are not teaching them to end racism.

Racism isn’t about your personal goodness. It’s not about whether or not you want there to be a racial hierarchy. Racism is about the fact that this system exists and will continue to act on behalf of whites while crushing blacks unless WHITES begin to demand otherwise. 

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes Black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another, and so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe.” Scott Woods

Your liberation is wrapped up in my liberation, and you must demand it. Whites have to start challenging the status quo. Whites have to see injustice. Whites have to recognize that their way of life and ability to move freely is supported by the fact that others live so much differently than they do. 

Consider our current health pandemic. It’s shown that the disparities between whites and blacks are real. This crisis is highlighting how differently blacks and whites are treated in this world on almost every level. Here are just a few reasons why we are suffering more:

  1. Health issues connected to poor diet supported by economic struggles as well as lack of access to fresh foods.
    1. Whites are almost always guaranteed to have a few grocery stores in their neighborhoods. 
    2. Black have corner stores and dollar stores with canned and pantry foods.
  1. The majority of essential workers are People of Color.
    1. Most of the jobs that can be done safely from home belong to whites.
    2. Consider the meat industry. The President signs an order forcing them to stay open. Most of the workers are Latino immigrants. The truth is they are sacrificial, not essential. 
  1. People of color lack access to healthcare.
    1. Our insurance system allows for most to go uninsured. Health officials have told Americans to contact your primary care doctor if you feel sick. What if you don’t have one to contact? What if you don’t want to go to the hospital because you don’t have insurance? What if when Blacks go to a doctor, their symptoms are overlooked?
    2. Most whites have insurance and primary care doctors they can do video chats with and get help much sooner. 

One of the most disturbing, yet real aspects to how racism plays out in our lives is the reaction to the fully armed and dangerous white people showing up to protest health directives. I have been an avid protester and organizer. We make it a point to do so in the most non-threatening way. Yet the response to our marches and rally calls are large amounts of armed police and SWAT teams. These white terrorists are screaming in the face of authority, and I see no guns or army tanks.

Yet again, this isn’t about biology and how we can teach each other to see we are the same. This is about the fact that these decisions are already made for us, and from the day we are born, we learn cues about ourselves and our place in the world. The very color of White skin leads to privileges that will make sure you will be treated better than all others. You can’t be color blind. The world around you isn’t color blind. You have to be anti-racist. 

You have to be willing to accept you live in a world where, as we are practicing social distancing, Blacks are charged much more than Whites with violation of this policy. Think back to the photos of police passing out masks to the Whites in Central Park as they were all lounging in the park. They were not six feet apart yet no one was arrested. That same weekend, Blacks, in their own neighborhoods, were cited and arrested at an alarming rate. No warnings and no masks given to them. 

These examples highlight a few ways in which racism plays out in our society. If you open your eyes and stop pushing this “we are all born the same” narrative, you can get down to business. Whites have to see how racism works. It’s time for Whites to demand better of fellow Whites. Racism thrives in America because we ignore simple and basic facts about racism. We ignore that racism supports a narrative of personal goodness for Whites. We ignore that racism supports a narrative of personal evilness for Blacks. We ignore that we were all born to be White, Black, Asian, Latino, etc. We ignore the prescribed ways in which our social, political, and economic systems will treat us because of these distinctions. We ignore that all of this is meant to support WHITES. It’s meant to make sure they maintain their superior position. We may all biologically be the same, but our world does not treat us the same. Our kids need us to teach them to be anti-racist and not just nice to everybody.

Kenyona “Sunny” Matthews is a motivational speaker focusing on issues of diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism. She is a University of Akron School of Law graduate who focused on civil liberties. She earned her bachelor’s from Guilford College majoring in Political Science, Philosophy, and African American Studies. She was an active college student helping to start an Anti-Racism team at Guilford College, responsible for organizing city-wide diversity/inclusion events, and developed coursework focusing on race and racism.

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