My husband is red/green color blind.
For him, these two colors present themselves as different shades of grey so he can still discriminate between red and green. This allows him to tell the difference between important things like stoplight colors while driving.
So, it’s kind of a big deal.
His ability to see color (or in his case shades of grey) is not only important, it is necessary for his safety and that of others.
Lately, many of my friends are speaking out against the racial injustices happening by stating that they don’t see color– only people. In short, they are “color-blind.” Though this claim comes as a way to express their opposition to racism, color-blindness does just what it implies. It makes us unable to see things.
Blinded to discrimination.
Camouflaged by inequity.
It prevents us from truly seeing each person as a unique individual.
And it is just as dangerous as running a red light.
As a white woman, it is imperative that I see my color so that I am hyper-aware of my white privilege.
As a human being, I can’t stay quiet about this. As a teacher, I won’t stay quiet. The students that are entrusted to me each day deserve a teacher that models by example, that stands up for them and, if need be, stands up to them. They deserve a teacher that will work to dismantle white privilege from the inside out by engaging in hard discussions and by creating safe spaces for this to happen.
As a mother of white children, this all starts with me.
I would like to think I work hard to deconstruct whiteness as the norm in our house; however, I know I don’t work hard enough. My daughters can’t be color-blind; they need to see that they are white so I can empower them to unravel white privilege. They need to see the color of their friends so they can better understand and love them the way they need to be loved.
If I don’t present them with situations where they are the minority, how can they empathize with their minority friends?
A few months ago, my family and I took a long drive to visit grandparents and on our way, stopped off in El Paso, Texas to go to church. Upon entering the beautiful church of San Elizario, my children immediately felt their “whiteness.” This went beyond just their race to the very core of their ethnicity. Although my children knew the Mass would be entirely in Spanish, I believe their discomfort came from being a minority. For one hour, they were uncomfortable, unsure, and very aware of their differences. It was an amazing lesson in privilege. For them, it was one hour of discomfort. After Mass, we discussed that for some of their friends, it has been a lifetime.
As much as I want to expose my children to this history and this language, attending church in El Paso exposed them to their privilege.
Their comfort in usually being a majority.
Their ease of blending in by living in a small, predominantly white, neighborhood.
We need to teach our children the value of our differences, our skin colors, and our histories. By ignoring our racial privilege it closes our eyes to the experiences of others.
And choosing to not discuss these hard topics is a privilege.
We must surround our children with the tools to help them openly discuss racism, white privilege, and injustice.
At our house, we start our knowledge and discussions in the form of books, presenting them as many books with black and brown protagonists as possible. We started with Amazing Grace and Grace for President when they were little because these protagonists shared the same name as our oldest daughter. As they got older we moved into titles like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Brown Girl Dreaming and Their Eyes Were Watching God. As they are getting older still, we are moving into books like The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, and The 57 Bus.
It is not good enough. But it is one small step closer.
A few years ago, when our son died, it was [and still is] an indescribable pain. Many of our friends expressed that they couldn’t even begin to understand our hurt. And they were right. It is a suffering that is only understood by those who have walked our path. Yet, though they couldn’t understand our pain, it didn’t stop them from showing up, from expressing their concern for us, or their desire to walk with us through our agony. Their willingness to use their voices, talents, and goodness to spread light during our darkest days. They couldn’t understand our pain, but it didn’t stop them from trying to ease it.
I cannot understand the pain that people of color are experiencing right now, but that will not stop me from trying to ease it. I will not stop expressing my concern, using my voice, or walking alongside those that are hurting.