This article was originally posted on The Everygirl.
“I don’t see color.”
The moment of uncomfortable silence after those four simple words are uttered. The sideways glances, the shifting of hands, of feet, of butts in chairs. An awkward laugh may break the quiet, but not the tension — it still lingers.
In my experience, this phrase is most often proclaimed by a well-intentioned person. I’ve heard it spoken in an effort to reassure friends, colleagues, or acquaintances that all people are equal. The expression can also be used as a tactic for avoiding feelings of discomfort stirred up by the topic of race. Reciting it is as if to say, “let’s not make race an issue by not acknowledging it as one.”
But this is part of the issue. Regardless of the heart behind the comment, what I and many other people of color hear carries more weight than just four simple words.
You don’t see me.
“I don’t see color” can feel like “I’m choosing to ignore this part of you because it makes me more comfortable.” It sounds like “I don’t see you,” and it feels like a casual dismissal.
The seemingly harmless remark negates what the speaker is often trying to say, which is “you’re good with me as you are.”
It’s counterintuitive, but imagine if someone refused to acknowledge your identity as a loving mother, a badass career woman, or a committed partner. If this is a significant part of who you are, you’d feel as if the person is trying to make nice, but in the process is choosing what aspects of you are convenient, thereby ignoring the whole woman in front of them.
My identity as a black woman is a part of who I am. Is it all of me? Hell no. But, as one of my friends accurately put it, refusing to see color is disregarding the distinct beauty that my blackness brings to the table.
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