In defense of the color blind.

There’s a tumblr that’s gone viral this week titled “I, Too, Am Harvard” that showcases black Harvard students with racist quotes/attitudes that the students themselves have been victims of at some point in their lives.  Many of the quotes are things I’ve heard said.  Many of the attitudes are ones I’ve seen expressed.  One, in particular, stood out to me the most.

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I have said this.  I have said this a lot.  And I have said this with the absolute best of intentions.  To see my own words on this tiny whiteboard, screaming “RACISM!” in my face was shocking.  I stared at the photo for some time, contemplating whether or not I was subconsciously an in-the-closet white supremacist.  I decided I’m not.  I don’t love any one race more than any of the others, nor do I hate one race more than any other.  I, sincerely, hate you all equally.

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In all seriousness, I was really concerned when I saw this quote.  It hurt to see someone take what I’ve said so far out of context.  Sure, I’ve never met the sign-holder.  Sure, I’ve never said this to the two black friends I have (don’t judge me, I barely have any friends at all).  But I’ve said this.  Hell, I might have printed it on this blog at some point (I wouldn’t know, I never read this thing).  I guess I am disillusioned into thinking that paying more attention to someone’s personality and less attention to their skin color is a good idea, or even the right thing to do.  Maybe I was taught incorrectly.  Maybe being told that “we’re all the same on the inside” since I was in Pre-K did more damage than good.  Maybe I’m wrong to try to look for something deeper than the shade of black you carry.

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But I can’t shake the notion that this particular quote is just a bit dramatic, especially in comparison to the other quotes I read.  Why is looking beyond your pigments a bad thing?  I’m not overlooking your culture; if you celebrate one then I would be happy to share in the celebration.  I’m not ignoring your plight; if you’ve had one then educate me in it.  What I am doing is refusing to give you special treatment).  I don’t want you, or any other color, to think that you are “special” in any way.  Because, to me, you’re not.  You’re black.  So what?  I’m white.  So what?  I didn’t choose my race, so why hold it against me?  You didn’t choose your race, so why give you special attention where you didn’t earn it?  I care more about what you choose do with your time, your words, your mind and your heart.  Tell me how you spend your most valuable assets – don’t tell me that you get butthurt about someone forcing you to be more than just black.

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Be more than just a race.

I don’t see color, I see people.  And, ultimately, that may be the biggest issue.  Why is it necessary for me to see you as a black person?  Why can’t you just be human?  Why can’t I just be human?  Why do you care so much about race?  Why is my skin color so important to you?  Why is anyone’s skin color so important?  Is my hue going to dictate how you treat me?  Is my shade going to change how you view me?  If it isn’t, then I don’t understand why it’s important.  And, if it is, then you’re not the type of person I would want to associate with, anyways.

Perhaps, when all is said and done, I’m still suffering from ignorance.  I just don’t understand why there is such an emphasis on the race issue.  For me, there aren’t races, there are people.  This is a people issue.  So, people, if anyone has a cure for my ignorance; please step forward.  I’d like to be educated (it’s one of the reasons I’m going back to school – but not to Harvard).

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“I, too, am Harvard” is a fantastic approach to the kind of racism that I believe occurs most often here in the States; plain ignorance.  This attempt at educating pseudo-racists on the underlying negativity they are expressing with a flippant comment may be one of the most positive and encouraging I’ve ever seen.  I didn’t feel like I was being attacked for my casual insensitivity, I felt like I was being corrected.  Frankly, I appreciate being corrected.  I don’t want to be viewed as a racist.  I don’t believe I am one.  Don’t get me wrong, I dislike people in general.  Most of all the people I meet, actually.  But never for skin color, never for culture, and never for receiving a better education than me.

You can check out the movement here: http://itooamharvard.tumblr.com/

My name is Chelsey Mick, and this is how we aren’t Harvard, and we aren’t racist, either.

  • EllieLo

    Okay. So, as a black person, I feel as though I know where the sign holder is coming from, but I also see where you’re coming from too.

    There’s actually nothing wrong with your approach. Saying “I don’t see color, but instead focus on who you are as a person” is a wonderful approach to the whole idea of race.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s what the sign holder meant.

    The recognition and acceptance of “color” is rife with potential back-handed compliments (most, people don’t even realize are backhanded!).

    You wouldn’t believe how many people have said “I don’t see you as a black person, you act like everyone else to me” or “I don’t see you as ‘black’, you’re much too ____” to me thinking that they’re complimenting me. I can’t even….

    The way YOU stated it was perfect: “Race is something that really doesn’t matter to me, I’d rather focus on you as a person.” But I feel (and the sign holder might feel this way as well), that when most people say “I don’t see color”, they’re saying “I don’t see you as black”….and all the things associated as black. Good or bad.

    You can say that we’re all one, human race (and you’d be right), but even then this human race is immensely diverse and the experiences of individual groups shouldn’t be discounted for the sake of “peace”. To some people, “not seeing color” is an attempt to block out anything “controversial” about you, even though it’s an integral part of who you are.

    There is NOTHING WRONG with acknowledging that a person is black or white, or Irish, or Japanese or what have you. To try and deny that is really going overboard, and that isn’t the problem here. The problem here is seeing a person as their race/ethnicity and immediately trying to stereotype them or negatively associate them BECAUSE of their race/ethnicity. THAT is where the problems start.

    So please! See color! Color is what makes the world vibrant and beautiful….just don’t try to make that color mean more than what it is.