Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Don't See Race (just don't drop me off in this neighborhood)

Can ya see where I'm going with this? Can ya? Can ya? Can ya?

I don't know if the person who originated that "saying" was 100% sincere in what they wanted to convey, or just plain shrewd and duplicitous. Either way people, if you really are sincere or perhaps simply attempting it... hell, even if you just wanna plain fake it (and don't give two shits about equality, justice or peace)- please, please, please (there's a song in there somewhere) refrain at all cost from reiterating that accursed saying! If there's anything a person of color does not want to hear it's, "I don't see race." 

Because every time someone says that, it tells that other than white person that you are not seeing them as who and what they are; you are not considerate enough, knowledgeable enough, astute enough to know how the world works (regardless of whatever education you may possess), and how your position in it is automatically differentiated from theirs since birth- and that you will neither make the time nor effort to even consider that, thank you very much. In short, that magic, feel good phrase says more about what you so woefully lack as a thinking, feeling individual, than anything you may possibly have to offer as friend, ally, or neutral observer. And it does so in a manner that not only comes off as utterly inept, but also as completely arrogant, ignorant, condescending and bogus.

Yes, we are all of the human race- non whites have been having to prove that over, and over, and over again for one very long time now. We're well aware of it. So please don't insult us by saying that you don't see what's as equally obvious as any other physical attribute such as height, weight or sex. Don't tell me to my face you're so pure that you don't avoid certain neighborhoods at all cost- when I'll freely admit that discretion is the better part of valor.

If you really want to come off as someone who isn't prejudiced, someone who is, in fact, fair and genuine, then make the time to have that conversation, make the attempt to understand, and let your actions reveal the sincerity of your intent, and your heart*

*Inspired by a true life exchange with a most learned colleague recently subjected to "the saying" in a professional, photographic context.


John Edwin Mason said...

Thanks for this, Stan.

You're absolutely right that only someone speaking from a position of racial privilege can say that he or she "doesn't see race."

As the performance artist Stew once put it: "Some kids I’ll describe s friends say I am race-obsessed. The luxury of your opinion shows you that you are blessed."

Binbaz said...

Right on!