Don’t color us blind!
By Kenya Smith
Every February, we celebrate and learn about the Black pioneers, contributors and innovators that helped shape our country and the rest of the world. Since February is over, I want to remind you that celebrating and learning Black history is an annual practice. There is too much information to fit into one month, and yet so little is taught in our schools year-round. Having said that, I want to bring awareness to a trend that is a hindrance to the cause of ethnic equality, equity and justice. The trend is colorblindness.
Colorblindness is the belief that ethnicity and skin color have no impact on an individual’s opportunities. At a first glance, colorblindness sounds good. It makes the declaration that people should look not at the person’s skin color or ethnicity in order to judge them, but their actions. However, what colorblindness fails to understand is that there is nothing wrong with seeing color. It also fails to recognize that while we should not judge a person by their ethnicity and skin color, we still have systems and practices in our society that do just that.
You have probably heard someone say, “I don’t see color.” The truth is, if God didn’t intend for us to see color, then all of us would literally be seeing in monochrome. Color makes our world beautiful and more enjoyable to live in. It is color that determines what type of shirt, pants, shoes, and accessories would make a great outfit. It is color that tells us when to stop, slow down, or go when walking or driving. Most importantly, it is color and ethnicity that make each of us unique and beautiful in our own way. The only time when seeing color is wrong is when people use color or ethnicity to disenfranchise a group, something that has always been practiced in this country.
For example, many reports show that hiring discrimination hasn’t declined in 25 years. In healthcare, African Americans are more likely to die from preventable and treatable diseases than their white counterparts. Black mothers are more likely to die during childbirth than white mothers. Thanks to the aftermath of redlining, African Americans are still dealing with housing discrimination, especially in homeownership. We cannot forget about how Black people are treated by law enforcement and the justice system. Did you know that because of ethnic inequality, the U.S. economy lost $16 trillion in gross domestic product over the last 20 years, according to Citibank? The list goes on.
As human beings, we should treat one another with love, fairness and dignity. However, we must realize that each group has different stories and experiences, and we must be willing to listen, to understand, and to learn. In that way, we will be able to strike ethnic inequality with a mighty blow. Colorblindness erases the uniqueness of each individual and group and is deaf to the stories of the ignored. So please, don’t color us blind.
Kenya Smith is a Suffolk native. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.