For hundreds of years we have allowed skin color to segregate us into competing groups dominated by strikingly different cultures, talents, and values – groups that, through their mutual exclusivity, serve as a direct threat to the stability of our union and democratic ideals everywhere.
Black, white, red, yellow – the very words with which we describe skin color exude an air of prejudice and contention. Even more troubling, they will continue to do so, for where there is race, there is racism. Where there is division, there is inequality.
This dialectic process originated in the innate capacity of skin color to elicit a spontaneous response from men and women. For example, many European cultures exalt light as a guiding, benevolent force but associate darkness with evil and chaos (such as Christianity’s Heaven and Hell). When white traders first encountered Africans in early modern times, the initial hostility that resulted from this capacity induced a reactionary attitude among blacks. When the Turks conquered Constantinople and the black slave trade erupted, that attitude remained. Black slaves shielded themselves physically and emotionally from their owners and developed their own separate culture – a culture that, along with European cultures, still exists today, even in what we deem a more peaceful, accepting society. As history shows, as long as those mutually exclusive cultures exist, the color of one’s skin has the ability to elicit any spontaneous response, and snap judgments and ivory-tower predilections will persist, as will tension.
Race is a difficult, even impossible topic to cover in 450 words. Writers who try often digress into impressing a few observations upon humanity or fuming over a chip on the shoulder. The sad thing is that as long as color exists, so will the great rift through humanity. Consider Joe, who, as a 34-year-old African-American male, enters a courtroom charged with murder in the first degree. Perhaps the jury members are indiscriminate; perhaps not. Perhaps one has read that black men are more likely to commit a felony than white men. That’s one check against Joe before he has opened his mouth.
Much more preferable to these competing groups of colors and races and ethnicities would be a national unity, founded in a love of country and countrymen that overpowers all other fickle bonds. We may be black or white, but together we are still Americans. Sadly, as long as these racial tensions persist, America will remain a nation divided. It is for this reason that one day, I hope to find the world a better place – a place where the heart of a man is more telling than the color of his skin, a place of true equality. That equality – the utopia Jack says we have made “great strides” toward – will never exist when race is a factor. In any equation.
My uncle is colorblind. This means my aunt often times picks out his clothes for work so that he does not walk into his office dressed like a clown. His color blindness hinders him from seeing slight differences in color tones; so he has no appreciation for the unique characteristics of each color.
When society asks us to look at our world through colorblind eye, it calls for a complete disregard for race in our society. Like my uncle, who can’ appreciate unique colors, a colorblind country would ask us to completely disregard one of many characteristics that make each of us unique individuals.
Columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr., wrote a column in which he discussed the idea that race is just one characteristic of many that are vital to our character.
“…I have yet to encounter a journalist who felt compelled to note how Jordan ‘transcended’ his sex or Oprah her Mississippi roots,” Pitts wrote. We should not attempt to overcome our race; in fact, we should embrace it.
Many proponents of color blindness look to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They say he had a dream that his four children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. However, he also had a dream “that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” He never asked us to dip into a bucket of “non-colored paint” so people could not tell what color our skin is. He wanted us to appreciate one’s skin color and the history that comes with the ancestry of every race and ethnicity. He desired that we could come together as a society that welcomes our diversity, not ignores it.
If we ignore race, we ignore history. With societal color blindness comes the ignorance of slavery, the holocaust and the internment of Japanese Americans. Yes, these may be unpleasant, disheartening events in history, but they are also lessons and reminders to us.
They are reminders that we have made great strides. Strides, I think Dr. King and his constituents would be proud of. We are by no means perfect, but we are improving. Equality can and should most definitely exist.
Sure, racism and discrimination continue, but that does not justify ignoring race. Rather, it is all the more reason to celebrate our diversity.
Race is an element of community. It would be cowardly to pretend otherwise. This isn’t a matter of racism or politically correctness; it is a matter of courage.
America is known as the great melting pot, a label we should embrace, not neglect.