I am sure you have plenty of colleagues, friends, neighbors, and students from different ethnicities who have well-meaning intentions of getting along with everyone, no matter their skin tone. Unfortunately, to get their point across they have adopted the cliché phrase “I don’t see color, I see people.” Ironically, some are among the first to post #BlueLivesMatter whenever a police officer is maliciously and unjustly gunned down by an evil perpetrator who takes vengeance out on innocent blood. Why? Because color does matter in this country. It represents something, and it is not all bad. Blue lives do matter. Black lives do matter. White lives do matter. They all carry an invaluable worth, yet they are unique for different reasons. Perhaps you have adopted the phrase “I don’t see color” to your own repertoire of philosophy as well. This is an unfortunate phrase to adopt for many different reasons, but below are five reasons that outline some of the unintended dangers of adopting this false philosophy of complexion.
1. It Is a Lie
Unless you suffer from monochromatism, your eyes are more than capable of telling the difference between skin tones. Even if you do suffer from this, it is likely you can still tell differences in shades. This ability to differentiate the colors in our skin tones is the very reason why my neighbors, who are mostly white, flock to the swimming pool in the summer time. They have an incessant desire to darken their skin tones. You can tell the difference between complexions. And guess what? That is okay. It is not an atrocity to realize our natural differences, including our skin tones and ethnicities. (More on this in a later point below)
2. It Is Deceptive
Because saying you do not see color is a lie, it also quickly becomes deceptive. There are many who have argued that people who identify as transgender should not use a restroom that is the opposite of their sex at birth. Why? Because it is too hard for the general public to identify a predator who may use transgender laws to exploit private citizens in public spaces. Interestingly, many of the same people who have used this argument are some of the same ones who “do not see color.” If you can see gender, you can see complexions. Do not deceive yourself.
If it is likely for someone to exploit gender confusion, it is not out of reach for racially biased individuals to hide behind achromatic speech. Though someone may not openly call an African American a nigger, or a Mexican a wetback, it does not mean they are void of any racial predispositions. Sometimes, few are certainly cognizant of their masked bigotry. Most, however, are completely unaware they make biased prejudices that include the shade of a person’s skin. Our skin tones are not the same, and that is okay. Be that as it may, we need not throw a disguise on what we do not intend to do. Better to humbly and regretfully admit mistakes than to try and conceal them.
3. It Is Careless
Additionally, because saying you do not see color is a lie and is deceptive, it also is careless. We all do not share the same ethnicities, and that is okay. What is not okay is the divisions of castes we are placed in because of our ethnic differences. This is a result of over 200 years of racial divides manufactured by the United States government. Think about it. It has only been about fifty or sixty years (not even an entire lifetime) since our government has fully acknowledged that black citizens are persons with rights. Do you really believe that biases and injustices have completely eradicated themselves from our laws, let alone the hearts of men, simply because federal bills became federal laws? If you think all is equal and fair, I challenge you to do a little more research about our present-day laws and to read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Our ethnicities differ, and that is okay, but believing all biases (conscious and subconscious) are completely extinguished from our American society is a careless assumption.
4. It Is Hurtful
Because colorless rhetoric is a deceptive lie that is careless, it obviously is hurtful. Consider that the United States government has failed to give proper value to persons of color since the country’s inception. State governments still have monuments erected that show honor to leaders of the historical immoral atrocities. This leaves one to only question the logic and motives of our systems stance towards people of color that consistently appear to be oppressed at varying levels of society. When it seems as if the game is not meant for you to play, the rules can never work in your favor, even if you are attempting to play by them.
Many people who have adopted the aforementioned phrase are usually (not always) the people to quickly dismiss the pain, hurt, anxiety, and fear minorities can feel when the media floods our screens with images of individuals suffering at the hands of those they are supposed to trust to protect them. Though many may not admit this, feelings get hurt when people (especially the oppressed) become vulnerable and share their emotions only to have them deemed erroneous and unmerited. Additionally, it is fuel for doubt that the very persons who are quickly dismissive do not care and have taken sides with the seemingly oppressive system. If you are truly for unity, do not dismiss racial differences and all that potentially comes with it. Empathy is a great motivator for progressive unity.
5. It’s Blasphemous
This encapsulates the previous four points. The reason “I don’t see color, I just see people” is a false, deceptive, careless, and hurtful statement to make is because it is borderline blasphemous. If we took seriously the fact that God created everyone very good, and he made man in His image, (the imago dei) we would not run from talk about skin color. Our skin tones were not excluded from God’s design, but were beautifully and uniquely crafted by the Supreme and Ultimate Creator.
Think about that.
If we fail to understand we were all made from perfection, from a Holy God, we will always fail to recognize the sanctity and sacredness of human life. Only something as wicked and manipulative as sin can take something so beautiful and turn it into a caste system. This is a part of the detriment of sin. It is a failure to recognize the beauty and enjoyment of God in all things and in all people. We are all guilty of this and we must seek God and repent.
So instead of running from color, we should acknowledge it for what it is, and reject everything that it is not. Though our complexions cannot completely define who we are, especially one who believes in Jesus Christ, it remains part of who we are. Just like we need to first see how sinfully unclean we are in the presence of a holy God before we can understand our need for a Savior, we first must accept the fact that our lenses have been warped in many different shapes and shades when we are dealing with issues of race in America. We must be able to at least recognize our deformities of thought before we can truly deal with the racial divides in our country.
I leave you with words from spoken word and hip hop artist Propaganda, quoted from Precious Puritans:
“It must be nice to not have to consider race/ It must be nice to have time to contemplate the stars/ Pastor, your colorless rhetoric is a copout/ You see my skin, and I see yours/And they are beautiful, fearfully, and wonderfully, divinely designed/
Shouldn’t we celebrate that than act like it ain’t there?/
…See I get it, but I don’t get it…
…I guess it’s true, that God really does use crooked sticks, to make straight lines… “