This time last year, I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Christina Bennett at the Students for Life of America east and west coast national conferences. I am a white atheist, and she is a black Christian. Our topic was “Tactics of Inclusion”—she spoke to racial diversity and I spoke to religious diversity. We developed a series of funny, borderline offensive what-not-to-do skits to help students navigate this terrain. There’s a video, but it’s 35 minutes long and many of you may have missed it. So in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I am going to do my (admittedly small) part to improve race relations by summarizing Christina’s half of the presentation in writing. Enjoy!
So, I just feel a little uncomfortable at Life Club sometimes. First off, I’m the only person of color at any of the meetings.
Of all the speakers we bring in none of them are minorities and when we talk
about helping the black community everyone looks at me like I’m the one person
with all the answers. It just makes me feel awkward.
I’m SO sorry. I didn’t even notice that. I never thought of it before. Honestly, I just don’t even see color. I never grew up that way. [laughing] Sometimes I forget that you’re even black!
I’ve had so many discussions about this phrase, and it’s not like it’s inherently a bad phrase. I understand what people mean when they say “I don’t see color” and I’d guess that if I was to survey you, probably everyone has a different opinion, if you do say that, on what that means. But often it means “I don’t discriminate against people. I don’t think I discriminate against people, and in my opinion I just treat people the same; I’ve grown up in a diverse neighborhood, I have a diverse family, and I just don’t see people that way.” So that’s often what people mean when they say that phrase. But what do people hear? Especially people of color, what do they hear when you say that phrase?
Well I know for me, to be honest, when I hear it I think: Really? You don’t see color? So you’re telling me if a six-foot African-American guy is walking down the street, you can’t tell the difference between him and a four-foot Asian woman? I just kind of feel sometimes we’re not being honest.
In addition to that, oftentimes I feel like when you’re saying you don’t see color, then you don’t see me. You don’t see how different I am. And you don’t understand how to then reach me because of my differences.