Why Loving Each Other and Color Blindness Are Not the Answer

It's the classic response when racial tension arises. "My mom taught me to treat everyone the same, that race does not matter because we are all part of the human race." Except that it does matter. and if you are white, you are probably part of the problem. Yes, you, who voted for Obama, who has "tons of black friends," who listens to Kendrick Lamar, who may have even attended a "Black Lives Matter" rally or two. You are part of the problem and you benefit from the racial inequality in our country.

I know I am part of the problem because if I see a black man walking down the street at night, a slight physiological response occurs. My heart might start beating a little faster. I'm not proud of it, but sometimes I feel fear. I have never been attacked by a black person. I have never even personally witnessed a violent black person. The fear has no rational grounding. Yet the implicit bias is present, and the reaction happens. And because it happens, I cannot be certain that the bias does not show up in a professional setting as well. I cannot be certain that the bias does not show up when I am interacting with students and colleagues. Thus, I am part of the problem. I cannot say "I am not racist. I did not own slaves." Instead I need to recognize my biases and how they will come to the surface every day. I am not comparing myself to white supremacists actively spreading hate and committing acts of terrorism, but I am also not vindicating myself. We all have a responsibility to look into the mirror and ask ourselves how we have contributed to the current state of the world and what we are doing to support the oppressed.

So why isn't color blindness the answer? Well,

1. because your implicit biases make it impossible. We grow up seeing difference. It is so clearly instilled in our culture that we cannot suddenly decide that we are going to treat everyone the same.

2. it ignores hundreds of years of inequality and oppression. We cannot suddenly become color blind and act like the playing field is now level. Let's say you are playing your friend 1-on-1 in basketball. First person to win 50 games to 15 points wins the entire series. You are given a 10 point lead for the first 45 games and then decide it's unfair and play it straight from that point on. Now that it's even, can you now say you have both had an equal chance to win the series? Certainly not, and this has certainly not been the case for black Americans since the Civil War ended in 1865.

3. differences should be celebrated, not ignored. If we start preaching sameness, then what does that look like? One culture? One religion? Spinning color blindness as a positive trait seems to be expected assimilation in disguise.

Because I have been self-reflecting, this post has been largely focused on implicit bias. I haven't even touched on the fact that white supremacists have used the most recent election as a platform to actively spread racism. The message after yesterday's tragic event has been that we should unify as one country. We should love and respect each other. The question is, exactly what are we uniting behind? A president who won't even say the words white supremacy? A president who only calls out terrorists when they are from another country? A president who spends much of his reaction speech focusing on himself and talking about the good things he thinks he is doing rather than the problem at hand?

 Just like color blindness won't solve the problem, pure love is not going to undo the oppression that has taken place since our country was founded. We should absolutely love each other and do whatever we can to spread the good in the world. But love alone will not fix racial tension in this country. So when you talk with your children about this, you cannot just tell them to love each other. You should also have a discussion about the events that brought us to this point. Talk about people who have fought to avoid the exact thing that occurred. Talk about how we still have a long way to go. Then you can tell them to spread love but to also know that love alone will not win the fight. Until we can recognize that fact, look in the mirror, and take real action, we will stray further away from the unity that political leaders are calling for.

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