As society seemingly becomes more divisive along racial lines, there’s one phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it. Most of the time it’s used within a conversation where someone wants to ensure others they aren’t racist. As if that can be proven just because they say the words they think others want to hear.
The simple phrase is only four words long. However, the connotations of it always manages to make a certain look come to life on my face as if to say, “Ugh. Here we go with this.”
So, what’s this simple phrase that makes me cringe?
It is, “I don’t see color.”
Not surprisingly, that look just appeared on my face even as I typed it.
Let me say this. I believe I understand what most people are trying to express when these four words roll off their tongue. In their attempt to provide me with confirmation that my skin color or anyone else’s isn’t a problem for them and they don’t view it in a negative light, they negate what it means to be a black woman, a minority, especially in America.
See, I need you to see color.
Every day. Every hour. Every minute.
I need you to see mine.
I need you to see theirs.
I need you to see that my skin is rich with melanin hues. I need you to see that my skin glows and glistens when the sun shines upon it. I need you to see my skin as a symbol of strength, resiliency, perseverance, growth, love and power.
Acknowledge the grace that comes with it. Acknowledge the hurt that comes with it. Acknowledge the frustration that comes with it. Acknowledge the trailblazing that comes with it.
To not see it is to not see me.
To negate my skin color is to negate my experiences.
To negate my skin color is to negate the emotions I experience when certain things happen to those who look like me.
To negate my skin color is to regulate me to being like everyone else.
To negate my skin color is to call into question all the injustices that take place.
To negate my skin color is to pretend slavery, Jim Crow and mass incarceration doesn’t exist.
To negate my skin color is to say my narrative doesn’t matter.
Oh, but it does.
Here’s what I need the “I don’t see color” people to understand. You have to see it especially if you’re a person who is filled with goodness at the core. You have to see it because it’s the only way you’ll be able to grasp a small understanding on the surface of what we experience daily. You have to see it if you plan to be part of the greater solution and not the overall problem.
Telling me you don’t see color is like telling a cat to listen. It just doesn’t make sense.
Often when women insert this phrase into conversation and I provide push back, some like to categorize my reaction as hostile. Taking time to inform you of difference should never be viewed as hostile. It should be categorized as enlightenment.
Let me break it down for you.
Sure, as women we share some of the same experiences. Unequal pay. Sexism. Harassment. However, as a black woman, my struggle often looks different. You may get dismissed, but not always as quickly as I might have. You might get overlooked for a position within the company, whereas I may be completely overlooked and never have gotten a foot inside the door. You may get a chance at a once in a lifetime opportunity that I may never hear about.
My skin color presents problems for some, but for me, it’s one of my greatest assets.
Because of the color of my skin, I can associate myself with some of the most beautiful people the world has been graced with. Because of it, I feel a vibrancy and bounce that radiates through me daily. Because of it, I can look down at my arms, legs, hands, feet and be reminded of the legacy established long before I was birthed. Because of it, I walk boldly with my head held high. Because of it, I embrace the deterrents to prove to the doubters that nothing and no one will stop its greatness. Because of it, I know I have been designed to be a force in this world.
Because I see my skin color, you need to see it too.
It’s part of my identity.
It’s who I was created to be.
I am a black woman.
Can you see me now?
Kassaundra Shanette Lockhart