Maybe White People Really Don’t See Race — Maybe That’s The Problem
It started with a simple question: “When is the first time you became aware of your race?” But as answers from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers started to roll in, the question came to represent more of a challenge about what I thought I knew about race relations today.
The idea started with the Rachel Dolezal fiasco. Like many people of color, I was completely baffled by the fervent defense many white people gave — people who had made it very clear that they didn’t want to be black were now arguing for the white Rachel Dolezal’s right to be black. “Race is just a construct,” they argued, “if you’re really anti-racist, you’ll recognize that people can be any race they want to be.”
Had the world gone mad? If people could really be “any race they wanted to be” there wouldn’t have been an NAACP for Rachel Dolezal to scam in the first place. I am, as are many of my friends, acutely aware of how definitive and unrelenting my blackness is. I tried to imagine any scenario where I could stop being black and even factoring for Halloween, I came up with nothing…
…As a Black woman myself, I used to always laugh at white people who claim to “not see color” as I imagined them running red lights and walking around in hilariously mismatched clothes; it’s impossible to be able to see the color of your shirt and not the color of someone’s skin. What I’ve begun to suspect after this survey is that when people say “I don’t see color” what they mean is “I don’t see race” – or, at least, they don’t see it accurately. My race as a Black woman doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists in relationship to and interaction with whiteness. Like so many POC, I know whiteness as a race – I know it from our media, our holidays, our government and our police. Whiteness is the measurement of success, the goal we’ll never obtain. Every day we have to be aware of whiteness. It is a matter of survival. For us, there is no place in the Western world where it can be escaped…
Read the entire article here.